Bridging the gap between marine research and green energy planning

Jessica Wiseman
Thursday 12 January 2023

SMRU Consulting was set up in 2006 as the commercial arm of the University’s Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) as a wholly owned subsidiary of the University.

Since 2012, SMRU Consulting has supported offshore wind farm (OWF) developers secure permission to build power plants, and ensured these and other marine industries develop in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner. 

Although separate entities, SMRU Consulting works closely with the researchers at the Sea Mammal Research Unit whose interdisciplinary work leads the UK in the field of marine mammal biology.

This work enables SMRU Consulting to bridge the gap between policy and research, advising on OWF planning, policy and construction, both in the UK and around the world. 

A group of Windmills in a wind farm out to sea, taken while the sun is settingApproximately one third of their work is collaborating with OWF developers to ensure biodiversity preservation in the planning process and, ultimately, to ensure that final operations are sustainable for the protection of sea mammals. Through these projects they have supported the development of twelve OWFs in the UK, including a project off the coast of Fife, which amounts to 54% of all offshore wind renewable energy capacity in the UK.

In addition to achieving a 100% success rate in obtaining planning permission for OFW developers, SMRU Consulting also collaborates with international partners, including the US Navy and the Port of Vancouver, to develop sustainable use of sonar devices, incorporating research-driven practices into implementation to protect marine life. 

Through SMRU Consulting-designed and built coastal acoustic buoys, ships are notified through their automatic identification systems when they are approaching southern resident killer whale critical habitats and encouraging them to slow their engines. The ECHO program has reduced ocean noise interference from approximately 6,000 ships in the Burrard inlet, Canada, by 50% and reduced the number of whale collisions by 30% in the past year.  

This project is also being expanded to Washington State through this CABOW (Coastal Acoustic Buoy for Offshore Wind) project.

In the short term, the offset of carbon emissions over the past twelve months through projects SMRU Consulting has contributed an estimated 7% to the University’s goal of reducing its carbon footprint.

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