Dr Agota Mockute lands NERC Fellowship for offshore wind marine life study

  • Dr Agota Mockute, from the University’s Energy & Environment Institute, has secured a prestigious Natural Environment Research Council Knowledge Exchange Fellowship worth over £400,000 to conduct the study.

University of Hull researcher Dr Agota Mockute is leading a new research and knowledge exchange project which will explore the impact of offshore wind energy on marine habitats.

Dr Mockute, who has received a Knowledge Exchange Fellowship from the Natural Environment Research Council, will now work with partners in industry and academia to ensure that the rapid expansion of offshore wind energy is sustainable and as low in impact on marine habitats as possible.

Numerous studies have already been carried out into the engineering challenges which accompany the rapid growth of the UK’s offshore wind industry.

However, less is known on the cumulative impacts of such rapid growth of offshore wind farms on marine ecosystems and seas.

With NERC funding for three years, Dr Mockute will explore what research has already been carried out, and what questions still need to be answered to make the right decisions to protect our ocean habitats while ensuring net-zero targets through renewable energy.

She said: “Through this project, I will bring the offshore wind and natural environment stakeholders together, to identify both current and future challenges facing the industry.

“It is crucial for everyone that the future expansion of the offshore wind energy sector is done in a sustainable way – protecting our ecosystems and natural world while also producing clean energy in the transition to a net-zero economy.

“It is a huge honour to receive a NERC Fellowship to conduct this study, which could bring huge benefits to industry, academia and governments alike. And I couldn’t have a stronger backing to deliver this Fellowship successfully than from the University of Hull and Aura.” 

Agota Mockute
Dr Agota Mockute

The new research at the University will focus on three key areas:

  • Providing a roadmap of current and future research challenges to help manage the ever-growing offshore wind industry, understanding and engaging with its impacts on the natural environment.
  • Creating an open-access database of UK-based research expertise (people, projects and outputs) to enable effective collaboration addressing the key identified challenges.
  • Promoting equality, diversity and inclusion within the sector, in particular by tackling the barriers to underrepresented groups entering and making a valuable contribution to the sector.

The new project is supported by £188,000 of funding from NERC, with the University of Hull and Aura contributing an additional £140,000.

Partners in the new Fellowship will contribute the remaining £75,000.

Professor Dan Parsons, Director at the Energy & Environment Institute, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Agota’s qualities have been recognised in the awarding of this prestigious NERC Fellowship.

“This once again highlights the talent we have at the University of Hull, all working towards the UK’s transition to a net-zero future.

“Congratulations again to Agota, and I look forward to seeing this research progress further.”

The UK Government recently unveiled a target to at least double the current 16% share of women working in the offshore wind sector by 2030, with the ambition to meet a 40% if feasible.

Offshore windfarm
Offshore wind farm

Last year, Aura partnered with the Supergen Offshore Renewable Energy Hub to produce a scoping report into the inequalities which exist in academia and in the offshore wind industry.

The report, outlined an action plan which focusses on short, medium and longer-term initiatives to help improve equality and diversity in the engineering sector.

Louise Smith, Director at Aura and Dr Mockute’s mentor in the new research project, said: “The NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship award to Agota is a huge encouragement to her and to other young women in academia and industry, where there is marked lack of representation by women and ethnic minorities. We are immensely proud of her and we know that she is going to make an impact on the offshore wind industry through her Fellowship.

“We congratulate NERC on selecting Agota from among so many applicants. She is a gifted scientist with excellent communications and interpersonal skills, and we believe that her position in the University’s Energy & Environment Institute and Aura collaboration puts her in a unique position to be able to ensure good coordination on the challenges and solutions to a sustainable expansion of offshore wind – particularly where the environment is concerned.

“Bringing together stakeholders to work on the natural environment and offshore wind to address these challenges comes at a critical time as offshore wind technology is set to grow exponentially.

“Aura’s role in the Humber Cluster is to act as a catalyst for collaboration and innovation in the renewable energy sector and particularly to deliver the commitments set out in the Offshore Wind Sector Deal. Offshore Wind is a new industry and has the opportunity to really do things differently. I hope we can work together to really change things and meet the challenge ahead. Agota’s Fellowship award by NERC demonstrates exactly this.”

The UK Government has a legally binding commitment to bring greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

The Humber has a central role to play in supporting the Government’s net zero targets as it is the largest industrial and highest carbon emitting cluster in the UK with an ambitious target of achieving net zero by 2040.

Offshore wind is the UK’s main source of sustainable renewable energy. In the last decade globally-leading development, centred on the Humber, has seen UK offshore wind grow to 10 Gigawatts of production, enough to power over 30% of total UK electricity needs.

The growth of offshore wind in the UK is set to continue exponentially towards 100 GW by 2050.

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