That can be challenging at times. It often means working together with partners to develop innovative, scalable, long-term solutions.
That’s exactly the kind of collaboration that led us to an industry-first: Building three nearshore artificial nesting structures specifically designed to house kittiwake, a vulnerable seabird, off the east Suffolk coastline.
We are developing Hornsea 3, a 2.85 GW offshore wind farm that will generate enough green energy to power over 3 million UK homes.
The wind farm, which will sit approximately 120 km off the Norfolk coast, will mark a huge step toward reaching the UK’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
As part of our Development Consent Order from the UK government for Hornsea 3, we are required to include ecological compensation measures for a gull species whose populations could potentially be impacted by the wind farm: the black-legged kittiwake.
Kittiwake are small, gentle, grey and white gulls that feed only on marine fish and small crustaceans. Once in flight, their black wing tips display no white colouring, making them look as if they have been “dipped in ink,” according to the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
While their population has been declining in some areas, kittiwake have colonised the east Suffolk coastal area, nesting in the area between March and August. Their numbers have grown in the area, demonstrating the coastline’s ecological suitability for the species.
This makes East Suffolk one of the most likely places for artificial nesting structures to be colonised quickly and for the compensation measures to have the highest chance of success.
An innovative structure
As the first UK offshore wind project to require ecological compensation, the Hornsea 3 team undertook extensive research to identify optimum locations and design features for the artificial nesting structures.
A team of architects, engineers and ecologists were commissioned to design the structures in collaboration with local stakeholders and an Offshore Ornithology Engagement Group, which includes Natural England, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) as core members.
Each artificial nesting structure comprises an octagonal top with capacity for around 500 breeding pairs of kittiwake supported above the water on a single monopile. The roof pitch and overhang were specifically designed to mitigate avian predators.
Three artificial nesting structures were installed in July 2023 about 1 km off the East Suffolk shore – with one close to the Minsmere Nature Reserve and the other two located near South Beach, Lowestoft.
Ready for ‘long-term residents’
While the artificial nesting structures are onsite, no kittiwake have taken up permanent residence yet. It will probably take another two to five years before they are colonised. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor them and conduct maintenance as required.
“This is a first of its kind project that required a great deal of collaborative work with stakeholders, architects, engineers, and ecologists to develop a bespoke solution,” said Eleni Antoniou, an Environmental Manager at Ørsted who worked extensively on the project.
“We have already had our first kittiwake visitor to the structures and look forward to seeing our first long-term residents. We’d like to thank all those involved in this ground-breaking project so far.”