G1 - Fit-for-purpose approaches to environmental monitoring

G - Environmental And Ecosystem Aspects

Status - published
Last updated on: 21/06/2022


ORE Industries have recognised that current environmental impact assessment EIA/HRA/Post-consent guidelines for environmental monitoring are not fit for purpose and may be costing more than necessary or not providing information needed with confidence.


Better framework for collection of data and an assessment approach for environmental impacts.

Context And Need

Environmental (EIA/HRA) data collection can be a significant CAPEX cost and post-consent data collection can be a significant OPEX cost


Environmental monitoring is a high cost aspect of ORE project development and is needed during both environmental impact assessment and post consent. However, there is generally low confidence in the predictions of cumulative and population level environmental impacts. Better understanding of the models and the data needed for use in them will enable the development of a framework for monitoring data collection with environmental impact assessment and post consent guidelines.

Impact Potential

The development of approaches to environmental monitoring that are fit for purpose will potentially lower costs of CAPEX and OPEX in ORE significantly. There is an opportunity to create new UK expertise for data collection and data base standards, and for bespoke monitoring equipment that can be exported worldwide.

Research Status

Recognised by many researchers, developers (Royal HaskoningDHV) and regulators (MSS, MMO) that have been dealing with consent issues that changes are needed in policy for SEA, EIA/HRA and post-consent data collection, sharing of data products. The INSITE programme is helping to set up a roadmap to locations of data. However regulators are suggesting use of the existing national Marine Environmental Data and Information Network (MEDIN) database:


Active research projects:

  • Connectivity of Hard Substrate Assemblages in the North Sea (CHASANS) - Funded by NERC: NE/T010886/1: The aim of this project is to enhance our understanding of the connectivity of marine growth across artificial substrata in the North Sea. Team expertise in biofouling monitoring, oceanographic modelling, and population genetics will be used to generate a multidisciplinary dataset to validate biologically realistic models of larval connectivity. These models will be used to predict how networks of offshore renewable energy and oil & gas infrastructure in the North Sea function in biofouling dispersal and metapopulation structure.
  • Biodiversity characterisation and hydrodynamic consequences of marine fouling communities on marine renewable energy infrastructure in the Orkney Islands Archipelago, Scotland, UK: As part of ongoing commitments to produce electricity from renewable energy sources in Scotland, Orkney waters have been targeted for potential large-scale deployment of wave and tidal energy converting devices. Orkney has a well-developed infrastructure supporting the marine energy industry; recently enhanced by the construction of additional piers. A major concern to marine industries is biofouling on submerged structures, including energy converters and measurement instrumentation. In this study, the marine energy infrastructure and instrumentation were surveyed to characterise the biofouling. Fouling communities varied between deployment habitats; key species were identified allowing recommendations for scheduling device maintenance and preventing spread of invasive organisms. A method to measure the impact of biofouling on hydrodynamic response is described and applied to data from a wave-monitoring buoy deployed at a test site in Orkney. The results are discussed in relation to the accuracy of the measurement resources for power generation. Further applications are suggested for future testing in other scenarios, including tidal energy.
  • Ecological consequences of offshore wind (ECOWind): ECOWind will address two challenges. How will offshore wind expansion, combined with other anthropogenic pressures, affect species interactions and marine ecosystems? How can understanding these consequences enable robust approaches to marine environmental restoration and net environmental gain?
  • Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programe: The Offshore Wind Evidence and Change programme comprises a mix of studies, research projects and evidence-gathering to help better understand and overcome the cumulative environmental impacts of offshore wind, and its effects on users of the sea and onshore communities.

