Renewable energy company Ørsted believes the green transition must happen the right way – in balance with nature, writes the company’s Biodiversity Lead Specialist Samir Whitaker

The Herald:

AT Ørsted, as one of the world’s leading renewable energy companies, we firmly believe that the green energy transition is integral to mitigating climate change and halting biodiversity loss. 
But the renewable energy transition must happen the right way – in balance with nature.

That’s why we’re committed to working with the Scottish and UK governments, industry, and local partners to ensure that our green energy projects contribute positively to our most important stakeholders: nature and people.

RESTORING biodiversity is one of the most powerful tools we have to fight climate change after diminishing our reliance on fossil fuels. Healthy ecosystems help absorb and store carbon, as well as protect coastal communities from the impacts of climate change.

In 2020, we made a commitment that all new renewable energy projects we commission from 2030 will deliver a net-positive impact on biodiversity. 

This means that we'll not only avoid, minimise, and compensate for any impact on nature during the lifetime of our projects – we'll also actively help restore and enhance ecosystems.

Since making that pledge, we’ve been developing methods to make good on our promise. We’ve created frameworks and metrics so that we can measure our progress and develop ways to deliver them on a global scale. 

We don’t have all the answers, but we are committed to finding lasting, scalable, sustainable solutions and collaboration with local partners is key. 

To that end, we've launched several pilot biodiversity projects here in Scotland and the wider UK to gain experience and develop best practices we can then apply to our many different projects around the world. 

IN the UK’s Humber estuary, we’ve teamed up with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust on a seascape restoration project. 
With the Wilder Humber project we’re planting seagrass, salt marsh, and introducing half a million native oysters to restore biodiversity, mitigate climate change and improve the estuary’s ecosystem. 
Working with the Wildlife Trusts, we’re developing marine restoration methods that we can scale worldwide to deliver on our 2030 ambition and deliver long-term benefits to nature. 

HERE in Scotland, we’re funding a project called PREDICT led by the University of Aberdeen and the Environmental Research Institute at the University of the Highlands and Islands. 

The three-year project aims to investigate fish migration patterns around offshore wind farms to better understand the movements of other marine species, such as birds and marine mammals. It will give us a greater understanding of how fish and their predators interact with windfarms.
PREDICT’s findings will provide a vision for advanced monitoring techniques that can be applied elsewhere.

They will help the industry strategically site windfarms in locations with a lower likelihood of overlapping important feeding grounds for seabirds and marine mammals. 

The Herald: As part of the Wilder Humber project, Ørsted is planting seagrass, salt marsh, and introducing half a million native oysters to restore biodiversity and mitigate climate change in the UK’s Humber Estuary


WE’VE come to learn that the first step toward our 2030 net-positive ambition is to better understand the baseline biodiversity conditions of our sites and how they interact with marine ecosystems. 

To that end, we’re sharing underwater video from our offshore wind turbines with researchers at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS).

They are using artificial intelligence and 3D imaging to map the growth of marine life on wind farms in the North Sea.  SAMS invaluable research and analysis will allow us to quantify and understand how offshore wind infrastructure interacts with the marine environment.

ØRSTED, as well as our joint venture Stromar and Salamander offshore wind projects, have all contributed funding to the Scottish Marine Environmental Enhancement Fund (SMEEF). 

SMEEF allows marine users to voluntarily invest in improving ocean health by enabling investment in marine and coastal restoration projects in Scotland. It provides grants to enhance biodiversity, support green jobs and help coastal communities deal with climate change. 
Founded by a partnership of Scottish Government Marine Directorate, Crown Estate Scotland and NatureScot, SMEEFs structure ensures credibility and transparency. 

SEAWEED is becoming widely recognised by a number of international organisations to provide a huge range of benefits to the marine environment by taking up carbon, releasing oxygen, and providing a habitat for marine life. 

With the right species and setup, seaweed farms could be a useful way to help support native marine life.

We worked with pioneering marine farmers SeaGrown to explore the potential of using seaweed farms to boost ocean biodiversity. The Scarborough-based project has trialled a range of biodiversity monitoring technologies including eDNA, remote cameras, and sonar on SeaGrown’s offshore seaweed farm. 

WITH these projects, we’re already taking action to integrate biodiversity into the way we build our renewable energy projects. Collaborating with local partners is key to our approach. By working collaboratively together, we can achieve more – faster. 

We are keen to work with the Scottish and UK governments to achieve our net-positive biodiversity goals. We need government collaboration to set targets, create frameworks, and establish regulations that are aligned with our voluntary ambitions. 

Both the UK and Scottish Governments have set out their commitments to biodiversity, and proposed ambitious statutory targets for biodiversity that will hold future governments to account. We are now keen to work with them to achieve our net-positive biodiversity goals together.
AT Ørsted, we’re committed to doing things right. 

Since pioneering the world’s first offshore wind farm more than three decades ago in 1991, we’ve played a leading role in the renewable energy sector and helped make offshore wind a low-cost, secure form of green energy. Today, our focus is on maximising the long-term value it can generate for people and nature. 

Our net-positive biodiversity ambition forms part of our broader commitment to build green energy infrastructure right – in a way that creates sustainable social, economic, and environmental benefits beyond low-emissions electricity.

In order to substantively impact climate change and mitigate biodiversity loss, we need widespread collaboration with government, industry, and the scientific community. 
Together, we can deliver green energy and long-lasting benefits for nature.