Author Archives: pauljackman

Offshore Windfarm -Part 4 – EIA

Environmental Impact Assessment

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) looks at the impact of the proposed development on the environment.  It will look at this throughout the life of the windfarm, during the construction, operation and decommissioning stages.

Large projects such as offshore windfarms are required under European Legislation to carry out and EIA. The most recent EIA regulations specify that the assessment must consider impacts on human health, climate change and biodiversity.

Consultation with statutory consultees, special interest groups and the local community is performed throughout the EIA process. This allows the consenting authority as well as other stakeholders and the public to voice their opinion and concerns.

Seagulls resting on the substation jacket
Birds taking advantage of the windfarm

To determine the effect of the development a range of environmental surveys are conducted to understand the environment.  After assessing the potential impact, mitigation measures are defined and applied in order to determine the effects associated with the development.

Part of the EIA is the Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA), where the development’s impacts combined with those impacts from other projects are assessed. The EIA is used to create the Environmental Statement (ES) (or EIA Report). This report is submitted to support a consent application.

A Habitat Regulations Appraisal (HRA) is performed as part of an EIA to ensure that a project conforms to The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2010). If the development is likely to affect a designated European site, developers are required to consider the potential effects on protected habitats. A report is submitted with the consent application, with sufficient information for a decision to be made.

This assessment will cost about £8 million for a 1GW wind farm. The EIA process can take up to three years to complete. This is primarily due to the length of time it takes to complete the required environmental survey work.

To find out more about the Rampion Windfarm project, join one of the trips aboard Defiance.

Offshore windfarms – Part 3 – Special Purpose Vehicle

Development and Consenting

See also Part 2 – Consent

Cost About £50 million

For a 1GW wind farm. Development and consenting covers the work needed to secure consent and manage the development process through to financial close. This includes developer staff costs, environmental impact assessments and other subcontractor work.

Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV)

Developers typically set up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for a wind farm. An SPV is a separate legal entity created by an organization. The SPV is a distinct company with its own assets. It is also called a special purpose entity (SPE). The SPV is a subsidiary created by a parent company to isolate financial risk. Should the project advance to construction, the SPV will continue to operate for the duration of the wind farm’s life.

It is likely that the development team will be based in stand-alone offices to manage confidentiality. This is important particularly if the project is a joint venture between two or more developers. The SPV provides a structure to enable external investment. This investment is most likely to take place at final investment decision (FID)

In the UK, the SPV manages the design of the wind farm and secures consent for the wind farm and transmission assets.

Scoping Report

An early formal step in the consenting process is the production of a scoping report. The purpose of which is to assess the level of impact on various areas. This in turn focuses the environmental impact assessment (EIA) on the effects of the development.

Ideally planning consent is sought with as much design flexibility as possible. If it is too restrictive, e.g. a particular turbine size or foundation is specified, this may prove problematical at the point of procurement. This may then require variations to the consent order which will incur delays and cost.

However, if too much design flexibility is incorporated, the environmental impacts become less certain, which may be deemed undesirable by the consenting authorities.

Environmental Impact Assessments

Developers need to undertake an EIA, which describes the potential impacts with regards to a wide range of environmental factors. Including:

  • Wildlife – mammal, birds, fish, flora and fauna both inland and offshore
  • Local economy – fishing, other sea users, farmland
  • Navigation – impact on local ports
  • Etc.

Most offshore wind developers have an in-house development management team, who outsource specialist work. Specialist suppliers will often second employees into the developer’s team for the duration of the development phase.

Developers are obliged to seek the views of a number of statutory consultees. These include:

  • Government authorities,
  • Local authorities
  • Those that have an interest in the land affected.
  • Non-statutory consultees with specific interests in the development are also likely to be consulted (such as RSPB).
  • Local communities

Developers will seek the views of local communities by holding a series of public information and consultation events.

To find out more about the Rampion Windfarm project, join one of the trips aboard Defiance.

A Guide to Offshore Windfarms – Part 2 – Consent

Project management

Introduction

Before purchasing a number of wind turbines and placing orders for the windfarm construction, there are a number of activities that need to be completed. Firstly you need to secure the planning consent. This will require the analysis of the site to define the design and therefore the engineering aspects. An Environmental Impact Assessment is required to look at impact of the project on the environment.

