Onshore Wind

BSG Ecology provides specialist ecological and ornithological advice for onshore wind schemes from concept through to post construction monitoring. We have detailed knowledge of specific relevant survey techniques (for birds, bats and botanical survey), and have contributed to industry-standard guidance. We undertake collision risk analysis, impact assessment and provide mitigation advice and represent clients (where necessary) at public inquiry.

Overview

We provide ecological support to onshore wind at all scales, from single turbines to wind farms of over forty turbines, and have worked on over 100 onshore wind generation projects.

Field Survey

We have a large team of ecologists, many of whom have significant experience of ecological assessment of wind turbines / wind farm developments, and who are supplemented by a network of regionally based specialist sub-contractors.

We have project experience of the following field survey work that is of particular relevance to onshore wind projects:

  • Birds: Vantage-point (VP) survey at sites throughout the UK and Ireland; breeding wader, grouse and raptor survey; wintering waterfowl survey; landscape-scale distribution mapping of flock-forming species; and, thermal imaging survey.
  • Bats: Transect and static surveys; roost assessments; ‘at height’ surveys; internal inspections of buildings and aerial inspections of trees; and, radio tracking of high sensitivity species;
  • Vegetation mapping: Phase 1 survey to identify habitat types, followed by National Vegetation Classification (NVC) (where applicable) to attribute these to specific community types.  Application of the SNIFFER guidance for evaluation of wetland habitats and identification of ground water dependent terrestrial ecosystems (GWDTEs);
  • Protected species: surveys of water courses for species including otter, water vole and freshwater macroinvertebrates; and, survey for badger, hazel dormouse, great crested newt, badger and various other terrestrial mammals in appropriate habitat.

Data Analysis

We use GIS to analyse and present ecological data.  This makes it accessible and transferable across multi-disciplinary project teams.  For birds, Collision Risk Analysis can be modelled based on flight line data, and theoretical bird mortality calculated.  We are also experienced in the collation, interpretation and effective presentation of flight line, breeding and wintering bird data.

We are at the forefront of bat data analysis.  In addition to using standard software to interpret bat calls, we understand the limitations and advantages of different types of bat detector, and we make use when necessary of weather stations to collect additional meteorological data.  This can be very useful in understanding the environmental conditions in which bats use a particular site.  The value of this approach has been demonstrated at Public Inquiry, where we have been able to draw on site-specific weather data to support our conclusions.

Ecology Consultancy Services

BSG Ecology provides a comprehensive onshore wind farm ecological consultancy service, including:

  • Preliminary site appraisal to enable early understanding of likely survey requirements, costs and project risk;
  • Detailed desk study, involving the purchase of data, interrogation of aerial photographs, maps and information on designated sites, and where necessary the review of planning applications;
  • Survey design and implementation based on published guidance, knowledge of local conservation priorities and likely sensitivities;
  • Liaison with statutory and non-statutory nature conservation consultees;
  • Input to scoping reports;
  • Attendance at public exhibitions;
  • The production of baseline reports in support of EcIA Chapters;
  • Ecological and Ornithological Impact Assessments based on industry guidance; and,
  • Habitats Regulations Assessment advice, reports and consultation.

Project Examples

In May 2015, the Welsh Government granted planning permission for the Garreg Lwyd Hill Wind Farm in Powys. BSG Ecology provided ecological support to the developer, RES, throughout the impact assessment and appeal process.

Two sets of Planning Conditions were issued relating to the protection of the natural environment, which required discharging before construction could begin; both sets were discharged by Powys County Council (PCC) to enable construction to start in January 2016. BSG Ecology has been appointed by RES to provide construction phase support; this has involved the discharge of outstanding planning conditions relating to ecology.

Taff Ely Wind Farm is a 20 turbine scheme that is owned by Beaufort Wind Ltd and operated by RWE Innogy UK Ltd (RWE), and located near Tonyrefail, Rhondda, South Wales. Planning permission was granted for the repowering of the site in January 2015.  The repowering involves the replacement of the existing 20 turbines with 7 new, larger machines and requires the construction of a new access track and associated infrastructure.

BSG Ecology was commissioned to help discharge a planning condition attached to the consent for the repowering scheme. The condition required a Construction Management Plan (CMP) to establish protocols to mitigate potential construction phase impacts on existing ecological interests and the production of a Habitat Management Plan (HMP) covering the site post construction and an area of land identified for management.

Since August 2014 BSG Ecology has been using thermal imaging cameras to determine the nocturnal distribution of golden plover Pluvialis apricaria on a proposed wind farm site. Carrying out nocturnal surveys for birds has always been challenging. With less specialised (typical) night vision equipment (an established method for nocturnal survey), it is only possible to cover relatively small areas in comparison with equivalent daytime surveys, and estimating the numbers of birds present in fields, their distribution and activity can prove difficult.

BSG staff are trained to operate and carry out field surveys using the FLIR 650sc camera and in the post-processing of thermal data.

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