Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm
The Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm (GGOWF) is 504MW development comprising 140 Siemens 3.6MW turbines located 23km off the Suffolk coast. It was constructed from 2009 to 2012 and is owned and operated by SSE and RWE Innogy. ESS Ecology have completed nine years of monthly boat-based bird and marine mammal surveys at GGOWF, having started this survey programme in 2004. During the spring and autumn migration months, an additional dedicated migration observer was deployed applying intensive visual surveying techniques to detect and quantify the passage of migrating birds. We contributed to the Technical Report which informed the Environmental Statement in 2006.
Our survey work at GGOWF extends over nine years (between 2004 and 2016) and represents the longest and largest continuous ornithological dataset collected at a large operational offshore wind project anywhere in the world. This study therefore presents one of the best opportunities to obtain meaningful comparisons of bird densities at different project stages and thereby monitor and quantify displacement and attraction effects. To this end ESS Ecology has been working with our statistical partners Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland (BioSS) to conduct statistical comparisons of seabird densities and populations between the pre-, during and post-construction stages and different parts of the wind farm, surrounding buffer zones and four reference areas. The statistical analysis approach we have adopted is based on Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) and Before-After-Gradient (BAG) study designs. In addition detailed statistical analysis of changes in flight height before and after construction has revealed that some species have avoided flying at rotor height within the development areas in relation to the surrounds, while others have been attracted.
The GGOWF project Marine Licence requires an ornithological monitoring programme and annual reporting. Each year since 2009 ESS Ecology have worked closely with Royal HaskoningDHV to deliver Annual Ornithological Monitoring Reports to the clients and regulators in fulfilment of Marine Licence conditions. ESS Ecology have also completed seabird and marine mammal surveys for the Round 2.5 extension to GGOWF, known as the Galloper Wind Farm, which was consented in May 2013. To assist with the consent of the Galloper Wind Farm we carried out a programme of additional survey work using vantage point techniques. This study focused upon characterising bird flying behaviour near operating GGOWF turbines for several species judged to be susceptible to collision with wind turbines.
We are currently completing our tenth and final year report on our research on birds at GGOWF, which is the longest-running monitoring study at an offshore wind farm, anywhere in the world. For nine years we have managed our teams of expert bird surveyors undertaking monthly surveys, each lasting three to four days at sea. This means that we have sampled over 10% of daylight activity by birds at the wind farm, and our transects sample approximately 30% of the area within and around the wind farm. Our reports on the statistical analyses of changes in patterns of distribution and flight height with our partners Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland (BioSS), and on the completion of the monitoring programme and licence conditions with Royal Haskoning DHV, are due to be published by the end of 2016. Please sign up to our newsletter or contact us to be notified of the publication dates and to receive copies of these GGOWF reports.
Details of some of our other eighteen offshore wind farm projects are given below and a full list and further case studies are available on request.
Protected Species Surveys at Edinburgh Primary Schools
ESS Ecology was contracted by Morrison Construction and Galliford Try through HUB SE for the City of Edinburgh Council, to conduct ecological surveys enabling the construction of additional classrooms at eight Edinburgh Primary School sites: James Gillespie’s, Clermiston, Flora Stevenson, Gilmerton, Pentland, Ratho and Wardie. These included surveys to assess the potential of trees identified for felling to provide roosting habitats for bats. Trees with high suitability for bat roosts were retained if at all possible, otherwise a licensed bat surveyor undertook a tree examination, ensuring an absence of hibernating bats prior to tree felling. The school grounds and surroundings were also evaluated for their habitat potential for other protected species such as badger, otter, water vole and birds.. Recommendations were made to improve and protect the biodiversity of each school, enhance existing wildlife gardens and improve habitats around the school grounds with bird and bat boxes, feeders and bee and insect houses. ESS Ecology helped to guarantee that these construction projects were completed in time for the start of the new school year, while safeguarding the ecological diversity of the development areas.
Blackhall Primary School Gymnasium and Assembly Hall
Planning permission was required for the construction of a gymnasium and assembly hall at the Blackhall Primary School, Edinburgh. An ecological survey was commissioned by the developer Morrison Construction in conjunction with the City of Edinburgh Council Planning Officer to investigate whether badgers in the surrounding area could be affected by the development. Two badger setts were found along with foraging signs in the area surrounding the development site. However, no direct impacts on the badgers resulting from construction work were identified or predicted. Mitigation measures were recommended and subsequently implemented to reduce the impact of increased noise and light disturbance and to minimise the risk of accidents involving the badgers.
