The Offshore Wind Evidence & Knowledge Hub (OWEKH), an initiative funded by The Crown Estate’s Offshore Wind Evidence & Change Programme, has begun to engage stakeholders across the industry as it seeks to design and build a sector-wide open portal to help streamline the consenting process and support wider efforts to develop digital strategy within the offshore wind industry.
The data and evidence collected within the knowledge hub will be curated and interpreted by a Community of Practice. This will enable OWEKH to increase proportionality and reduce repetition in consenting processes by offering expert insight and analysis. DEFRA, the Offshore Wind Industry Council Pathways to Growth (OWIC P2G) and the Institute for Environment Management and Assessment (IEMA) form a steering group, with stakeholder engagement and development of the digital portal provided by Atkins.
The creation of OWEKH will transform the information landscape of the offshore industry. Once complete, developers, regulators, marine specialists, and other professionals will be able to access data and documents such as past impact assessment documents, industry knowledge, large scale datasets and academic references to inform their work.
Access to more information will also help to accelerate in the consenting process as the sector accelerates development to meet net zero targets. This will align with the wider stream of work on data and evidence that the Crown Estate is undertaking, led through the Marine Data Exchange, the world’s largest database of offshore renewables survey data, research and evidence.
The Discovery Phase of the project launched this month to gather insights from across the industry and steer the design of OWEKH. During the four-month period, the OWEKH team will be identifying key information sources, levels of digital fluency, and the most efficient methods of information delivery. This will help to ensure a future Hub design meets the needs of the different parties who will benefit from a digitised information bank, as well as prioritising interoperability, openness and user experience.
Sion Roberts, Marine Consents Manager at The Crown Estate and Project Manager for OWEKH, said: “Information availability across our sector will be a key influence on the speed of expansion for offshore wind generation as we increase capacity to 50GW by t he end of the decade. Offshore Wind professionals at all levels need rapid access to contextual data of all types to drive high quality development decision-making around the consenting process. OWEKH’s discovery phase will provide a launch pad to understanding how that information access should take shape.”
Rufus Howard, Policy and Engagement Lead at IEMA, said: “The offshore wind industry’s information footprint is vast and for many professionals, barriers to finding and collating relevant data about their site can put them under time pressure. Providing a pathway to access information in one place will result in highly desirable efficiencies and help the UK wind generation make a step-change in process.”
Development of the platform echoes the calls for enhanced digital and data driven methods at every stage of the development and operational lifecycle. OWEKH will be a key contributor in ensuring the Offshore Wind sector can head towards continued success in supporting the sustained and accelerating growth in generation.
Chris Mcdougall, Project Director for OWEKH at Atkins, said: “Information and data availability has the potential to strengthen the pace of development of offshore wind as the industry galvanises to meet the UK’s decarbonisation targets.
“OWEKH will help to support healthy seas through a well-rounded and cross sector understanding of the spatial complexities of our marine environment and a discovery phase is a crucial element in understanding the detail of requirements for an information hub, to ensure the end platform provides a powerful and functional information environment.”
In this initial requirement-gathering phase, the steering group will be seeking feedback from identified stakeholders on topics such as typical information domains end use cases for information and data analysis, current methods and barriers for access, along with key vectors such as accuracy, precision, and timeliness. During this process, a full picture understanding will be built up to reflect the priorities for both single project analysis and for cumulative impact within a geographic context.
In-depth workshops have taken place and consultation with industry practitioners continues. Individuals or organisations wishing to stay informed of OWEKH’s progress are invited to contact the OWEKH development team at Atkins via email Elspeth.email@example.com.
Joe Deimel, Environment Advisor, SSE Renewables, said: "There’s no doubt that information and data is critical in the decision-making process for offshore wind farm consent applications and that developments are better and implemented faster where that information is readily available. As development process stakeholders, SSE Renewables support the OWEKH steering group and community of practice and we look forward to exploring benefits and efficiencies through the availability of the platform.”