Developing methods for cumulative impact assessments in relation to marine renewables and seabirds

Lead Research Organisation: University of the Highlands and Islands
Department Name: The North Highland College UHI


A cumulative impact (and their assessment) is a topic which is increasingly raised in environmental impact
assessments and with more and more marine renewable energy applications being submitted, cumulative impacts are key to be given as reasons for the failure of applications, not least due to insufficient analyses. There is great uncertainty surrounding cumulative impact assessment related to both the impacts themselves and to the process of assessment. This uncertainty around the process is driven by the lack of a clear definition of cumulative impacts and a so the fact that few guidelines are available. This project aims to provide a method to quantify some of the uncertainty giving valuable input to the de-risking and acceleration of the marine renewable energy sector As ERI is located in the Highlands and lslands, this particularly benefits the Scottish Government with their objectives of creating a greener and sustainable Scotland.

The success of this project would also provide insight into more suitable and rigorous methods for approaching the analysis of cumulative impacts, which would benefit developers the appropriate authorities/planners and conservation organisations. The identification and development of methods (and guidelines) for cumulative impact assessment would greatly benefit renewable energy developers as an absence of appropriate guidelines and advice has been suggested as a reason for a lack of quality in cumulative impact assessment. Improvement in the quality of assessments and also an increase of clarity would subsequently make it easier for the appropriate authorities/planners to assess the impacts of developments and make a judgement on applications.


10 25 50
Description We developed a guidance document that highlights possible sources of uncertainty in Cumulative Impact Assessments (CIA) and a checklist facilitating critical assessment of CIA. This promotes better understanding of uncertainty and approaches to its quantification within RSPB and helps to focus efforts when reviewing developments, as well as allowing RSPB to respond constructively to renewable energy developers when considering the cumulative impacts of marine renewable energy on birds.
Sectors Energy,Environment

Description The guidance document has already been used by RSPB to respond constructively to developers of wind farm projects in the UK, helping to streamline the application process for these projects. The information has also been published in the scientific peer-reviewed literature making it more accessible. Similarly, the checklist for assessing the adequacy of cumulative impact assessment (CIA) reports is a practical tool, and has been used already by RSPB in the review of CIA produced for offshore wind developments in Scotland. The information gained through this project also contributed to a presentation given by myself at a workshop on cumulative impacts at The Environmental Interactions of Marine Renewable Energy Technologies (EIMR) conference 2014 in Stornoway. Attendees of the workshop came from both the UK and abroad and included developers as well as members of statutory nature conservation bodies, government advisers and academics.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Energy,Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services