East Lothian Community Hospital
ESS Ecology has continued in its pursuit of Health and Education-related projects with input to master-planning for the East Lothian Community Hospital at Roodlands, Haddington, for Morrison Construction on behalf of NHS Lothian. We carried out a Phase 1 Habitat Survey in September 2014 to inform the phased redevelopment of the new Hospital. This survey was accompanied by a preliminary Habitat Suitability Assessment for protected species (bat, otter, water vole, badger, great crested newt) on and around the development site. The latter identified five buildings and four trees with potential to hold summer bat roosts. There was no evidence of use of the hospital site by bats or any other protected species.
This preliminary survey was followed by an initial scoping bat survey by a licensed bat worker to determine the areas that will require a more detailed survey during the survey season (April-October). Internal and external examinations of the five buildings were carried out, as well as ground-level inspection of the trees with the help of close-focusing binoculars. No signs of bats using the premises were found, however potential roost features and access routes into the attic space of the buildings were identified. Dusk emergence and pre-dawn re-entry surveys were recommended to comply with Bat Conservation Trust guidelines.
If you are planning any development where bats could be present, activity surveys, emergence counts and building inspections will be required. These avoid delays with your planning application, and to allow for peace of mind that you will not be harming these enigmatic, fascinating and harmless (but highly protected) little creatures and allow them to live in harmony with us. Please contact us to request a quotation for appropriate surveys and inspections.
Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service
The new Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service facility is being constructed within the Heriot-Watt University campus in west Edinburgh. This location was chosen to enable rapid delivery of blood supplies across central and eastern Scotland. ESS Ecology were contracted by Interserve Construction Ltd. on behalf of NHS Lothian to carry out a Phase 1 Habitat survey and Preliminary Ecological Appraisal of the development site, followed by a programme of surveys to determine the presence of, or suitability of habitat for, protected species (great-crested newts, bats, otters, water voles, badgers) on and around the development site. The species surveys did not reveal the presence or any signs of great-crested newts, otters, water voles or badgers within the development site. A low level of use by foraging pipistrelle bats was recorded, but there were no active roost sites within the proposed development site or the adjacent woodland.
A BREEAM Land Use and Ecology assessment was also conducted during which the number of native plant species required to obtain credits under LE03 and LE04 was calculated and recommendations on how to protect and enhance the ecological value of the site were also made. ESS Ecology also trained a senior member of the Lead Contractors at Interserve to play the role of Biodiversity Champion. The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology or BREEAM involves assessing the level of sustainability of new and refurbished buildings. Buildings are given a rating between ‘pass’ and ‘outstanding’ according to a variety of criteria based on scientific information, including ecology. BREEAM helps to minimise the impact of developments and encourage biodiversity around our homes, schools and work places. This scheme highlights the benefits of following a sustainable approach in building and renovation and promotes innovation in the built environment.
Bellshill Industrial Unit: Protected Species Surveys
ESS Ecology were contracted in April 2014 by LBG Waterston on behalf of Doon Valley Heat Treatment Ltd., to carry out a protected species survey and site walkover of a site in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire where an industrial unit was proposed. Two habitat types were mapped within the study area, whilst six additional habitats were noted outwith the buffer zone. No signs of otters or water voles were recorded along the drain near the site, and the habitat was found to be unsuitable for these species. Three badger holes were identified but with no fresh signs indicating they were in use, these were not a constraint to development. Measures were recommended to mitigate the loss of badger foraging habitat and to counter noise, light and other types of disturbance arising from construction work that could potentially affect badgers in the area.
Navitus Bay Offshore Wind Farm
ESS Ecology were contracted by Dutch Electricity Utility Eneco B. V. to provide offshore boat-based bird surveys for the Navitus Bay (UK Round 3 Zone 7) offshore wind development zone, to the west of the Isle of Wight. Working alongside PMSS Ltd, monthly transect surveys lasting three to four days collected information on seabird density and distribution across the whole of the zone for a period of two years. Our work informed the choice of development location within the zone, informed the Environmental Statement, and provided baseline bird data for monitoring during and after construction. In keeping with ESS Ecology’s commitment to sustainability, a local vessel and crew was used throughout the work, and additional surveyors based in the area were trained by the ourselves to join our pool of over fifty highly experienced and ESAS-qualified seabird surveyors.
