Wind power is now the main source of the UK’s electricity

Wind power has now overtaken gas as the main producer of electricity in the UK. According to research by Imperial College London, a third of the country’s electricity came from wind farms in the first quarter of 2023.

This is a huge and welcome step towards meeting the UK’s decarbonisation targets.

The progress that has been achieved by the UK offshore wind industry is remarkable. At the turn of the millennium, the UK had just two experimental turbines, offshore at Blyth. Early progress looked slow with just 1.5GW deployed by 2010 but the technology advanced, expertise developed and lessons learned in that decade sowed the seed for the explosion in offshore green energy that we have seen since. 

The UK now has over 11GW of operating projects with a strong and growing pipeline of larger and more efficient turbines being deployed by a maturing, confident UK offshore wind industry with its sights set on some really exciting goals: 40GW deployed by 2030; decarbonising not just electricity supply but also industry and transport; delivering a hydrogen economy.   

APEM and GoBe have been involved in the sector since its formative years. The APEM marine wildlife surveys division sets the standard in the quality and reliability of offshore marine wildlife surveys. Pioneering and then perfecting aerial offshore marine surveys for seabirds and marine mammals for 16 years, we have gathered aerial survey data from Shetland to the Scillies covering the bulk f the UK and Ireland’s existing and planned offshore wind projects. We use innovative technology to add value to the data we provide: our use of LiDAR to accurately measure bird flight heights was recently endorsed by Natural England in their best practice advice for offshore wind.  

GoBe joined the APEM group of companies in 2022 and are one of the leading offshore wind consultancies. Since 2009, GoBe have been involved in 46 offshore wind projects and have provided significant consultancy services to over 50% of the UK’s and Ireland’s offshore wind projects. GoBe are currently the lead offshore Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) consultant for 3 of the 6 Irish Phase 1 projects, and the APEM and GoBe teams have been at the forefront of innovation in delivering robust EIAs in an increasingly busy market.  

As more and more projects are developed, the cumulative impact of the projects on seabirds, marine mammals, marine ecology and other sea-users is a critical factor in permitting projects and planning future developments in UK and Irish waters. The APEM Group have the experience, expertise and team to successfully support these ever more complex assessments. We are at the leading edge of developments in post consent monitoring and the development of measures to avoid, mitigate and offset potential impacts, often before they happen. 

But there is more work to be done: many renewable energy projects have suffered from delays in connection to the grid. Some new developments will have to wait up to 15 years, taking them way past the 2035 target. BBC research has calculated that there are currently more than £200bn worth of projects in the connections queue: some projects have been paused mid-construction, while others are yet to break ground. 

The lag between go-ahead and build makes flexibility necessary: the longer a development takes, the more chance of plans changing as technology evolves. Working in all stages of wind power has given us a unique understanding of the issues developers face. With robust, evergreen data and risk modelling, mitigation changes can be accurately justified without the need for more surveys, and associated time and cost.  

Our work on site selection, planning and consents has given us links to regulatory bodies, and insight into changing legislation and potential impacts for marine, estuarine and terrestrial habitats. From siting to cable routing and connections, it is vital that developers can back up their plans with comprehensive habitat categorisation, baseline reporting and impact assessments, especially if projects are delayed. We’re no stranger to the issues that frustrate developers, and to the sheer amount of information they need to have at hand. Our marine team are currently processing over 1.2 million images per month and are supporting over 50 projects.  

Delivering a net zero power grid by 2035 will involve careful planning, improved infrastructure and coordinated delivery. As offshore wind accounts for a large part of decarbonisation and green power production, we are proud to support the journey to net zero, from planning to decommissioning, and each step in between. 

Read more about how the APEM Group are helping to deliver a renewable future globally, throughout all stages of the wind power life cycle, from work on site selection and consents provided by GoBe, specialist field and bat surveys by Woodrow, marine and estuarine benthic studies and Sediment Profile Imagery from AQUAFACT and global best practice surveys at APEM Inc. 

For more information about any of our services for the renewables industry, contact Alistair Davison, the APEM Group’s Managing Director for Marine & Consents, or Alex Campbell, APEM Group’s Managing Director for Wildlife Surveys and Geospatial.