Environmental Surveys

Environmental Surveys

Overview

At Dublin Array, a comprehensive range of onshore and offshore surveys have been carried out to inform the project, with the earliest surveys beginning in 2001 and most recently the offshore surveys associated with a foreshore licence granted in January 2021. Further details on the surveys carried out to date are outlined below.

These surveys provide information which is used in the project design process to inform how the wind farm can be built, operated and eventually decommissioned with minimum impact on the environment. All the results from the surveys, and how their findings have been addressed, will be included in our Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) and Natura Impact Statement (NIS). The EIAR and NIS will be key documents included in our development consent application (i.e. planning application). We plan to make our submission early in 2022 under the new Maritime Area Planning legislation, when enacted.

Surveys

The purpose of the numerous onshore and offshore investigative surveys that are carried out is to understand the characteristics and sensitivities of the Bray and Kish Bank and surrounding areas. This is very important to us to ensure that we can develop the most sustainable project.

The types of surveys and assessment include:

OffshoreOnshore
Birds and marine mammalsEcology
Fish & seabed habitat
Archaeology and cultural heritage
Archaeology and cultural heritage
Hydrology and hydrogeology
HydrologyGeology and soils
Geology and soils
Landscape and visual
Seascape, landscape and visual
Traffic and transport
Noise and vibrationNoise and vibration
Amenity and community aspectsAmenity and community aspects
Navigation

Offshore Surveys – Historic

Arctic Tern (Source: Sue Vincent)

The first phase of survey activities at Dublin Array began in 2001 and included a full year (14 surveys) of boat-based ornithology surveys, as well as two aerial ornithology surveys and a benthic habitat survey including commercial fisheries trawls.

Further marine surveys, including a benthic survey, were conducted in 2008 to understand the site characteristics and aid early stage design. The data collected, along with data gathered by the Marine Institute over a number of years provides useful comparison with more recently acquired data to improve understanding of seabed mobility and change.

A further campaign of offshore surveys was conducted in 2010/2011, with a second full year (15 surveys) of boat-based ornithology surveys, as well as eight marine mammal observation surveys. In 2016/2017 a further 11 boat-based ornithology surveys were undertaken as well as a benthic survey of the array area, a potential cable route and an intertidal survey in the vicinity of the landfall at Shanganagh.

Puffin (Source: Sue Vincent)

Arctic Tern (Source: Sue Vincent)

The first phase of survey activities at Dublin Array began in 2001 and included a full year (14 surveys) of boat-based ornithology surveys, as well as two aerial ornithology surveys and a benthic habitat survey including commercial fisheries trawls.

Further marine surveys, including a benthic survey, were conducted in 2008 to understand the site characteristics and aid early stage design. The data collected, along with data gathered by the Marine Institute over a number of years provides useful comparison with more recently acquired data to improve understanding of seabed mobility and change.

Puffin (Source: Sue Vincent)

A further campaign of offshore surveys was conducted in 2010/2011, with a second full year (15 surveys) of boat-based ornithology surveys, as well as eight marine mammal observation surveys. In 2016/2017 a further 11 boat-based ornithology surveys were undertaken as well as a benthic survey of the array area, a potential cable route and an intertidal survey in the vicinity of the landfall at Shanganagh.

Offshore Surveys - Recent

Bird, Fish and Marine Mammal Surveys

The first stage in the new phase of survey activities began in June 2019 when ecological surveys including boat-based surveys of marine mammal and bird species were launched, these continued on a monthly basis until April 2021. These surveys provide information on the species present, their abundance, distribution and behaviour to aid understanding of how animals are using the site. Twenty four ornithology surveys and twenty two marine mammal surveys have been completed during this campaign.

Harbour porpoise was the most commonly observed marine mammal species. Other species sighted include common dolphin, bottlenose dolphins, grey seal and minke whales. A range of seabirds have been recorded. Auk species, including guillemot, razorbill, puffin and various gull species were the most frequently sighted. A number of tern species were observed during the summer months.

A fish survey on the banks was also undertaken in 2019 to provide a further understanding of the function of the banks in relation to the local fisheries resource.

Source: Ciaran Cronin, Wildeye

Source: Ciaran Cronin, Wildeye

Source: Ciaran Cronin, Wildeye

Source: Ciaran Cronin, Wildeye

2021 Surveys (Foreshore Licence FS007029)

In January 2021 Dublin Array was granted a Foreshore Licence (FS007029) to undertake geophysical and ecological surveys of the proposed array and export cable routes. The surveys were conducted between February 22nd and May 5th 2021 and provide information which will aid the design of the wind farm, inform export (submarine) electricity cable routing and provide information on seabed habitats and the presence of archaeological features.

