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PML awarded grant to facilitate expansion of environmentally-sustainable marine UK wind energy

4 October 2022

Plymouth Marine Laboratory has been awarded a grant to fund a decision-making support tool to facilitate the expansion of marine UK wind energy in an environmentally-friendly way. 

The tool will enable stakeholders in the offshore wind sector to understand the effects of planned offshore wind installations on marine habitats, biodiversity and the benefits they provide to people. It will also support decision-making: namely where to site offshore wind farms and which measures to use to reduce their negative impacts and maximise their positive impacts on biodiversity.  

It is anticipated that the tool, named ORIES (Offshore Renewable Impacts on Ecosystem Services), will be operational and publicly available to stakeholders for use in planning offshore wind developments by October 2023.  

ORIES is being developed as part of a project funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) that ends in March 2024. The total cost for project completion is £412,447, with £297,916 secured from UK Research and Innovation, Plymouth Marine Laboratory contributing £74,479, and £40,000 donated by the Garfield Weston Foundation.  

The additional funding from the Garfield Weston Foundation will enable the incorporation of an additional geographic information systems (mapping) component that will greatly facilitate users’ ability to evaluate the impacts of developments at specific geographic locations (rather than the impacts of offshore wind in general).  

This will enable users to identify where habitats or species are at risk, the primary causes of that risk, how risk may be managed to minimise negative impacts, and where possible find solutions that are positive for biodiversity. 

Professor Nicola Beaumont, Head of the Sea and Society Group at PML, said: 

“ORIES addresses an urgent need. The UK has set legally binding targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and increase the use of renewable energy, and offshore wind capacity in UK waters is expected to grow five-fold by 2030, and potentially ten-fold by 2050.” 

“While the rapid expansion of offshore renewables is vital for addressing climate change, it also has the potential to cause considerable damage to marine habitats that support precious biodiversity and store large volumes of carbon. Impacts of offshore wind on biodiversity urgently need to be evaluated to optimise outcomes for climate and biodiversity.” 

“We cannot thank our funding partners enough for investing in this tool, which will support the facilitation of the expansion of environmentally sustainable offshore wind energy.”