Large-scale offshore wind development in the North Sea has major consequences for ecology and spatial planning, both negative and positive. In a report published by Stichting Noordzee yesterday, the organisation urges for more in-depth research.
The report, ‘Windparken op de Noordzee: kansen en risico’s voor de natuur’ (Wind farmes in the North Sea: opportunities and risks for the ecology’, outlines the risks and opportunities of developing wind farms in the North Sea.
Possible negative impacts
Construction, operation and decommissioning, all have physical impacts on the North Sea. Collisions with turbines can cause loss of habitat for birds and bats while underwater noise through piling during construction can create nuisance for sea mammals, fish and fish larvae. It is mentioned that wind farms could be occupying 20% of the North Sea by 2050. The long-term impacts of the large-scale developments are still difficult to predict and measures are needed to keep the effects of underwater noise during the construction of the wind farms planned up to 2023 within acceptable levels for porpoises.
The wind farm sites also offer opportunities for the growth of fauna and seabed. As they are non-fishing zones, all sorts of species can flourish within the boundaries of the wind farms. The hard substrate of the wind turbines offer good opportunities for the reintroduction of oyster banks.
According to Floris van Hest, the director for Stichting Noordzee, it is important to address both the risks and opportunities. The ongoing and upcoming changes offer a perfect opportunity to create a new balance in the North Sea where both ecology and economy can go hand in hand. There are still many open questions that need to be answered for an ecological sound use of offshore wind energy and the redesign of the North Sea. These concern the long-term effects of large-scale projects but also the more pressing questions on the survival of vulnerable species.
Stichting Noordzee sees it necessary that an integrated policy is created to guide these quick developments, and sources will have to be made available for research and knowledge. The organisation will therefore offer the report to the standing committees of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and Economic Affairs and Climate Policy. They have also made the report (in Dutch) available for downloading on their website.