CoCoNET Press Release 25


APRIL 2014

Biotic Impacts of Offshore Wind Farms (OWF)

Scientists from across Europe gathered in King's Lynn, UK, to discuss protecting the rarest and most vulnerable marine life and migrating birds from the impacts of offshore wind farms in the UK, Mediterranean and Black Sea on 28-29 April 2014.

The workshop was held as part of the European Union (EU) funded "Towards Coast to Coast Networks of Marine Protected Areas Coupled with Sea-based Wind Energy Potential (CoCoNet)". Its aim is to establish networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to ensure more effective protection of biodiversity in the Mediterranean and Black Sea as well as to identify suitable locations for offshore wind farms (OWFs) to promote the production of renewable energy.

With the UK leading the world in offshore renewable energy, the workshop participants learnt from UK industry experts in the trials, challenges and progress relating to offshore wind farms, particularly concerning benthic ecology, ornithology, fisheries and marine mammals. Offshore wind farms, even in the UK, are still a relatively new industry and the full impact on wildlife is not known but it is rapidly advancing. By applying what we have learnt in the UK, we can establish the best locations for potential arrays in other European seas.

CCIMG 2214The EU already has an ambitious climate and energy target, known as the '20-20-20 target', whereby we aim to reduce carbon emissions by 20%, produce 20% of energy from renewables and improve energy efficiency by 20%, all by the year 2020. However, the latest IPCC report (IPCC 5th Assessment Report, March 2014) states that climate change is now a very real threat, and if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we need to further reduce our dependency on coal and oil and at least treble our production of energy from clean, renewable energies. Therefore, the need to construct offshore wind farms has never been so urgent. The benefits of offshore wind farms are numerous; with the stronger and more frequent winds offshore than onshore, they generate more power per turbine than their onshore counterparts. The visual impacts are also reduced the further out to sea the turbines are located, and there is less congestion on land in the construction phase with most transport being carried out at sea. Therefore, despite their high cost to construct, EU countries are keen to invest.

The participants of the workshop also visited the Lincs Offshore Wind farm 8km off east of England. For many, this was the first up close experience of an offshore wind farm. Rather than the eyesore that many people associate with such arrays, the Lincs was an impressive sight, symbolising progress in technology to allow us to harness nature and the clean power that it can provide. The 129 turbines generate nearly 470MW of energy per year, that's enough power for over 330,000 homes in the UK.

Please visit our website for more details of the workshop and offshore wind farms.

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