OCEaN: It Is Possible to Speed Up Offshore Wind Deployment While Protecting Nature

As some European countries announced plans to fast-track offshore wind development and the current energy crisis is triggering more ambitious targets, how to achieve this without a negative environmental impact is one of the rising concerns.

Illustration; Borssele I & II offshore wind farm in the Netherlands; Photo source: Ørsted

According to the Offshore Coalition for Energy and Nature (OCEaN), it is possible to speed up offshore wind and related electricity grid deployment while protecting and restoring nature.

The coalition, which gathers non-governmental environment and wildlife protection organisations, as well as transmission system operators and wind energy developers, says that thorough planning is vital to allocate space to those activities which are most needed and least detrimental to the environment, in line with climate, conservation and restoration objectives.

The REPowerEU Plan calls on Member States to identify dedicated areas in which renewable energy sources can be built with low environmental risks. In those areas permitting procedures could be fast-tracked, the OCEaN coalition says.

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Accelerated offshore wind development and restoration of maritime biodiversity can go hand in hand with an improved, robust and Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) process that enables inclusion and assessment of a complex variety of aspects, such as interactions between traditional and emerging sectors (i.e. offshore renewable energy) and environmental protection and restoration needs, according to OCEaN.

At a joint conference on nature positive offshore energy infrastructure hosted by Renewables Grid Initiative (RGI) and WindEurope, the coalition issued ten recommendations to be considered by all EU Member States, including addressing cumulative impacts and long-term scenarios.

“Europe wants 165 GW of offshore wind by 2030. Today it has only 30 GW. The European offshore wind industry is committed to deliver this expansion while protecting biodiversity and the marine environment. That’s what the OCEaN Coalition is all about – ensuring that our seas will be healthy, clean and productive”, said Giles Dickson, CEO of WindEurope.

Martin Harper, Regional Director, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, said: “We need a joined up response to tackle the nature and climate emergency. This means we have to find ways to deliver the much needed renewable energy revolution in harmony with nature, for example so that offshore wind farms can coexist with our threatened marine wildlife. There is no point tackling one environmental challenge at the cost of another. That’s why we call on all governments to embrace this challenge and adopt the principles outlined by the OCEaN Coalition”.

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