Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) has published a report on the environmental impact of offshore wind farms in Belgium, which has 870MW in operational wind turbines in its part of the North Sea as of 2016 and plans to reach 2.2GW by 2020.
With 238 km² reserved for offshore wind farms in Belgian waters and 344 km² in the adjacent Dutch Borssele area, ecological impacts are inevitable, RBINS states.
The reports presents findings on numbers, densities and biomass of invertebrates and fish living on or associated with the sea floor; biodiversity of natural hard substrates versus artificial substrates; impact of underwater noise caused by pile driving activities on fish and marine mammals; and presence and behaviour of birds.
To monitor the ecological impact of wind turbines at sea, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences coordinates an extensive monitoring programme that detects the environmental effects, and specifically covers hydro-geomorphology, underwater noise, hard substrate invertebrates, radar detection of seabirds, marine mammals and socio-economic aspects. For soft substrate invertebrates, fish and seabirds, the programme relies on the additional expertise of Ghent University, the Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO) and the Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO).