Carolinas prepare for offshore wind with aerial digital surveys

APEM and Normandeau Associates Inc. will carry out ultra-high resolution aerial digital surveys of offshore wildlife off the coast of North and South Carolina, on behalf of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The area has been identified as one where offshore wind farms may potentially be built in future, and the survey will provide baseline data to help with the process of siting and permitting future developments.

Apem aerial survey

The newly contracted surveys off the Carolinas will gather data on birds, marine mammals, sharks, fish, turtles and other marine species in an area of almost 10,000 square nautical miles.

APEM is already part of the team with Normandeau Inc. that is carrying out the world’s largest and most detailed offshore wildlife surveys of this kind, for the New York Energy Research and Development Authority.

The newly contracted surveys off the Carolinas will gather very high-quality data on birds, marine mammals, sharks, fish, turtles, and other marine species in an area of almost 10,000 square nautical miles, giving scientists an unparalleled understanding of the area’s wildlife.

Information from the surveys will allow scientists to accurately estimate which species are present, how many there are of each species, and where they are most likely to be found. The images are so detailed that analysts can even work out how high birds are flying and whether they are adults or juveniles.

“We’re looking forward to starting work on these exciting surveys,” said Dr Stuart Clough, president of APEM Inc. “We expect to capture around a million ultra-high resolution images in total and usually when we carry out a survey like this the data gathered is pretty much unprecedented.”

The surveys are made possible by techniques developed in the last few years. State-of-the-art camera systems are mounted on twin-engine survey aircraft and capture huge numbers of images. These are then analysed by experienced staff at APEM and Normandeau.

One of APEM’s newly developed camera systems, Shearwater III, will be used for the surveys. It was developed to push the resolution of images to as low as 0.5 cm per pixel.

“We never know what the surveys will reveal, but we’re always excited to find out. It’s important that agencies and developers have very high quality baseline data so that they can make the best decisions possible about future offshore wind farms,” added Clough.

To date, BOEM has held one lease sale off the coast of North Carolina, awarding a 122,405 acre lease off Kitty Hawk, NC to Avangrid. BOEM is continuing to evaluate other potential lease areas off the Carolinas and data from this study will assist with that process.

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