Energy

BSG Ecology regularly provides specialist ecological and ornithological survey and advice in relation to onshore wind farms, solar farms, energy from waste facilities, gas power stations and nuclear sites. We provide a complete consultancy service, from informing site selection and inputting to concept design to the provision of expert witness support at public inquiry and undertaking post construction monitoring.

Overview

We provide ecological support to commercial energy projects of all scales. Our projects include onshore wind farms of up to 70 turbines, energy from waste plants in former minerals extraction sites, new gas and nuclear plants in ecologically sensitive (often coastal) locations, and the decommissioning of sites that have reached the end of their operational lives. We have also worked on ‘life extension’ applications, repowering schemes and on projects to link new facilities to the grid network.

Field Survey

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

Our team has expertise in the following technical areas that is of particular relevance to energy projects:

  • Birds: Vantage-point (VP) survey to inform collision risk analysis at proposed wind farms; specific breeding wader, grouse and raptor survey; generic breeding bird survey; wintering waterfowl survey; landscape-scale distribution mapping of flock-forming species such as geese and plovers; mapping of bird distribution in intertidal and inshore marine habitats; radio-tracking of nightjar; and, thermal imaging survey to determine nocturnal bird distribution.
  • Bats: Transect and static surveys; roost assessments; ‘at height’ surveys; internal inspections of buildings and aerial inspections of trees; radio tracking of high sensitivity species; fatality searches beneath turbines using search dogs.
  • Vegetation mapping: Phase 1 survey to identify habitat types; National Vegetation Classification (NVC) (where applicable) to attribute these to specific community types.  Application of SEPA’s 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 (including eDNA), red squirrel, badger and various other terrestrial mammals in appropriate habitat.

Ecology Consultancy Services

BSG Ecology provides a comprehensive 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 to agree a proportionate scope of works.
  • Input to scoping reports.
  • The production of baseline reports in support of EcIA Chapters.
  • Collision risk analysis to determine likely rates of bird collision with turbines.
  • Ecological and Ornithological Impact Assessments based on industry guidance.
  • Habitats Regulations Assessment advice, reports and consultation.
  • Attendance at public exhibitions.
  • Securing and implementing European Protected Species mitigation licences that allow work to proceed.
  • Design and implementation of non-licenced method statements.
  • Construction phase Ecological Clerk of Works support (including toolbox talks) to help ensure legislative compliance.

Post construction monitoring, including the design and implementation of detailed work to explore areas of residual uncertainty during the EcIA process and inform further mitigation.

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.