As experts in realising wind, wave and tidal energy projects, Royal HaskoningDHV would remain a partner for the next decade – providing support, advice and environmental assessments to guide the project through consent to construction:
“Forewind saw the potential for an ambitious development – and they had a strategy to match.” Adam continues, having worked on the project for much of the last decade: “we were going to try and achieve all the necessary consenting for Dogger Bank Wind Farm pretty much at once. If we pulled it off, the completed projects would generate enough electricity to power millions of homes in the UK.”
The process of consenting an offshore wind development is meticulous and an approach on this scale had never been tried before. The road ahead for Forewind would lead through years of environmental and technical studies, stakeholder engagement and examinations before even reaching consent. From there, the post-consent stage – including detailed design and the discharge of consent conditions – and finally to construction. It was no small undertaking.
“It does require a project to take a leap of faith.” Rachel Hall, Lead Offshore Consent Manager at SSE, is speaking over video call about the ambition of the project in its outset. The story of Dogger Bank is entwined with the story of her career. She joined Forewind in 2010 – at the outset of achieving consent:
“I’d not long come out of university as a marine biologist and was really interested in renewable projects. I spent some time as a field teacher for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) – and ornithology [the study of birds] is a big consideration for offshore wind projects. When Forewind came along, with my marine background as well, it was an exciting opportunity.”
Royal HaskoningDHV’s team remained a constant throughout the project, tasked with actioning the various post-consent conditions and requirements before construction starts. It was around this time, in 2017, that Melisa Vural, Senior Environmental Consultant at Royal HaskoningDHV, joined the project:
“At the post-consent stage, our role becomes managing and liaising with stakeholders to meet conditions – whether that’s the MMO, Natural England, even the military. When you’re proposing an infrastructure project of this scale, there’s a lot of people involved.”
Some of the conditions are easier to discharge: Approving the layout of turbines. Others can become challenging in renewable projects: Like creating survey and monitoring plans for benthic habitats, ornithology or fish species:
“Dogger Bank has been heavily fished over the years,” Melisa continues: “and it’s an important habitat for sand eels too – so working with stakeholders was key. These projects are beneficial to our power grids, but we want to ensure they benefit natural habitats if we can.”
The importance of these issues in achieving a successful outcome led the team to forge best practice once again:
“It's not been possible to rely on historical approaches that have been taken by projects previously.” Adam says: “We’ve really had to revisit how we've gone about doing things, and especially for ornithology. For example, we've been working with our partners helping to develop innovative approaches to seabird monitoring and assessment.”
For the Dogger Bank Wind Farm, the post-consent process has continued until this year, 2022 – outlasting changes of government, policy and a global pandemic – but the first elements of construction for all three phases of the project are finally underway.
Within the Royal HaskoningDHV team, there is a sense of pride, having been involved since the beginning:
“I'm proud of the fact that we've been able to maintain such a good relationship with the Forewind parent companies and the various stakeholders along the way.” Adam says: “Today the UK represents the world leader in offshore wind, and Dogger Bank Wind Farm has a big part to play in this – it’s a sector defining project.”
Melisa is especially proud of the contribution of the project to our climate future: “Now more than ever, it feels good to be contributing to a greener economy and energy generation.”
And Rachel is back too, she’s returned as Lead Offshore Consent Manager at SSE, working on the first two phases of Dogger Bank Wind Farm – Dogger Bank A and B – and is excited by the prospect of seeing the project come to life:
“I’ll be pushing to go out and see the turbines! It would be like completing a story, actually seeing it in the water – because even with all the drawings and designs, sometimes it can be hard to actually picture it.”
The debate ignited in 2008 continues today – with a new generation brought up amongst worsening climate change leading the way. Alongside tenacious voices like Greta Thunberg are the continued warnings of experts within the IPCC and beyond.
As the urgency for alternative energy mounts, not least in the UK, Dogger Bank Wind Farm exemplifies one possible solution – renewable offshore wind energy. Once completed it will generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of six million homes.
Perhaps it could also power a revolution in our approach to energy – in the UK and around the world.
We are always looking for talents who want to collaborate closely with colleagues, clients and stakeholders and offer a new perspective to illustrate the bigger societal and technological picture. Talents who uses their deep domain knowledge to shape innovative solutions to make the transition to smart and sustainable possible. All the while considering the ethical implications of these solutions, to ensure we are driving positive change at every level: globally and locally, for our today and our tomorrow.