If there was ever any uncertainty about the UK’s commitment to clean, renewable energy, then the Thanet Offshore Wind Farm (known as Thanet) should leave no doubt. When commissioned in September 2010, it became the largest offshore wind farm in the world. Occupying 35km2 (roughly the same size as the city of Norwich), Thanet is capable of generating 300MWe of renewable electricity – enough to power up to 240,000 average homes.

Before any of the 100 turbines could be constructed off the Kent coast, there was an extensive six-year planning, legislative and logistical process to complete. Royal HaskoningDHV was appointed to apply its considerable environmental expertise and knowledge to this flagship project.

Royal HaskoningDHV was commissioned by Thanet Offshore Wind Limited (TOW), a subsidiary of Vattenfall Wind Power (Vattenfall) Limited, in 2004 to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to gain the necessary consents for the construction, operation and eventual decommissioning of the wind farm. EIA is one of Royal HaskoningDHV’s core capabilities. It offers EIA services and solutions to a wide range of sectors, from renewable energy and port development, to flood alleviation schemes and urban planning. The company has extensive experience and knowledge of compliance regulations for the UK, Scotland and the rest of the European Union, and as such, is often used as an expert witness to support EIA applications. Royal HaskoningDHV has also been appointed to independently audit environmental statements, particularly for potentially contentious projects.

The EIA work for Thanet involved extensive consultation with more than one hundred statutory and non-statutory organisations. Royal HaskoningDHV undertook detailed data collection and managing surveys, as well as an assessment of the potential impacts on areas including: archaeology, birds, fisheries, marine mammals, recreation and navigation. Following the award of consents, Royal HaskoningDHV was appointed Environmental Liaison Officer (ELO) for the project and continues to provide consents advisory services to TOW and Vattenfall.

Royal HaskoningDHV has shown its true versatility on this project, facing a range of challenges and finding practical solutions. By taking a very flexible approach in response to survey findings and legislation, the company has helped TOW overcome a number of technical hurdles. For example, surveys undertaken at the Thanet site showed the presence of a reef-forming Ross worm, Sabellaria spinulosa, whose habitat is listed in Annex 1 of the European Habitats Directive. The presence of this species on the Thanet site meant that a number of the turbines required repositioning to mitigate any potential ecological damage.