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SSE Renewables complete one of the world’s largest offshore aerial survey programme

16 Jun 2021

SSE Renewables and Hi Def Aerial Surveying have recently completed a 24-month aerial survey programme as part of the proposed Berwick Bank and Marr Bank offshore wind farms. The survey, consisting of 300 hours of flight time, across 5,000 square km, seven times the size of East Lothian, is believed to be the largest of its kind ever undertaken.

The survey, undertaken by HiDef Aerial Surveying, involved 4 aircraft flying simultaneously, once a month, for 24 months. Each aircraft is equipped with high definition camera equipment that captures live footage and is then assessed by ornithology and marine experts. So far, the team have analyzed over 15 million images following the survey and successfully documented the habits of over 338,000 birds and over 2000 marine mammals.

The proposed Berwick Bank and Marr Bank wind farms would be located in the outer Firth of Forth, over 49km and 40km, respectively, from the East Lothian coast. Scoping for Berwick Bank was submitted in August 2020 and virtual exhibitions held in November 2020 . The Berwick Bank team has recently attended virtual meetings with East Lammermuir Community Council, Dunbar Community Council and Cockburnsparth & Cove Community Council to provide an update on the plans.

The Berwick Bank project is expected to be 2.3GW and comprise of up to 242 offshore wind turbines. It would be capable of generating enough renewable energy to power 3.5 million homes annually, more than all the homes in Scotland, and reduce carbon emissions by 4 million tonnes each year, helping power Scotland’s push towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2045*. Marr Bank is projected to be 1.85GW.

Alex Meredith, Project Director for the Berwick Bank and Marr Bank projects said:

“SSE Renewables is a world-leading developer of large-scale offshore wind projects based in Scotland. We are committed to addressing the environmental challenges of our projects by seeking the most detailed understanding possible during the development process. Commissioning such an extensive survey means the proposals for Berwick Bank and Marr Bank will be informed by the most comprehensive dataset on local environmental considerations ever seen for an offshore wind development anywhere in the world.

"The data provided by these surveys will allow us to identify and better understand the seabird and marine mammal population in the area and if required, plan any appropriate mitigation to ensure appropriate protection for wildlife and their habitats."

Martin Scott, Commercial Director for Hi Def Aerial Surveying, said:

“When first approached by SSE Renewables we did wonder if such a large-scale survey programme was even possible. Two years on we have shown that such challenges can be met and produce a wealth of high value robust data as a reward.”

*3.5 million homes powered per annum based on Typical Domestic Consumption Values (Medium Electricity Profile Class 1, 2,900kWh per household; OFGEM, January 2020), minimum projected 50% wind load factor, and projected installed capacity of up to 2.3GW. All homes in Scotland based on Household Estimates Scotland 2019 (National Records of Scotland, June 2020). Quoted 4m t/CO2 reductions per annum based on expected annual output against average 446 t/CO2 per GWh (BEIS Digest of UK Energy Statistics, July 2020). Quoted removal of cars based on projected annual carbon abated and calculated against recorded average of 5.89m/tCO2 by cars on roads in Scotland in 2017 (Carbon Account for Transport 2019, Transport Scotland).