03 July 2018

Understanding seabird behaviour around offshore wind farms

ORJIP (Offshore Renewables Joint Industry Programme) Offshore Wind is a UK-wide collaborative programme of environmental research with the aim of reducing consenting risks for offshore wind projects.

ORJIP Offshore Wind was set up in 2012 by the UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, The Crown Estate, Marine Scotland and 16 offshore wind developers.

One of the research projects taken forward under the programme sought to better understand seabird behaviour around offshore wind farms. Launched in 2014, the ORJIP Bird Collision Avoidance Study is now complete, with the final report published in April 2018.

The importance of empirical data

For each new windfarm, developers are required to estimate the potential impact it could have on the environment and wildlife in the area. That includes providing estimates of the potential for bird species to interact or collide with the new windfarm.  

Yet, relatively few studies have been undertaken at operational windfarms to understand how seabirds actually behave. To date, most assessments have been based on theoretical models, using data from site specific studies and existing literature.

Recognising the need for more accurate information, the Bird Collision Avoidance Study was created. This multi-million pound study is a great example of industry collaboration deploying innovative technology and monitoring techniques. The study was managed by the Carbon Trust, and funded by Government, The Crown Estate, Crown Estate Scotland, Marine Scotland and 11 offshore wind developers including Vattenfall, owners of the Thanet windfarm where the study was conducted.

Thanet was chosen because of the number of seabirds in the area and as it was a model for larger windfarms further offshore. Over a two year period, more than a million videos were recorded. From this, 600,000 were analysed and only 12,131 had evidence of bird activity, with just six collisions recorded.

This revealed that the actual collision risk for seabirds was less than half of what had been forecast previously and demonstrated that seabirds were changing their flight path to avoid turbines.

The outcomes of this study will encourage the use of proven, practical and cost-effective monitoring systems to gather empirical evidence. The data gathered will help reduce uncertainty for developers, advisors and regulators during collision risk modelling for consent applications.

While this study is not conclusive, it does provide an excellent platform from which further research and insight can be driven. To promote the continued learning and development of this study, the data can be accessed and freely downloaded through The Crown Estate’s Marine Data Exchange.

To read more about this study please visit

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