The transect survey work informed the Zone Appraisal Planning (ZAP) report, which included a bird sensitivity assessment based on the raw count data and distribution of birds which was authored by ESS Ecology. The content of this document allowed project owners Eneco and Electricite de France (EDF) to understand the location of regions within the proposed development zone which are likely to be more sensitive for the positioning of turbines,. Following the submission of an Environmental Statement, the Planning Inspectorate refused planning permission on seascape grounds, the first such instance for a Round 3 offshore wind farm zone.
Alongside the ‘standard’ transect surveys conforming to COWRIE and ESAS methodologies, an additional programme of single day boat-based migration surveys was carried out aimed at characterising migratory bird passage through the zone during spring and autumn migration periods. A bespoke, novel methodology was devised by the ESS Ecology survey leadership and statistical teams, which aimed to maximise the number of migrating birds detected, whilst also providing a methodology for estimating migration rates across the zone. During these migration surveys, the ESS Ecology team worked closely with local consultants providing land observers collecting seawatch data when our boat and surveyors were at sea. Eneco Testimonial.
Salmonid assessment on the River Clyde
Environmentally Sustainable Systems Ltd. was commissioned by Ironside Farrar to conduct a salmonid fish assessment of a development site on the banks of the River Clyde, Glasgow. The site houses the Riverside campus of the Glasgow College of Nautical Studies which is an award winning building, the most modern, most technologically advanced, most future-proofed maritime campus of all 230 such colleges anywhere in the world. It is home to 2,000 Marine and Engineering students and offers a 198 bed hall of residence. The development overhangs and required pile driving into the river. The statutory nature conservation consultee SNH required that impacts on migrating fish species (in particular Atlantic salmon) be considered.
ESS staff conducted a River Habitat Survey along a 1500m stretch of the river, centred on the development site. Habitat features and vegetation types were mapped and detailed information was recorded at 50m intervals. Supporting River Habitat Survey data for the River Clyde was obtained from the Environment Agency and records of protected fish species were sought from the local biological records centre. Following completion of the survey and receipt of the supporting fish and habitat records, ESS produced a report detailing the survey results and recommendations for minimising impact to migrating fish and other aquatic ecology. It concluded that existing habitat features were already highly modified and of low quality for salmonids and would not be significantly affected by the proposed works. The proposed landscape planting post development may also produce a slight improvement in habitat for Atlantic salmon. Ironside Farrar Testimonial.
North Hoyle and Rhyl Flats Offshore Wind Farms
ESS started working on North Hoyle, the first substantial UK offshore wind farm, off the North Wales coast, in March 2006 and assisted RWE Innogy to fulfill their ornithological licensing conditions. This involved managing and conducting monthly bird surveys within and around the wind farm site, collecting post construction bird monitoring data, and undertaking detailed statistical modelling and analyses of changes in bird densities. We produced a report which presented and concluded the research and findings of five years of ornithological monitoring, from November 2001 to March 2007. While this focussed on the common scoter seaduck and diver species, both being the qualifying species for the Liverpool Bay SPA (Special Protection Area under the European Community Birds Directive) all species recorded were analysed and data presented. This is appended to the ornithological chapter of the final FEPA monitoring report, which closed off the license requirement for North Hoyle. From March 2006 to August 2009, ESS also carried out monthly boat-based bird surveys for the nearby Rhyl Flats offshore wind farm. We wrote three detailed monitoring reports and provided detailed written mitigation advice on avoiding impacts to common scoter, which the regulators CCW agreed with and thus enabled construction work to continue during otherwise restricted periods.
RWE Innogy Testimonial.
St. Peter’s Seminary at Kilmahew, Cardross on behalf of NVA.
ESS Ecology was commissioned by ERZ Limited (on behalf of NVA, an environmental arts charity) to undertake an extended Phase 1 habitat survey and a preliminary woodland assessment survey on land at Kilmahew, near Cardross in Argyll and Bute. Both surveys were undertaken to inform subsequent decision making as part of preliminary investigation work (funded in part by SNH) at the site for a possible temporary or permanent artwork. The preliminary woodland assessment survey was carried out to assess the woodland in terms of species, size, age class, structural composition and variation, natural regeneration and current management status. This site has since become the subject of a vast renovation project for St. Peter’ Seminary by NVA which has in part been enabled through ESS’s survey work and resulting report.