NABU: Violations in Offshore Wind Farm Approvals Revealed (Germany)

NABU: Violations in Offshore Wind Farm Approvals Revealed

According to a legal opinion issued by NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union), there were significant violations in the approval of several offshore wind farms in the German North Sea.

Requirements of European environmental laws and critical opinion of the nature conservation authorities were ignored and existing knowledge gaps have been constantly interpreted in favor of the wind farm construction, NABU states in a press release.

Butendiek offshore wind farm, west of Sylt, has a particularly negative effect on harbor porpoises and seabirds, as the construction site is placed between two protected areas for these species.

Legal experts of the Institute for Nature Conservation and Nature Protection Law from Tübingen have been commissioned by NABU to explain the administrative practice of the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) on the example of four approved offshore wind farms: Butendiek, Dan Tysk, Amrumbank West, and Borkum Riffgrund 2.

According to NABU, all approval notices have pointed out glaring omissions in relation to the applicable conservation law and should not have been granted. Butendiek belongs to the first round of projects developed in the German North Sea. Back in 2002, NABU wanted to prevent the construction of the offshore wind farm, but failed since the Federal Nature Protection Law at that time did not allow complaints of environmental organizations in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This is not an issue nowadays.

"The wind farm is located in the most important habitat for harbor porpoises in the southern North Sea, the FFH area ‘Sylt Outer Reef’. The calves are born in late spring there, where they spend their first months of life. Now, foundations are built there, and the pile driving is so loud that porpoises can lose their hearing and can be forced to leave the area," said NABU’s marine expert Kim Detloff.

The area is an important resting and wintering area for other species, too.

"The legal opinion obliges us to act. If such serious damage to our nature is tacitly accepted, we are left with the legal action," said NABU CEO Miller.

NABU highlighted its commitment to a successful implementation of the energy transition in the electricity sector, and stated that a nature-friendly development of offshore wind power is necessary.

"We welcome the fact that the federal government has reduced the planned capacity for wind turbines at sea to 6.5 gigawatts by 2020. But even now, 28 parks are approved with almost ten gigawatts in the North Sea alone. Therefore, the opportunity should be used to put critical projects to the test and develop an overall spatial concept for the further expansion," urged Miller.

Offshore WIND Staff, February 24, 2014