ScottishPower Renewables has launched a project to monitor the behaviour and activity of marine mammals in the waters around the East Anglia THREE offshore windfarm site. 

Using the latest technology to detect and record underwater sounds – including the noises and vocalisations marine mammals make for communication, feeding and navigation – the project will improve scientific understanding of how marine mammals behave and how they react to offshore activity like windfarm development.

The mammal sounds are captured using a series of hydrophones deployed at 12 locations both within the East Anglia THREE windfarm area, and up to 25km beyond its boundary, to create acoustic monitoring stations.

Hydrophones are suspended underwater at each monitoring station, attached to a buoy mooring line.

They will be in place for around four years, covering the pre-construction period, the two-year construction programme for East Anglia THREE, and the first year of windfarm operations.

The windfarm is being constructed 69km off the coast from Great Yarmouth and falls within the Southern North Sea Special Area of Conservation. 

“We pride ourselves on being a responsible developer and a good neighbour – both on and offshore – and ecology and the environment are of paramount importance when building our windfarms," said Ross Ovens, ScottishPower Renewables’ managing director for its East Anglia Hub offshore windfarms.

Eastern Daily Press: Ross Ovens, ScottishPower Renewables’ managing director for its East Anglia Hub offshore windfarmsRoss Ovens, ScottishPower Renewables’ managing director for its East Anglia Hub offshore windfarms (Image: ScottishPower Renewables)

“This programme will be one of the largest studies of its kind, both in terms of the scale of the area involved and how long it will last, and our findings will be shared with marine and environmental bodies to boost their knowledge and understanding of these magnificent marine mammals. It will also provide key insight for others working within this protected marine area.

“It’s a great example of the careful and considered approach we take to ensure wildlife and windfarms can happily co-exist side by side as we power the country to a cleaner, greener future.”

Richard Stocks, offshore consent manager for East Anglia THREE, added: “This technology will allow us to get up close to the marine mammal population in and around our windfarm and help us understand where they are and what they are doing including whether they are foraging.

"The data will be collected every three months so we can track activity and trends and consider what that means for the development of offshore green energy projects in the region.”

The marine mammal project is being delivered in partnership with Seiche, the UK's leading specialist in underwater noise and marine mammal monitoring, supported by the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS).

Environmental consultants GoBe supported the development of the Marine Mammal Monitoring Plan, which was approved before monitoring commenced.