Cost – about £120 million

In Part 1 of this series of posts the type of future offshore windfarms is discussed. This cost is based on a 1GW windfarm

Developers have teams of about up to 50 staff during the development phase. The team would contract out work to specialist environmental, engineering consultancies, data acquisition and analysis companies.

This would broadly fall into the categories of

  • Development and consenting services
  • Environmental surveys
  • Resource and metocean assessment
  • Geological and hydrological surveys
  • Engineering and consultancy
Map of land leased for Rampion Windfarm
Leased land for Rampion Offshore Windfarm

Overview

The Crown Estate manage the around England Northern Ireland and Wales. In 2017 “Crown Estate Scotland” formed  to manage territorial waters around Scotland. Reference to the “Crown Estate” will mean both organisations unless specifically stated otherwise.

Leasing of the Sea Bed for existing offshore wind farms has been managed by The Crown Estate through several leasing rounds that began in 2000. Before the consenting process can begin, a developer must secure a sea bed lease from The Crown Estate.

Planning and Consent

The planning and consent procedure varies slightly depending on where the development is to occur:

Offshore wind projects larger than 100MW in England and Wales are defined as nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIP). These are examined by the Planning Inspectorate. The Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) grants or refuses consent based on a recommendation made by the Planning Inspectorate. In England, a Development Consent Order is granted under the Planning Act 2008. This Order incorporates a number of consents, including a marine licence and onshore consents. In Wales the marine licence is determined by Natural Resources Wales.

In Scotland, Marine Scotland examines applications for the offshore works. Scottish Ministers grant or refuse consent under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 (up to 12nm from shore) and the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 for projects 12-200 nm from shore. A streamlined process incorporates consent under the Electricity Act 1989 in parallel.

In Northern Ireland, the Marine Strategy and Licensing team within the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) manages the consent application and decision making process for offshore wind projects.

Onshore consent including where the transmission cable landfall is awarded by the relevant local planning authority (LPA), except where a project is handled under an NSIP in England and Wales, in which case the onshore consents are considered within the NSIP process.

To find out more about the Rampion Windfarm project, join one of the trips aboard Defiance.

Guide to Offshore Windfarms – Part 1

The Crown Estate

The Crown Estate manages the seabed around England.

The Crown Estate is owned by the Monarch in right of the Crown, (not to be confused with the Monarchs personal assets). This means that the Queen owns it by virtue of being the reigning Monarch. Responsibility for managing The Crown Estate is trusted to a board, under the Crown Estate Act. All revenue from the Crown Estate is paid to the Treasury which has been the case since 1760.

The Crown Estate manages the land for the development of offshore windfarms.
Wind Turbines

The Energy Act 2004 gives the right to The Crown Estate to license the generation of renewable energy on the continental shelf within the Renewable Energy Zone out to 200nm.

In 2001, The Crown Estate announced the first UK offshore wind leasing round and since has run two further leasing rounds in 2003 and 2008.

At the end of 2018, thirty-nine offshore wind farms have been built. The aim is to grow the offshore wind farm industry. In particular to increase capacity from 6.9GW at the end of 2017, to 30GW in the 2030s.

In 2018, The Crown Estate completed its initial assessment of offshore wind farm extension applications. The proposed projects represent an additional 3.4GW new capacity. Subject to the outcome of a plan-level Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA). Developers could be granted lease agreements in summer 2019.

Plans for Round 4 offshore wind leasing round could be launched in the early part of 2019, maintaining a pipeline of projects through to the late 2020s and beyond.

Overview

There is no single way to build and operate an offshore wind farm. The operation depends on the specific conditions of the site.

The rate at which the wind industry has developed over the last decade is remarkable. By 2025, we can be reasonably confident of the technologies that will be available.

Manufacturers are working on turbine designs in excess of 15MW. Today turbines capable of 8-10MW are available and it is reasonable to assume that 10MW will be commonplace.

Offshore windfarms vary considerably in their size 400MW arrays are common place today, but we will be looking at projects of 100 10MW turbines generating 1GW will become the norm.

