These guidelines for data acquisition to support marine environmental assessments for offshore renewable energy projects have been produced in response to the rapid development of offshore renewable energy and the growing knowledge and experience of undertaking such surveys and assessments.
These guidelines will assist developers, environmental consultants, regulators, decision‐makers and consultees in the design, review and implementation of environmental data collection and analytical activities associated with all stages of offshore renewable energy developments. They provide a synthesis of the body of guidance that exists for such data acquisition activities and have been designed to point the reader to where more detailed guidance can be found.
Developments in data acquisition methods in support of offshore renewable energy developments, are proceeding rapidly. There is also increasing emphasis in national and international fora on the development of more holistic (ecosystem‐level) approaches to marine environmental management, including evaluations of the scope for cumulative or in‐combination effects. Given this, a question may reasonably be asked as to the correct timing for the production of data acquisition guidelines. In terms of the operational need for greater consistency in sampling and analytical approaches the answer is, unquestionably, now. However, a document of this nature cannot anticipate with certainty the consequences of all ongoing R&D effort, or of future developments in environmental policy, in specifying present requirements for data acquisition. It is therefore recommended that the guidance is updated at appropriate intervals to incorporate significant improvements to current practices arising from such developments.
Whilst these guidelines provide useful generic advice for the acquisition of data to support environmental assessments for offshore renewable energy developments, differences will exist between technologies, locations, construction methods etc. This guidance is not statutory nor is it meant to replace careful consideration of robust survey design that may need to be developed for individual areas. We emphasise that this document is only intended for guidance, is not a regulatory instrument and is not a substitute for appropriate consultation with regulators, their advisors or other interested stakeholders. The MMO is, however, an enabled regulator keen to engage with the marine sector and should be consulted in the first instance for site or case specific advice.
These guidelines have been produced by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) on behalf of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) with funds from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). They have also been reviewed by the Offshore Renewable Energy Licensing Group (ORELG) which is comprised of representatives from the MMO, Cefas, Countryside Council for Wales, Defra, Department for Transport, Department of Energy and Climate Change, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment Northern Ireland, English Heritage, Environment Agency, Infrastructure Planning Commission, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Marine Scotland, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Ministry of Defence, National Grid, Natural England, Renewable Energy Association, RenewableUK, The Crown Estate, Trinity House and Welsh Government.
Acknowledgement: This article was identified by the Crown Estate Wave and Tidal Knowledge Network.