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Reported by APEM on 18 October 2018

Empire Wind surveys pass halfway

Detailed monthly surveys of offshore wildlife in the proposed Empire Wind offshore wind farm area off the coast of New York state have passed the half-way point. The ultra-high resolution aerial surveys will provide crucial baseline data for environmental impact assessments and are being carried out by APEM and Normandeau Inc. on behalf of developer Equinor.

(Courtesy of APEM Limited)

Using APEM’s custom Shearwater III high-resolution digital camera system each of the 12 aircraft-based surveys will gather around 160,000 images. Each pixel in the images is equivalent to 1.5 cm on the ocean surface, meaning that the camera system is the highest resolution in use for large scale offshore wildlife surveys.

APEM and Normandeau’s image analysts and taxonomic experts have identified a wide variety of birds, sharks, sea turtles and marine mammals such as whales and dolphins. Each one has its species identified and its location plotted. The height and direction of birds in flight is also being recorded.

Consistently high quality data is assured using rigorous quality assurance and a custom-built data management system. Findings from the surveys are made accessible to the public in real time via the ReMOTe website.

The surveys will analyse around ten percent of the survey area using a grid-based flight pattern and will follow the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s aerial digital survey guidelines for collecting information about avian species.

The survey site is within the wider area that the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) identified as having the potential for offshore wind, which the team from APEM and Normandeau continue to survey. Within this wider area, the team previously completed four surveys of a smaller zone in greater detail. This smaller zone is now the focus for Equinor’s proposed Empire Wind offshore wind farm.

Dr Stuart Clough, president of APEM Inc. said: “Thanks to the design of the surveys and our state-of-the-art camera system, we’re gathering data for Equinor with the statistical power to confidently assess the potential impacts of the proposed development.

“The fact that the current surveys also use an approach that is consistent with our earlier surveys means that the data are comparable between them, providing Equinor with a comprehensive baseline snapshot of the area’s offshore wildlife as it seeks a permit to build the Empire Wind offshore wind farm.”

Martin Goff, environmental manager for Empire Wind, said: “Digital aerial surveys have been successfully used in Europe for site characterisation, and as such we have continued using the best available technology here in the Empire Wind lease area and beyond, building on the extensive datasets already collected in the region commissioned by NYSERDA.

“The data and reports are publicly available for anyone to access.”

References

[1]

APEM Limited. Press release - Empire Wind surveys pass halfway. URL: http://www.apemltd.co.uk/empire-wind-surveys-pass-halfway/. [Date Accessed: 19/10/2018].