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Challenge set for UK companies to help bird-tagging take off

Published 25 May 2017

A new innovation challenge is seeking a flock of solutions as it aims to identify novel bird tagging technology to help wind farm developers better monitor and understand the behaviour of important species.

To be used initially to be used to monitor the behaviour of a colony of greater black-backed gulls in the Moray Firth area, the challenge aims to inspire technology that will bring new levels of detail to our knowledge of avian habits.

Moray Offshore Windfarm (East) Ltd (Known as Moray East) has partnered with the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult to launch the challenge, which they say could offer an important insight into bird behaviour and potentially help lower the operational costs of a wind farm through better environmental monitoring techniques, a saving that could be passed onto consumers. The project is being supported by Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Limited (BOWL), Marine Scotland and Highlands & Islands Enterprise.

Catarina Rei, Technical Lead on the project for EDP Renewables, who are developing Moray East, said:

“Environmental monitoring is already a big part of any wind farm planning and post-construction monitoring, onshore and offshore, but the reality is current monitoring techniques are expensive and not always representative of real-world conditions.

“Developing accurate technology is an essential step in improving what we do. We’ll be able to gain a greater insight into bird and coastal species behaviour, which will better inform the planning, consenting and operational stage of an offshore wind farm development.”

“This work is part of our ongoing engagement with communities, organisations and agencies as part of the development process, and we are delighted that this work with stakeholders will result in the advance of practical knowledge for deploying low-carbon generation to reduce the impact of greenhouse gas production associated with producing energy.”

Vicky Coy, ORE Catapult project manager added:

“The greater black-backed gull is the ideal species to launch this innovation challenge with as a colony is found in the Moray Firth area, where there are planned wind farm developments.

“The technology developed for the tagging should minimise any interference with the birds’ normal activities but, like the bird colonies it will track, will have to be extremely resilient to the harsh weather conditions found around the UK’s coastline,” said Vicky, who added that there is potentially a strong commercial market for an innovative tagging system.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for companies with the technical know-how to develop a truly blue-skies piece of technology. With an increasing number of countries looking to develop wind farms, this represents a great opportunity for companies in the UK to access a genuinely global marketplace, create new jobs and further bolster the country’s position at the forefront of the offshore renewables sector.”

Nigel Butcher, Senior Technical Officer at the RSPB said:

“The RSPB wholeheartedly support this innovation challenge. Technological advances over the last ten years, particularly to tracking devices, have already given us real insights into seabird behaviour at sea. Further enhancements in their design will help us monitor a wider range of species, improving our understanding of where birds go in search of food and how they interact with the natural marine environment and man-made structures such as offshore wind farms.

“This collaborative project involving industry, government agencies and seabird specialists is exactly the type of project we need if we are to realise our ambitions for offshore renewable deployment at scale and in harmony with nature.”