Assessing the potential for offshore infrastructure as platforms for environmental monitoring (NECR446)

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Natural England have identified that with the rapid growth of the UK’s offshore wind industry, there are thousands of offshore assets that could potentially provide valuable locations and opportunities for environmental data collection. As the industry aims to deliver up to 50GW of capacity by 2030 (British energy security strategy, UK Government, 2022), there is an opportunity to develop a process for both retrofitting environmental monitoring devices onto existing assets, and to include sensor provision as part of the manufacturing process and installation of new offshore wind turbines and substation infrastructure. With improved continuous monitoring of the offshore environment – subsea, the splash zone and the atmospheric zone – a more detailed picture of the impacts of anthropogenic on the local and macro marine environment can be created. Additionally, there is an opportunity to utilise existing oil and gas infrastructure in the North Sea. This project was therefore established to investigate the feasibility of using offshore assets for hosting environmental monitoring sensors. The first phase of the project delivered a technical review of the available technologies that exist in the market currently. The second phase of the project involved stakeholder engagement with offshore wind farm developers and environmental sensor manufacturers in order to gauge the technical, practical and logistical considerations of retrofitting and integrating sensors into turbine design, as well as potential challenges, including the behaviour, design, and operation of embedded or retrofitted sensors.

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