Further marine surveys, including a benthic survey, were conducted in 2008 to understand the site characteristics and aid early stage design. The data collected, along with data gathered by the Marine Institute over a number of years provides useful comparison with more recently acquired data to improve understanding of seabed mobility and change.

Geophysical Surveys

The geophysical surveys were carried out by Fugro, a specialist marine survey contractor (www.fugro.com), using four vessels; the Fugro Mercator, Fugro Seeker, Fugro Spectrum 1 and Fastnet Pelican. These surveys provided information on water depth, the profile of seabed structures such as sand waves and the nature of the seabed such as the depth of sediment cover over bedrock. The data also provides up to date images of known wrecks and potential new features which are reported to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

The following two images are two examples from our recent marine surveys.

Mercator

Fugro Mercator survey vessel – Source: Fugro

Dun Laoghaire harbour

Fugro Mercator survey vessel- Source: Fugro

Fastnet Pelican

Fastnet Pelican – Source: Fugro

The following two images are two examples from our recent marine surveys.

Glenorchy

The Glenorchy was a fully rigged sailing ship built in 1868 by McMillan A. & Son Ltd. and owned by Gow A. C. & Co., Glasgow. The vessel wrecked after striking the Kish Bank on 1 January 1869 on its maiden voyage from Glasgow to Bombay with a cargo of iron, coal and spirits.

Sir Charles Napier

The second image shows the Sir Charles Napier, a merchant vessel built in 1841 by Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada and was owned by Locketts of London. On 19 November 1875, the Sir Charles Napier ran aground on the Kish Bank due to a navigation error.

Ecological Surveys

The surveys included capturing photographic stills and video imagery of areas of the seafloor prior to deploying a small grab to acquire samples of material from the seabed for biological, physical and chemical analysis. Species observed living on the surface of the seabed include brittlestars, crabs and sea urchins.

Intertidal ecology surveys were also undertaken at the Shanganagh and Poolbeg landfalls, including a walk-over and shallow grab sampling to identify the species present.

Onshore Surveys

During 2019 and 2020, we undertook targeted geophysical surveys to understand onshore ground conditions. This information will inform the design process for the onshore grid connection cable crossings of existing infrastructure assets, including a railway line, a motorway and other roads. At these locations, it is proposed to install the cables underneath the obstruction using Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) and the geophysical information was necessary to understand the feasibility of using this technology.

Environmental studies and surveys have been undertaken in the area of the proposed electrical grid connection cables and substation options to produce an ‘environmental baseline’. Environmental information has been gathered from consultations, desktop studies and walkover surveys.

Habitats that could be affected have been mapped and specific ecological surveys carried out in selected locations. Further surveys such as tree surveys are planned during the summer of 2021.

Cultural Heritage baseline studies have also been carried out, including the walking of the cable route corridor by an archaeologist.
During 2021, ambient noise monitoring has been undertaken, in order to understand the background noise environment so that construction and operational noise can be properly assessed.

Baseline photography has been undertaken from selected viewpoints, which will be used in the process to assess landscape and visual impacts.

EIA Process

As part of the decision making process for the project, the consenting authority (An Bord Pleanála) will evaluate an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) which we will submit with our development consent application (“planning application”).
The purpose of the EIA is to assess the impacts of the project on the receiving environment. The preparation of an EIAR is undertaken in accordance with relevant EIA legislation and technical guidance.

Data collected through dedicated surveys, in addition to publicly available data sets, will aid understanding of the existing environmental conditions. These are known as ‘baseline conditions’. The baseline condition of the site and study area form the basis of the assessment.

The EIAR will set out an assessment of the likely effects during the construction, operation and decommissioning phases of the project. The assessment will be based on consideration of the likely magnitude of the predicted impact and the sensitivity of the affected receptor.

Consultation is a key aspect of the EIA process. For this reason an Environmental Impact Assessment Scoping Report outlining the approach and activities we planned to undertake as part of the EIA was produced in 2020. The Report was sent directly to 134 statutory and non-statutory consultees, and made publicly available on this website and on our virtual consultation portal between October and November 2020. The consultation on the report lasted for approximately 6 weeks and has now ended. All feedback received has undergone a review process and is being incorporated into the EIA as appropriate.

Next Steps

All the information collected during the onshore and offshore surveys will be included in our development consent application which we plan to submit under the new Maritime Area Planning legislation, expected to be enacted in summer 2021. As part of the application, we will be making all the application documents, including the EIAR and NIS, available on a dedicated website. We will be advertising the details of this locally and nationally and by any other means instructed by the consenting authority. We will also be notifying all those who have subscribed to our project updates, which you can do by sharing your details at the bottom of this page.
On consent being awarded, we will be carrying out further studies for the lifetime of the project to monitor environmental effects.
We are always available to consult and hope you will do so if you have any questions or comments on the project. Our contact details, as well as a meeting booking form, can be found here >>