A decision support tool for wind farm infrastructure developers to improve their environmental sustainability performance
Period: July 1 2021 – March 31 2022
Funder: EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) Doctoral Impact Fund
Wind farms and offshore infrastructure are set to transform UK seascapes in coming decades, feeding a growing need for green energy. Simultaneously, national environmental policy (including the UK Environment Bill) is increasingly focusing on ensuring that all new infrastructure has “no net loss” or a "net gain" for biodiversity. Reconciling the need for new infrastructure with the need to create benefits for marine biodiversity will require stakeholders across engineering, conservation, policy and wind farm management to collaborate.
We are working to create a multi-stakeholder decision support tool to determine the feasibility of marine conservation activities on offshore wind farms in the UK. By interviewing stakeholders such as engineers, wind farm operators, conservationists, and fishers, we are aiming to identify the main decision points and key factors that influence the process of undertaking marine conservation projects on offshore wind farms. This tool is intended to help guide conversations between multiple stakeholders, suggesting avenues for the improvement of environmental sustainability performance. We will also produce a series of illustrative scenarios to provide a sense of how these projects could work in practice
This doctoral impact project is a collaboration with the Blue Marine Foundation, building on their national review of the conservation potential of over 50 wind farm sites across the UK and Sofia Castelló y Tickell’s DPhil research on "human-made reefs" (HMRs). This research focused on assessing the conservation benefits of a variety of anthropogenic structures in the ocean and the marine life that accrues on them, as well as identifying synergies and trade-offs amongst stakeholder groups.
The results of this work will be published as a report in collaboration with the Blue Marine Foundation.
The external mentor, Dr. David Tudor, is Projects Director at the Blue Marine Foundation and has extensive experience with both conservation projects and working with renewable energy stakeholders. Within Oxford, the supervision of Professor EJ Milner-Gulland (Zoology) will provide guidance and expertise on interdisciplinary conservation, while collaboration with Professor Byron Byrne (Engineering) will provide expertise on wind turbine structures and the renewable energy landscape.