The UK arm of international marine consultancy providing ornithological monitoring solutions for each phase of Sofia's lifecycle.

NIRAS is an international, multidisciplinary consultancy company with over 2,500 employees in Europe, Asia and Africa. NIRAS has provided specialist services to the offshore wind industry in Denmark for over 25 years and in the UK since 2010. As consultants for a number of leading developers in the offshore wind sector, NIRAS specialises in understanding and reducing the uncertainty of bird collision risks, displacement and barrier effects associated with offshore wind farms.

Scope of work: NIRAS was appointed in May 2019 to support the Sofia team as marine ornithological consultants. A key aspect of the work has been to gain agreement, through dialogue and negotiations with regulators, for Sofia's outline ornithological monitoring options during pre-construction, construction and post-construction. This has involved developing, preparing and delivering a detailed construction and monitoring programme incorporating the marine ornithology monitoring plan, to discharge the relevant Marine Licence conditions. NIRAS and Sofia are in ongoing discussions with regulators, as well as other developers, particularly relating to possible monitoring collaboration.

Economic and employment impact: NIRAS is a leading marine consultancy that has provided offshore wind developers with specialised support for decades. Continued demand from the UK Round 3 offshore wind farms, the forthcoming Round 4 projects, and other international schemes, mean that the firm's teams of ornithological experts are in high demand from developers.

Training and development:  NIRAS actively enhances its team's knowledge and expertise by working at the leading edge of environmental advances that can be applied by offshore wind farm developers. For instance, investing in the development of novel solutions and innovative ornithological assessment and monitoring methodology. One example is a survey concept that utilises existing technologies in a new way, in this instance an airborne LiDAR with digital cameras to accurately record bird location and flight height. NIRAS also developed a way to overcome the limitations of previous models, which assumed a uniform density of birds at sea around a colony, to estimate the proportion of birds at a proposed wind farm site originating from a particular seabird colony and to predict annual collision mortality for each colony. NIRAS experts can often be found at conferences, presenting the latest models and findings.

"Sofia faced challenges developing a robust, focused monitoring approach that tested predictions of its impact on seabird populations, not least because of its size and scale. Drawing upon our experience of deploying field observers and automated sensing equipment offshore, close collaboration with the team ensured the identification of surveys that worked in a challenging operational environment and that also reduced uncertainty about the magnitude of the predicted impact on seabirds. This ornithological monitoring programme has been driven through dialogue and negotiations with regulators, by NIRAS and Sofia, towards an output that will satisfy the Marine Licence conditions.The success of our role in this process further establishes NIRAS as leading experts in ornithological monitoring programmes underpinned by practical and cost effective surveys."

- Robin Ward, Principal Ornithologist

June 2020