It is reasonable to assume that going forward windfarms coming into operation by 2022, will generate 1GW and be located 60KM from shore. In water depth of 30m or more.

These are the parameters form the basis of cost guidelines in the following posts.

All figures are based on industry data in 2019.

To find out more about the Rampion Windfarm project, join one of the trips aboard Defiance.

Read Part 2 – Consents

Building the Rampion Windfarm – New Book

A new book is now available to accompany the windfarm tours aboard Defiance. This is the first edition published in February 2019, just weeks after the official announcement of the completion of the windfarm.

Building the Rampion Offshore Windfarm Book
Cover of new book on building the Rampion Windfarm

This new book is in full colour contains over 60 photgraphs taken during the actual construction of the windfarm. The text covers the construction process, leading to the fully operational windfarm we see today.

There are many contractors involved in the project. The roles of major contractors involved are listed.

Construction vessels fulfilled a major part of the works. Many are pictured as they work building the windfarm, to show how they are adapted for their specific tasks.

The principle construction techniques are illustrated, to give better insight into this project. The book gives an overview of the construction. People who are technically minded can ask further questions on the trips to the windfarm, as there is a great deal more information available on board Defiance.

The book is currently exclusively available to customers of Rampion Boat Trips on the windfarm tour. Copies will be available to purchase on board Defiance as a souvenir of the trip.

If you are interested in a windfarm trip. Please contact us via out contact page or by email to brightonboat@btinternet.com

Please follow us on Facebook – Rampion Boat Trips

Drone usage within the Rampion Windfarm

Guidelines for drone usage at or near Rampion Offshore Wind Farm

Safety is always the first issue to consider and it is the drone operators’ responsibility to comply with the Drone Code, as published by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Drones must be kept:-
1) at least 150 metres from working vessels and people at site, both offshore and onshore.
2) at least 50m from wind turbines and offshore substation
3) within sight of the operator
If the drone is being operated from a vessel, the vessel itself must stay out of the statutory 500m Safety Zone around construction activities on wind turbines and the offshore substation.

The drone operator will be held responsible for any incident or damage arising from failure to comply with the above.

For the original information  Click Here
 

Drones aboard Defiance

In addition to the above and the Drone Code and any licensing that may be required to operate a drone. The drone needs to take off and land safely from the vessel and would only normally be considered within a group of drone operators or around passengers familiar with their operations.
 
Drone operators should also be aware that some Return-To-Home functions will not work as the boat will move. Drone operators will need to be able to control the craft to safely land and take off from a moving platform.

Installing a wind turbine

Installing a wind turbine

Adventure lifting tower

On our trips to the Rampion Windfarm construction site. We are able to witness the installation of wind turbines at various stages.  Pictured is MPI Adventure lifting a tower onto the base installed last year.

Placing a tower

MPI Adventure and the other wind turbine installation vessel MPI Discovery can carry a total of 8 turbines per load. Each load of the the Vesta turbines are loaded in Denmark, and the vessel then sails to the Rampion windfarm off Sussex. The towers are stacked either side of the vessel and can be easily seen stood up on deck. The blades are stacked horizontally behind the bridge and are a bit horder to see. The generator itself or nacelle are also on deck, but not visible.

Picking up Blade
Picking up Blade

Once in position, the vessel turns from a ship to a working platform by jacking up on its six legs. The process of assembing the 5 main components usually only take 24 hours. Once the tower is in position the nacelle is lifted on top. Lastly each of the the three blades are lifted from the stack using the specially designed cradle visible in the picture and each one bolted on. Once complete the vessel lowers itself back down to become a ship once more in order to move to the next location. Where the process starts again.

A day out to an offshore wind farm on a boat called Defiance

This article was published in the new statesman about a trip to the windfarm. I have re-published it here with all credits to Christian Donlan and the New Statesman to see the full article with photos please follow this link

A day out to an offshore wind farm on a boat called Defiance

Exploring something beautiful and alien on the edge of Brighton.

By Christian Donlan

Nearby, the boats have names like Lady of the Lake and Skyedancer. Ours is called Defiance. It’s a small, businesslike craft with a bright orange hull, and it’s tethered to a little wooden jetty, dwarfed by the ghostly presence of a floating Chinese restaurant that wallows beside it, shuttered and missing a roof.

