Australia is entering a phase of rapid offshore renewable energy (ORE) development, with several regions earmarked for wind farms on the western and south-eastern coasts. A strong scientific evidence base is needed to underpin effective decision making and ensure developments are socially and ecologically sustainable.
This project will establish an inventory of existing environmental and cultural data and best-practice monitoring standards to support efficient and legally compliant regulatory decision-making for ORE development. It will champion the adoption of FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) data principles.
The work will be guided by an ORE Program Steering Committee comprised of representatives from the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, and Marine and Coastal Hub partners involved in this project.
The data inventory will identify existing information and methods generated by government agencies, development proponents, and researchers for use in the planning, development, operation, and decommissioning phases of the offshore renewable sector. It will draw from the experience of the Australian oil and gas industry, and impact assessments and monitoring of ORE and infrastructure in the North Sea. Focus areas will be:
- Seabed geomorphology and habitat characterisation: full coverage seabed mapping (bathymetry) and shallow sub-seabed profiling, substrate composition, and habitat characterisation.
- Interactions with oceanography: for example, the potential influence on coastal processes including sediment transport.
- Interacting species and habitats: seabirds, shorebirds and migratory terrestrial birds, mammals, fish, sharks and rays, and invertebrates with a focus on threatened and migratory species and species of cultural significance, and including data on abundance, behaviour, distribution, and important habitats.
- Potential impacts of installation, operation, and decommissioning: for example, habitat modification (including dredging/impact to wetlands), installation noise, ongoing noise and electromagnetic fields, vessel activity, collision risk and barrier effects on birds.
- Monitoring needs and associated best practices: existing best practice standards for monitoring potential impacts and evaluating the effectiveness of monitoring programs for supporting mitigation and management and/or regulatory needs, and gaps where such standards are yet to be developed.
- Indigenous communities and ORE development areas: Indigenous communities located in areas adjacent to ORE development areas, Sea Country plans, information on cultural values, and preferred methods of engagement for indigenous communities potentially impacted by ORE developments.
The results of this project will support decision-making under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2012, the primary legal frameworks applicable to ORE development.
Government and industry will be better placed to adopt standsardised, transparent methods for data collection that enable meaningful sharing and comparison at a national scale. This will improve the effectiveness of future research for biodiversity conservation, protected area management, regional planning, and project approvals. The inventory will also help to identify knowledge gaps relevant to future assessment of cumulative effects and interactions across multiple locations and sectors.
Various Offshore Renewable Energy sites around southern Australia
Australian Institute of Marine Science
National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority
Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water