Where did the idea for the EOWDC’s Scientific Research and Monitoring fund come from?
The EOWDC was conceived as an opportunity to advance not only technological knowledge, but also our understanding of the interactions between offshore wind and the natural environment.
Vattenfall identified an opportunity to enhance learnings and understanding of the environmental impacts of offshore wind so as part of the Environmental Statement submitted in August 2011 we stated that in conjunction with the EU grant, we would contribute €3 million over the project lifetime to encourage and enable environmental monitoring through ongoing research and development.
The EOWDC Scientific Research and Monitoring fund is a unique opportunity to reduce the time and cost of the consenting process though delivering projects of real value to the industry.
You had a very esteemed Scientific Panel that supported you throughout the selection process, how did you encourage so many industry bodies to get involved?
We worked cooperatively with the Scottish Ministers on defining the programme and the members of the Scientific Panel. The Scottish Ministers selected the panel members on our behalf.
Throughout the development of the EOWDC, the likes of Scottish Natural Heritage, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, RSPB Scotland and Marine Scotland Science have recognised the significance of this opportunity and been keen to see it reach its full potential.
The Scientific Panel approach has worked extremely well and we have achieved a lot in a short space of time.
How many expressions of interest did you receive and what areas did they cover?
We received almost 100 responses covering eight different topic areas. In order of priority they were as follows: Birds & Marine Mammals (joint top priorities), Fish, Socio-economics, Coastal Processes, Colonisation, Benthos and Water Quality.
These areas were identified and prioritised by a multi-criterion decision analysis conducted by the Scientific Panel.
How much is the Scientific fund and how is it being utilised?
€3 million and all to be spent on research strengthening the knowledge base for future offshore wind farm impact assessment and planning.
The first four projects will focus on the areas of Birds, Marine Mammals, Fish and Socio-Economics.
Can you briefly outline what the process has been to get to this point of awarding the contracts?
The Panel was established in 2013. Following a process of analysis and discussion with the Scientific Panel, agreement was reached on the focus and priorities of the research programme, which formed the basis of the call for Expressions of Interest, issued late summer 2016. Submissions were reviewed by Vattenfall, the Panel and some expert advisors, and a shortlist of 16 projects to take forward to detailed research proposals was selected.
In November 2016 the detailed proposals were received, reviewed, and where necessary negotiated further, all with input from, and in agreement with, the Scientific Panel. The wider project delivery team were involved at this stage to review the necessary HSE documentation and provide input on deliverability of each proposal. Based on further recommendation by the Scientific Panel given during the final meeting held in December 2016, Vattenfall decided to prioritise the four projects that we are now announcing.
Would you recommend other projects replicating this scheme?
Absolutely! Discussions with, and input from, the wide group of key stakeholder experts in the Scientific Panel has been invaluable in securing the selection of projects likely to present best value for money informing key questions for offshore wind development.
Even if this same set up cannot be replicated in future, there are many opportunities for collaborative working with other developers, stakeholders and academia which should continue to be explored like the Offshore Renewables Joint Industry Programme that Vattenfall is involved in and our BA Wind Environmental Protection and Wind Power Programme (ENWI).
Vattenfall is establishing a reputation as a not just an environmentally minded developer, but as a front runner in terms of real environmental expertise and we are frequently approached to participate in various industry collaborations and steering groups.
Why did you select these projects?
They are all conducted by very strong research teams, representing some of the most prominent expertise with their respective fields, and were all deemed to have a high likelihood of delivering outcome of wider applied value. Three of the projects are focussed on building the baseline knowledge of population of protected species (auks, bottlenose dolphins and salmon), while the fourth (socioeconomics) is focussed on documenting the effect of the Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm on the local community and stakeholders.
What was your biggest challenge?
No doubt choosing among all the good proposals received!
What has been the most rewarding part?
The interaction with the Scientific Panel has been a huge pleasure. We are extremely thankful for all the work put into this by the panel experts, and for the very constructive and positive discussions had.
Another massively rewarding part is yet to come – when the projects are up and running and their results start to come in, the hard work will have been worth it!
How do you think this research will impact the offshore wind industry going forward?
The output will help substantially reduce key uncertainties associated with impact assessment for offshore windfarms not only in Scottish waters but also UK North Sea waters more generally.
The projects will deliver some real, tangible data to back up impact assessments and provide us and stakeholders with the confidence that the environmental impacts of offshore wind are acceptable and appropriately offset by the clean and cost effective renewable energy generation.
For more information on the announcement please click here.