When we meet our captain, the name of his boat makes sense: self-contained and wry, there’s a sliver of defiance glinting within him too. “It’s kicking off early today,” he announces, gesturing to his chirping radio before taking us through the safety briefing.

He speaks with that indulgent tone mariners sometimes adopt when talking to their passengers – a pronounced gentleness, as if faced with a species that, while clearly inferior, is not without its charms. “If you decide you want to fall overboard, stay still and we’ll throw you something floaty,” he concludes after a minute or so.

Then we’re off, the engine sending out a single atomiser puff of sweet-smelling smoke.

The Rampion Offshore Wind Farm has been an obsession for my wife for the best part of a year. We’d read about it in the news and on Facebook – prolonged arguments for and against its existence, covering everything from the noise pollution of its construction to the impact on the local seabird population.

But when it started to rise on the horizon, dark shapes suddenly visible in the silvery distance from the bus into work each morning, we both discovered that we were in the “for” camp almost without our choosing. Here was something beautiful and alien on the edge of Brighton: pillars emerging from the sea while huge shadowy hulks – the rigs that would do the actual building work – seemed to hover magically above the water, shifting positions every few days.

We bought binoculars, and soon Sarah was downloading apps that allowed her to track local shipping. The rigs we saw each morning suddenly had names, the Pacific Orca and the MPI Discovery, and they were here out of Amsterdam. In photographs on the internet they appeared vast and weather-beaten, beautiful in a sombre, industrial way.

It was much harder to get a sense of the wind farm itself however: it still just looked like a few spars of metal coming out of the sea. There was no easy way of grasping the ambition and scale, no clear indicator that Rampion, when finished, will occupy an area of 72 square kilometres, or nearly three times the size of Manhattan Island.

Sarah wanted to get closer, which is how we found out about the Defiance, a diving boat for the most part, whose owner had suspected there might be enough interested locals to schedule the odd trip out to the farm. We bought tickets and, for a few weeks, my wife received wonderfully terse text messages from the captain, mainly about the weather, telling us of the fluctuating likelihood of making our journey any time soon.

A Sunday morning in late January turns out to be perfect: clear and cold with no clouds on the horizon. “You’re not going to get a better day than this,” says the captain as we leave the marina behind us. The water’s an oily mineral green, little white peaks bouncing away from the bow.

The construction looks close from the coast road, but it’s an hour’s journey – around eight miles – to the site itself, thick cords of froth tumbling and tangling in our wake as we pick up speed. Sarah’s giddy with happiness.

Forty minutes out and we suddenly realise that for the last few miles we’ve been entirely alone, Brighton disappearing into the yellow bloom of the horizon, leaving buoys as the only nearby landmarks, bobbing frantically as they pull against submerged tethers. It does not take much to leave the world behind, and in its place we grow quiet and introspective.

It’s cold this far out, and a slight breeze is picking up by the time windfarm platforms start to appear around us. They’re beautiful and stark: cylinders painted a bright yellow, topped with gantries and cranes. These platforms are the little stubs we can see from land, the bases for the turbines themselves. Out here, they already tower over us, but they’re still only ten to 15 per cent of their final height.

The scale is surprising, but so is the layout. From the coast it looks like a lone row of columns, placed at regular intervals, like nails sticking out of a piece of wood. Up close, we’re in the middle of a muddle of buildings appearing seemingly at random.

Ahead of us a much larger structure looms, the frame of a barn almost, or a climbing frame painted the same bright yellow as the platforms. “That’s the substation for this section of the farm,” says the captain, noting that a guard ship has been dispatched to follow us. “They must be so bored,” he says as the ship gets closer, its radar turning. “If they’re coming out for us it must be a slow day.” He laughs, and it strikes me briefly that Sarah and I might just be the idiot tourists in the first act of a disaster movie.

For the last few minutes we’ve been able to see a complex grey shadow on the horizon: “It’s the MPI Discovery,” gasps Sarah, starstruck. The Orca must be back in Amsterdam.

