Industry Leader Interview with our Associate Director, Nicola Harris

As we celebrate UK Wind Week 2020, please can you tell us a little about your own experience within the ever-evolving renewables sector?

I’ve been involved with the renewables sector for 13 years now which is almost my entire onshore career – it’s played a big part in my professional development. 

One of the very first projects I managed was the marine mammal mitigation workscope for Thanet Offshore Wind Farm and since then I have been lucky enough to work on a number of the key European Offshore Wind farms – it has been exciting to see these projects grow in terms.  

It has also been exciting to be able to take this experience to new areas of the world and work with developers to apply these lessons to a new set of logistical and regulatory requirements – I’ve been fortunate enough to work in the US, SE Asia and Australia.  

My experience lies in providing marine mammal baseline surveys and noise assessment during planning and consenting and providing marine mammal mitigation and noise verification works during construction which is exciting as we get to be there in the early stages and again when the project becomes a reality in the water. This is also an area that has developed massively as we have learned about the impacts of these developments on marine life and as science and technology has developed with the industry.  

To date, what has been your most interesting renewables project that you have worked on and why?

It’s really hard to pick just one project as each and every project is so different and comes with its own set of challenges and we have learned something new on each and every project. 

Thanet as my first was a massive learning curve as my first renewables project and designing the mitigation strategy in the early days prior to any standard mitigation plans being done prior to this was an exciting phase to be involved in. 

Teesside was also a great project as I got to be involved with a number of monitoring scopes including land noise, ornithology, underwater noise as well as marine mammals. 

As we move further offshore the challenges increase which for me is exciting – I was fortunate enough to work on the baseline survey for marine mammal and birds on Dogger Bank site which ran for about a year and a half and at the time was the largest survey activity of its kind and yielded an enormous data set for the environmental assessment works.  

Over in the US I’ve been managing mitigation scopes for characterisation surveys across the East Coast and it’s been really interesting to apply the lessons we have learned in Europe to a new set of logistics and sensitivities and work with new regulators and stakeholders.

And of course, this year has brought its own set of challenges as COVID hit in the early stages of the construction phase of Triton Knoll which meant adapting, new procedures and a whole host of contingency measures but I am pleased to say thanks to the incredible teamwork from our client, the contractors and team we didn’t have any delay or have to make any compromise to safety or the environment.

In your opinion, which areas within the renewables sector have the most opportunities in terms of growth in the coming years?

I think the whole sector and across all supply chains will see huge opportunities, especially offshore wind which is going to continue to see massive growth.  The offshore renewables sector is playing a pivotal role in combating climate change with governments across the world setting ambitious targets in terms of capacity and economic growth. 

It’s been incredible to be part of a new industry in Europe which still makes up three-quarters of the worlds installed offshore wind however I see this very quickly tipping as many new regions are poised for massive developments in this decade. 

These areas are now benefiting from the lessons learned, established supply chains and knowledge from Europe enabling much faster progress to commissioning.

What advice would you give to individuals who are considering a career within the renewables sector?

Definitely get involved! This is an industry that offers so much career development and diversity in roles and progression, it’s really exciting.  It’s also a really personable industry where novel techniques and developments are really welcomed and supported. 

My biggest advice is build relationships as these are key – I have met and worked with so many incredible people during the past 13 years and have learnt so much from all of them.  People move between developments and projects and I love that people I worked with 10 years ago I get to work with again on a new project.   

And from an environmental perspective, I am really proud to be involved in this green sustainable industry which is playing a huge part in achieving net zero and combating climate change.

Ørsted contract win for Seiche during construction of world’s largest offshore wind farm – Hornsea Two

Seiche Ltd’s specialist team of personnel and equipment have mobilised to two key vessels on Ørsted’s Hornsea Two offshore wind farm site. Their purpose is to manage Ørsted’s commitment to ensure impacts to marine mammals during the Hornsea Two wind farm construction activities are negligible.

Specialising in marine mammal monitoring and mitigation measures, the team from Seiche has been brought on board to ensure compliance with procedures that seek to minimise the effects of construction noise on the local marine population. Key species known to occur in the project area are harbour porpoise, white-beaked dolphins, minke whales as well as grey and harbour seals.

Prior to any construction activities taking place, dedicated Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) will monitor the area for any animals that could be affected by the noise produced from pile driving.

Monitoring activities are taking place from DEME’s jack-up installation vessels during the installation of 165 monopiles as well as Heerema’s semisubmersible crane vessel Sleipnir during the construction of the 2 offshore substations. In addition to visual monitoring to ensure marine mammals are not within close proximity to piling operations, acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs) are used to deter animals from the area to protect them from harmful levels of noise.

© 2019 Seiche Marine Mammal Operator (MMO)

Seiche’s team of observers and ADD Operators ensure that the Marine Mammal Mitigation Plan, which follows the government’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee’s guidance protocol, is adhered to at all times.

Should a mammal be detected within the designated protection zone piling operations are delayed until the mammal leaves the area.

Based locally in East Anglia, Seiche’s Associate Director of Environmental Services Nicola Harris said: “As a company we are extremely pleased to be working with Ørsted as well as its contractors DEME and Heerema to ensure that the construction of the world’s largest wind farm can be completed without harming the marine animals off our own coast. Offshore Renewables are key to developing a greener and more sustainable future and we are proud to be working with companies like Ørsted to be a part of that achievement.”

Natalia Lopez, Senior Environment & Consents Specialist for Ørsted said: “We adhere to a strict consenting process before any construction works commence offshore and it’s imperative that outlined procedures are fully adhered to. It’s great to be able to work alongside UK based suppliers with specialist expertise in this field so that together, we can deliver the world’s largest offshore wind farm in the most sustainable way possible.”

Top photo: Hornsea One, currently the world’s largest offshore wind farm. Courtesy of Ørsted.