North Sea wind projects could have ‘impact’ on marine mammals, report finds

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The construction phase of North Sea offshore wind projects could have an “impact” on local marine mammals, an assessment of the project has claimed.

The assessment outlines Marine Scotland’s considerations for north-east developments

It claims all three projects could “disturb” bottlenose dolphins, harbour seals and grey seals.

Inch Cape Offshore Windfarm, Seagreen Alpha and Bravo developments and the Neart Na Goeithe (NnG) project are all included in the assessment.

The Inch Cape offshore wind development is 100%  owned by Red Rock Power through Chinese investment by SDIC Power Holdings, who also bankrolled 25% of the Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm development currently in construction.

The initial consent was granted in 2013 for the development, which will sit nine miles off the Angus coastline.

EDF Renewables NnG windfarm is expected to announce contract awards by the end of the year and begin construction in 2020.

SSE’s 100% owned 120 turbine Seagreen Alpha and Bravo projects will look to generate a capacity of over 1 gigawatt (GW), making it the largest energy generating windfarm in Scotland when developed.

The newly updated assessment outlines the concerns in areas of the North Sea designated “special areas of conservation or special protection areas”.

It found that bottlenose dolphins could be affected by noise emitted from pile-driving turbine and substation foundations and that impacts could also spread to their food source during construction.

The report also noted that harbour seals and grey seals could also be affected by pile driving, but also the disturbance caused by an increase in boat movements, cable-laying and rock dumping.

Smaller fish and otters are not considered to be likely to be impacted, according to the assessment.

Inch Cape Offshore Limited (ICOL) announced an application for consent to Marine Scotland for a 70 turbine development last year.

The windfarm is expected to bring in up to £750 million and 1,900 jobs to the UK economy, with an expectation the project will add a large proportion of the sum locally.

A spokeswoman for ICOL said the assessment was “not associated” with the firm’s current application, adding that the report is “based on parameters for Inch Cape that are from the 2014 application rather than the latest 2018 consent application.

“ICOL is currently waiting for Marine Scotland to provide an updated assessment based on ICOLs 2018 application and which reflects the current status of projects in the Forth and Tay.”

NnG and Seagreen Alpha and Bravo developers have all been contacted for comment.