Ørsted has taken a concrete step towards protecting marine flora and fauna at its offshore wind farm sites with its offshore wind biodiversity policy, announced on 13 December.
The policy set out principles that support the developer's efforts to protect the natural environment in areas where it develops, constructs and operates offshore wind farms.
As offshore wind farms and their transmission infrastructure can interact with marine and coastal ecosystems, concerns are being raised about their impacts on marine ecosystems. Such concerns could increase as the offshore wind industry becomes global, which requires being more open and transparent on biodiversity protection, Ørsted said.
“Renewable energy plays a major role in mitigating climate change and the threat it poses to biodiversity. At the same time, it is important to protect biodiversity at our wind farm projects and sites,” said Hans Lyhne Borg, Head of Environment, Consents & Property at Ørsted.
“Our biodiversity policy formalizes and makes it transparent that Ørsted takes responsibility for the natural environment, and that we actively engage with all relevant stakeholders and operate within all relevant regulations, for the protection of species and habitats,” he added.
Current focus areas include potential noise impact on marine mammals from installation of wind turbine foundations, potential impact on birds’ migration routes and feeding grounds from wind turbines, as well as potential impact on seabed ecosystems and coastal environments from installation of transmission cables
Ørsted said it already used leading-edge engineering solutions and technologies to meet stringent regulations in different countries that are aimed at reducing potential impacts on marine mammals and birds.
Furthermore, the company has a dedicated Research and Development Roadmap that focuses on the environment and has funded several workstreams, including environmental research and conferences, in the focus areas. One of the latest research projects Ørsted is funding tags and tracks how Lesser black-backed gulls might interact with its offshore wind farms at Walney Extension and Burbo Bank Extension, from colonies in Northwestern England.
The developer further stated that it would continue working closely with regulators, local communities, environmental experts and other interested parties to build new knowledge and capacity around local biodiversity issues.
This includes Ørsted's collaboration with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Denmark, with whom it partnered in August 2018 to jointly map and help tackle the impacts of climate change.
“The increasing demand for energy is driving rapid changes on our planet. Animals are under pressure, corals are dying, and plants are perishing. Nature, underpinned by biodiversity, provides a wealth of services that has built modern society, with its benefits and luxuries, and we will continue to need these natural resources to survive and thrive,” said Bo Øksnebjerg, Secretary General of WWF.
“It is imperative that we all take on the responsibility of protecting the planet’s biodiversity. And so, we are very pleased that Ørsted is assuming a great part of this responsibility in their work with offshore wind farms going forward,” he added.