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Monitoring the impact of offshore wind farms on marine wildlife

The challenge

As part of increasing efforts to understand the impact of human noise pollution on marine wildlife, offshore operations are typically required to conduct environmental impact assessments. This means monitoring construction noise underwater, as well as attempting to identify the sounds and presence of marine mammals around active sites.

Scottish company Ecologic Ltd, who specialise in addressing marine mammal management and conservation issues, contacted NPL to refine their acoustic monitoring system for identifying the presence of mammals, to get more from their acoustic readings.

The solution

We worked with Ecologic to develop a method to analyse underwater noise made during the construction of a wind farm situated off the UK's east coast. While the company had used their detection system to monitor the presence of marine mammals, the precision of the recordings also meant that the noise created by the construction work could be captured.

The impact

This project has since opened the doors to a collaboration between Ecologic and University of St Andrews to offer both aspects of the environmental impact assessment (the analysis of marine mammal noise and construction) during future offshore wind farm construction projects.

Find out more about NPL's Underwater acoustics research

Find out more about NPL's Acoustics research

Find out more about NPL's Environmental monitoring research

[NPL was] enormously helpful in enabling us to move from largely qualitative monitoring for marine mammal vocalisations towards a more acoustically quantitative approach where we can have real confidence in the performance of our systems over a range of frequencies and can reliably quote the received levels at our hydrophones.

Jonathan Gordon - Ecologic Ltd