Previous research projects:

  • A review of potential impacts of submarine power cables on the marine environment: Knowledge gaps, recommendations and future directions: Submarine power cables (SPC) have been in use since the mid-19th century, but environmental concerns about them are much more recent. With the development of marine renewable energy technologies, it is vital to understand their potential impacts. The commissioning of SPC may temporarily or permanently impact the marine environment through habitat damage or loss, noise, chemical pollution, heat and electromagnetic field emissions, risk of entanglement, the introduction of artificial substrates, and the creation of reserve effects. While growing numbers of scientific publications focus on impacts of the marine energy harnessing devices, data on impacts of associated power connections such as SPC are scarce and knowledge gaps persist. The present study (1) examines the different categories of potential ecological effects of SPC during installation, operation and decommissioning phases and hierarchizes these types of interactions according to their ecological relevance and existing scientific knowledge, (2) identifies the main knowledge gaps and needs for research, and (3) sets recommendations for better monitoring and mitigation of the most significant impacts. Overall, ecological impacts associated with SPC can be considered weak or moderate, although many uncertainties remain, particularly concerning electromagnetic effects.


Supergen ORE Hub Flexible funding Research

  • FORTUNE - Floating Offshore Wind Turbine Noise
    Lead Institution: Scottish Association of Marine Sciences
    This project will obtain, for the first time, systematic, long-term measurements of underwater noise generated by two operational floating offshore wind (FOW) turbines of different designs across a range of environmental conditions. Based on these measurements, cumulative noise levels and spatial footprints from turbine arrays, and potential impact ranges for noise sensitive wildlife under varying environmental conditions will be determined. The project will allow a comprehensive comparison between sound outputs from the two different commercial-scale turbines. This approach will be a first example for evaluation of FOW turbine acoustic signatures and allow assessment of differences in sound output resulting from particular turbine or mooring designs. This will be of significant use to both Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) developers interested in optimising device operations, and regulators concerned with managing anthropogenic noise in the marine environment.
  • Autonomous Biomimetic Robot-fish for Offshore Wind Farm Inspection
    Lead Institution: University of York

    The maintenance and monitoring of Offshore Wind Turbines (OWTs) and Floating Offshore Wind Turbines (FOWTs) present significant challenges. Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) used to inspect them are limited in accessibility and manoeuvrability. This project will build a “Robo Fish” – a biometric Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) capable of continuously and autonomously locating and monitoring structural damage to OWTs or FOWTs. The Robo Fish mimics the movement of an eel, allowing it to greater agility in close proximity to structures and better energy efficiency of movement compared to conventional AUV designs.
  • V-SCORES (Validating Surface Currents at Offshore Renewable Energy Sites)
    Lead Institution: University of the Highlands and Islands

    The aim of V-SCORES is comprehensive validation of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) techniques for surface current spatial mapping, demonstrated at tidal stream sites. Field campaigns will be conducted at contrasting commercial sites (Pentland Firth, Scotland & Ramsey Sound, Wales) under different environmental conditions (wave exposure, operational turbines installed, etc.).
  • Satellite Climate Observation for Offshore Renewable Energy Cost Reduction (SCORE)
    Lead Institution: University of Edinburgh

    Satellite-based measurement has long been identified as having a potential role in enabling cost reduction of marine renewables, but applications have been largely limited to wind resource assessment and wake modelling. This project aims to take satellite data usage in offshore renewable energy (ORE) to the next level by better linking satellite data, models driven by such data, decisions driven by the model outputs, and quantifying this impact on a Levelised Cost of Energy. By mapping linkages between key decision horizons in ORE life cycle to satellite capability will produce a visual map of where satellite data can best impact ORE project decisions. This map will direct the data analysis activities towards the project decisions having the best potential for improvement and quantify any reductions in uncertainty. These improvements will then be captured and monetised in a range of cost models.


Links to Industry Priorities:


We would also like to invite UK researchers and industry stakeholders within ORE to submit links to research projects, both past and present, for inclusion within the landscape.

Therefore, if you have a UK-based research project within an area of ORE that you feel is relevant to a specific research theme or challenge within the Research Landscape, click HERE to submit your research project to the research landscape


PhD projects in Offshore Renewable Energy

In order to better understand the breadth of ORE research currently being conducted in the UK, the Supergen ORE Hub has collated from its academic network, UK Centres for Doctoral Training and Industrial partners, a list of PhDs currently being undertaken in ORE.

Access a PDF of the list and find out more about including your PhD.

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