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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Danish Study: Offshore windfarms a benign blessing

No evidence of environmental impact from offshore windfarms

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, October 12, 2005 (Refocus Weekly) Offshore windfarms do not appear to be invasive to the environment, according to research by a EU-funded program.

The program, ‘Concerted Action for Offshore Wind Energy Deployment’ (COD), is an extension of the Offshore Wind Energy group that was set up as a source of information on offshore wind energy. An earlier project finished in 2001 and received funding from the Dutch governmental agency SenterNovem until 2003, since when it has operated independently.

“We have put the latest available information on studies and research about offshore windfarms into one database,” says Ruud de Bruijne of SenterNovem. “It is too early to draw conclusions yet, as all results come from individual cases; however, there is no evidence found yet to support the theory that offshore windfarms could have an environmental impact on a short term basis.”

“What we can say is that whilst there might be some accumulative effects in the long term, from a short term point of view environmental impact is not a bottleneck for the deployment of offshore wind,” and he will present final monitoring results at Copenhagen Offshore Wind conference later this month.

COD has developed a database with 280 entries from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom, and it claims to contain all environmental assessment, baseline and monitoring studies from offshore windfarms in Europe. The information contains data on marine ecosystem (marine mammals, birds, bats, fish, soil/seabed, water/hydrology, visual landscape) and potential influencing factors which result from construction and operation of windfarms and which can affect the environment (noise/vibration, barrier and scaring effects, electromagnetism, disturbing effects of construction/maintenance traffic, sedimentation/turbidity, visual intrusion).

It also examines potential environmental impacts from collision of birds/bats, changes in migration, damage of mammals hearing ability, change of habitats, changes in species abundances, changes in hydrography and sediment structures, and pollution caused by ship collisions.

“Offshore wind is a relatively new activity,” says the COD site. “Knowledge gaps on potential impacts on the marine environment and the significance of such impacts still exist.”

Developers of offshore windfarms are obliged by national authorities to undertake project-related environmental baseline surveys and monitoring studies, and to undergo Environmental Impact Assessments. COD collects this information to facilitate support “responsible deployment of offshore wind in Europe.”

The database is available in Microsoft Access.

COD is designed to accelerate deployment of offshore wind by early identification and removal of non-technical barriers in legal, administrative, policy, environmental and electrical infrastructure areas. It wants to provide a harmonized European process for deployment, environmental impact analysis, permission procedures and grid integration for offshore windfarms.

COD is steered by a committee of energy departments in the eight countries, which have 90% of the technical potential for the EU’s offshore wind. Six other sea-bound countries (Finland, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece) will be offered access to working group meetings and documents

Legal and policy Issues to be addressed include conflict between regional, national and European law, jurisdiction issues, energy labelling, conflicts of interests with other groups (oil- and gas industry, fishery, shipping lanes, nature and defence), and balance between local (consumer) and global interests. Environmental issues include birds, benthic flora and fauna, sub-sea noise, visual intrusion, coastal impacts and spatial planning, while grid infrastructure issues include the geographical distribution and time scheduling of the installed wind power, locations of onshore grid connection points, and expansion plans of national grids.

Story from ReFocus Weekly

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