12 Jun 2023
New project draws on funds from the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme with significant contributions from participating Offshore Wind Industry Council members.
£3.5m will be used to provide evidence to inform approach to Strategic Compensation around offshore wind farms
Project outputs will be integral to collaborative work by offshore wind industry, Government and stakeholders on delivering strategic ecological offsetting solutions
The Crown Estate and the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) have today announced the launch of a new £3.5m research project. Led by OWIC, it aims to improve the shared understanding of environmental compensation options relating to offshore wind’s interface with nature, and better coordinate the consenting process for offshore wind projects. This important work will help meet the recommendations laid out by the UK’s Offshore Wind Champion, Tim Pick, in his recent independent report commissioned by DESNZ, which called for an aligned approach on the delivery of strategic compensation .
Subject to contracts, £3m will be provided by The Crown Estate via the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme, which it leads in partnership with the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ). In addition to funding from The Crown Estate, participating OWIC developers  will contribute around £0.5m financially as well as providing significant in-kind contributions, including access to schemes and specialist technical resource.
The process of developing offshore wind farms requires a thorough assessment of potential impacts on the environment and other sea users, both positive and negative. As part of these assessments, developers must detail steps taken to avoid, mitigate or compensate for negative impacts. In certain cases, offshore wind developers are required to provide environmental compensation measures to offset potential residual negative impacts. These are generally positive actions taken to support protected habitats or species in locations that may be separate to where a specific development has been proposed. As the pipeline of offshore wind development grows, there is an increasing need for developers, Government and stakeholders to be able to take a more coordinated and strategic approach to identifying and delivering any required environmental compensation measures.
Currently, there are uncertainties around how to assess the effectiveness of these environmental compensation measures, which has led to delays in consenting decisions related to clean, renewable energy. In an increasingly busy marine environment, some measures may need to be delivered at scale, and across multiple developments. A more comprehensive bank of data and evidence on the efficacy of these measures can deliver a more strategic approach to compensation and deliver solutions that ensure the ecological coherence of the designated sites network. This will reduce consenting risks - providing opportunity for improved outcomes for the marine environment at a large scale. Ultimately, this can help enable achievement of 2030 offshore wind targets and make significant contributions towards net zero, whilst protecting the environment.
Through the £3.5m project, OWIC will lead on bringing together key stakeholders including offshore wind developers, representatives from statutory nature conservation bodies, The Crown Estate, UK Government, Devolved Governments and environmental non-governmental organisations, via the Collaboration on Offshore Wind Strategic Compensation (COWSC) governance framework, and will deliver a shared body of evidence on best-practice, research and practical pilot projects for offshore wind compensation spanning investment in four target measures:
Provision of artificial nesting for seabirds – this could be onshore or offshore, such as building nesting structures on disused oil and gas platforms.
Habitat restoration and creation
Predation reduction – this can involve exclusion zones around protected seabird colonies and biosecurity programmes to improve seabird breeding success
Removal of defunct infrastructure
As with other initiatives funded via the £50m Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme, final data and evidence captured by the project will be freely accessible on The Crown Estate’s Marine Data Exchange, the world’s largest database of offshore renewables survey data, research and evidence.
Mandy King, Programme Manager of the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme at The Crown Estate, said:
“Effective strategic compensation will be a vital component in the continued rollout of offshore wind in a manner that preserves the ecological coherence of the marine environment. This can only be achieved through strategic thinking, underpinned by true collaboration.
“I look forward to making this a reality, working with OWIC and all members of the Collaboration on Offshore Wind Strategic Compensation (COWSC) group on this project.
“The Crown Estate is delighted to provide this support as part of its wider drive to de-risk offshore development, catalyse the UK’s clean energy transition and support a thriving marine natural environment. We will continue to use the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme to invest in projects to generate better insights and understanding for the long-term future of nature positive marine energy.“
Benj Sykes, the OWIC board member sponsor for this project, said:
“Rather than working separately on a site-by-site basis, this new strategic compensation initiative gives the offshore wind sector and stakeholders the opportunity to deliver compensation at scale for the UK, bringing better ecological outcomes and supporting the acceleration of offshore wind deployment.”
Jane Cooper, Director of Offshore Wind at OWIC, said:
"We hope the body of evidence delivered will allow us to better understand how to build offshore wind at the pace required to tackle our climate change and energy security commitments, while protecting the precious environment that our wind power sites reside in. We are extremely grateful to The Crown Estate for their funding, and for every organisation contributing time, resources and expertise.”
 P40, Independent report of the Offshore Wind Champion: Seizing our opportunities, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero - 2023
 The OWIC developers participating in this project comprise ScottishPower Renewables, Ørsted, Vattenfall, Ocean Winds, SSE Renewables, RWE, Equinor, bp, TotalEnergies and Corio Generation.
About the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme
The Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme is a unique £50 million initiative that enables the gathering of data and evidence to support the sustainable development of offshore wind in the UK. Funded by The Crown Estate, it brings together a 27-member steering group, spanning government, industry and environmental non-government organisations (NGOs) to collaborate in collating and sharing information that will help speed up the consenting process, protect wildlife and fishing, while promoting greater biodiversity across the UK. By collaborating to address issues and share knowledge, the programme delivers positive outcomes for coastal communities and marine wildlife.
The Programme is led by The Crown Estate in partnership with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It is being delivered in collaboration with a number of organisations that share an interest in planning for the future of offshore wind.
The programme focuses on four overarching themes, identified through collaboration with stakeholders, which are:
Enhancing biodiversity through a comprehensive evidence base
Optimising use of a busy seabed and supporting co-location
Enabling faster and more sustainable solutions through knowledge-sharing
Facing up to challenges collaboratively
For further information about the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change programme, and the projects being delivered, visit https://www.thecrownestate.co.uk/OWEC/ or email OWECEnquiries@thecrownestate.co.uk
About The Crown Estate
The Crown Estate is a significant national landowner with a diverse £16bn portfolio that includes urban centres and development opportunities; one of the largest rural holdings in the country; Regent Street and St James’s in London’s West End; and Windsor Great Park. We also manage the seabed and much of the coastline around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, playing a major role in the UK’s world leading offshore wind sector.
We are a unique business established by an Act of Parliament, tasked with growing the value of the portfolio for the nation and returning all of our net profit to HM Treasury for the benefit of UK taxpayers. This has totalled £3bn over the last ten years.
Through our activities and investments, The Crown Estate creates environmental, social and financial value both for now and into the long term. This includes:
Playing a significant role in unlocking renewable energy for millions of homes through sectors such as offshore wind and creating opportunities for new technologies like CCUS and hydrogen to deliver the UK’s energy security transition, resulting in thousands of jobs for communities across the UK.
Supporting the sustainable transformation of land use in the UK through diversified, regenerative agricultural and environmental best practice alongside a thriving natural world.
Becoming recognised as a centre of excellence for environmental and ecological best practice across the Windsor Estate.
Identifying and creating opportunities for thriving and resilient communities across the country to support regeneration, housing and innovation.
Ensuring London retains its global city status, by fostering a more vibrant, greener and inclusive destination for millions of visitors and businesses.
For further information please contact The Crown Estate press office: www.thecrownestate.co.uk / 0845 241 2342
About the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC)
The Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC), a senior Government and industry forum, was established in May 2013 to drive the development of the world-leading offshore wind sector in the UK. It is comprised of members drawn from the leading UK and global firms in the offshore wind industry, including developers and original equipment manufacturers.
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