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Brilliant minds finding solutions to complex problems, made easy to understand. Making complex easy.

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RPS launches groundbreaking collaborative environmental program for offshore wind industry in Victoria

Several offshore wind farm developers from within Australia and across the world are looking to collaborate on a marine environmental baseline studies program for offshore wind projects in Victoria.

23 November 2023 | 3 min read

Regional Marine Environmental Baseline Studies program (RMEBS)

The program is a significant step for the emerging offshore wind industry in Australia, as it will provide a wide-ranging view to inform environmental impact assessments and complement site-specific studies.

The planned collaboration will remove duplication of data collection and reduce the potential to impact sensitive environments. The program will gather important marine baseline data to inform project environmental assessments.

RPS, specialist subcontractors and the offshore wind developers will collaborate to deliver the Victorian Regional Marine Environmental Baseline Studies program (RMEBS). The offshore wind companies taking part are Flotation Energy, Corio Generation, Ocean Winds, Vena Energy, RWE, and Alinta Energy.

RPS’ Technical Director, Dr Christine Lamont, says the developers should be commended for their approach and commitment to understanding and protecting the environment.

“Working together will generate much greater benefits than individual companies going it alone. I’m not aware of another collaborative approach in the offshore wind space that has been led by developers while an industry is in its infancy.”

Dr Lamont adds there are examples of collaboration led by government and academics, and industry-led work in more mature industries. 

“Oil and gas in Australia, for instance, is collaborating on research to support the decommissioning phase. This collaboration early in an industry’s development is unique and exciting.”

Compared to Europe, Australia has a shortage of data pertaining to marine wildlife and the environment, which is needed to inform environmental impact assessments.

The RMEBS program will cover key parts of Victoria’s coastline and waters, where offshore wind development is being considered. This will provide regional-scale data on important populations of protected species, including the migratory marine mammals and birds moving through the proposed offshore wind sites.

RPS’ National Marine Sciences Lead, Jeremy Fitzpatrick says the RMEBS program will help to provide the essential information regulators need to understand and assess each offshore wind project in Victoria.

“While work in Australian waters and coastal zones has been going on for years (oil and gas, shipping, telecommunications, etc.), the volume and complexity of the ecological information required to inform environmental assessments for planned offshore wind farms is something entirely new.

“This work can help us to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of seabird flight heights, important habitats for whales, and shorebird migration in the most efficient and cost-effective way,” he adds. 

According to Fitzpatrick, instead of having individual organisations separately seeking similar information, the advantage of this program is its collaborative approach, broader regional scope, and appropriate time series of data to better understand seasonal trends.

“Pooling resources and working together will mean the program will generate greater value than the sum of multiple independent programs,” Fitzpatrick says.

“The RMEBS program provides shared access to key data, technical experts, and resources, as well as providing more transparency into planned studies, and collecting ecological information in a consistent way across spatial scales relevant to the marine fauna populations.”

“A collaborative approach gives governments, regulators, and the community the confidence that the offshore wind industry is doing everything it can to understand and manage impact on the environments in which it will operate.”

RPS is partnering with several well-respected academic, scientific, and technical organisations to undertake the RMEBS program.

 * Main photo: Courting Crested Terns. Image credit: Dr Claire Greenwell.

About RPS

Founded in 1970, RPS, A Tetra Tech Company (RPS) is a leading global professional services firm of 5,000 consultants and service providers. Operating in 125 countries, working across six continents we define, design and manage projects that create shared value to a complex, urbanising and resource-scarce world.

RPS delivers a broad range of services in six sectors: property, energy, transport, water, defence and government services and resources. Services provided across RPS' six sectors cover twelve service clusters: project and program management, design and development, water services, environment, advisory and management consulting, exploration and development, planning and approvals, health, safety and risk, oceans and coastal, laboratories, training and communications, creative and digital services.

RPS stands out for its clients by using its deep expertise to solve problems that matter, making them easy to understand. Making complex easy.

For further information, please visit www.rpsgroup.com.