The Discovery grows bigger and bigger before us, losing none of its alien nature, its industrial surrealism, as we approach. It looks like a freighter, a mini-tower block at one end attached to a bright red hull – but that hull itself has been lifted out of the water by a series of thick metal legs that descend to the sea floor.

Soon we can see the sun reflecting from windows, thin lines of cabling stretching from cranes and pylons. At the stern is a giant propeller, lifted clear of the water and hanging in the morning air. The Discovery seems both weird and perfect: an improbable tool for the construction of an improbable project. I tend to think of otherworldly things as being insubstantial, ghostly and gossamer, but this vast ship, held out of the water and aloft on the horizon, is the most otherworldly thing I have ever seen.

On the way back home, the captain pulls out sea charts and obligingly answers our idiotic landlubber questions. He explains to me that the little names inked on his charts in a tiny, precise hand, belong to wrecks. Wreck diving is his main business, and there are hundreds of them in the channel, invisible wonders rusting on our doorstep.

We look over the names: The Minion, sunk under tow, an M Class Destroyer on its way to decommissioning. The Duke of Buccleugh, a cargo ship long-since salvaged for its silver, but still filled with boxes of china, just waiting down on the seabed. The Bessel, a favourite of the captain’s, 60 metres down and more: china again and tiny perfume bottles scattered around it. He’s held some of these bottles in his hands. He’s seen dolphins out here, and porpoises.

As the wind farm fades into the distance and Brighton reappears ahead of us, the captain brings tea and biscuits. Sarah blinks back tears, going over what she has seen in her head. We raise mugs to mouths and reflect on the fact that, despite all we’ve witnessed today, it’s not yet noon – and that the captain, this stark, intense, quietly generous man who lives his life in the liminal zone between the land and the watery depths, makes the best tea we have ever tasted.

Alternative Air Source – New Guidelines

In Europe divers should be aware that there have been changes to European Standard EN250. This Standard concerns the manufacture of underwater breathing apparatus. The changes concern how alternate air sources are used.

As equipment manufactured under the requirements of the previous version of the standard will be around for many years, the implentation of these changes will be slow. However, divers should be aware of these changes and know when to implement some of the changes concerning the configuration of alternate air sources.

The main changes that will affect any regulators manufactured in accordance with the new (2014) version of the standard are as follows:

  • An octopus rig is not a preferred option if the depth is greater than 30m or the water temperature is less than 10°C, instead an alternative fully independent system is advised.
  • Regulator first stages which are not designed for cold water performance shall be marked with “>10°C”.
  • Regulator first stages may be marked with a lower working temperature if specified by the manufacturer.
  • Regulators first stages will be stamped with an “A” if they are compatible to be fitted with an alternate air source (octopus rig).

These changes will come into effect gradually as more regulators are manufactured according to the revised standard. If you have any questions on how you can use a particular regulator, you should approach the manufacturer for advice.

Brighton Offshore MCZ

Overview

In January 2016 the area  located in the eastern English Channel, approximately 45km south of Selsey Bill, West Sussex has been designated the Brighton Offshore Marine Conservation Zone

Location

The area covering some 862sqKm stretches from Brighton to the West and the southerly edges touch onto the median line with French Waters.The actual position is the area bounded by the following coordinates:

  • 50 22.916N 0 17.895W (North East)
  • 50 13.162N 0 15.583W (South East)
  • 50 08.172N 0 52.990W (South West)
  • 50 19.239N 0 54.20W (North West)

Habitat

The seabed in the Brighton Offshore MCZ is predominantly coarse sands, gravel and shingle with areas of exposed bedrock and mixed sediments. There is a diverse range of species found living within the sediments. Hydroids, bryozoans and sponges occupy the boulders and cobbles, where hermit crabs and starfish also thrive. Burying animals such as worms, sea anemones, burrowing anemones, carpet shell clams, venus cockles and other bivalves live within the mixed sediments

Management

The purpose of the MCZ is to protect features of this habitat. Activities will continue in this area that maintain the current situation, but will be reviewed if a deteriation is recorded. Activities that harm the environment will be limited to allow the location to recover. Benthic trawling will almost certainly be restricted.

More Information

Defra – Brighton Offshore MCZ

Joint Nature Conservation Committee

JNCC/Defra Brighton Offshore Assessment Document