Offshore wind farms bring new jobs and aid in the fight against climate change, but the Greens call for effective maritime spatial planning.
The European Commission set up plans for a massive scale-up of offshore wind, but the European Green Party is raising concerns about the impacts on the ecosystem.
The European Commission is aiming for a 25-fold increase in wind power at sea. This means that wind capacity will go from 12 gigawatts today to 60 gigawatts by 2050.
However, there are environmental concerns with the deployment of wind farms. “Unfortunately, the strategy does not mention the precautionary principle,” said Grace O’Sullivan, an Irish member of the European Parliament for the Green Party. The precautionary principle is the idea that introducing a new product which its effects are unknown should be avoided.
There are Agreements between the Greens and the Commission
The Commission insisted that the strategy considers the ecological and social aspects of the plan, and praised the benefits of offshore wind. “Today’s strategy outlines how we can develop offshore renewable energy in combination with other human activities, such as fisheries, aquaculture, or shipping, and in harmony with nature,” said Virginijus Sinkevičius, the EU’s Environment Commissioner.
The Greens agree with the commissioner on the benefits of the strategy. They believe that offshore wind energy is crucial to reach a climate-neutral Europe. The Greens even criticize the Commission for not doing enough with its offshore wind plan.“The interim target of 60 GW by 2030 is not enough to achieve the 450 gigawatts installed required for climate neutrality,” the Greens said.
The issue that the Greens have is about biodiversity, and the possible consequences of offshore wind deployment, and expansion.
But in a statement, Sinkevičius said that the proposals will allow for the protection of biodiversity, and for consideration of the possible socio-economic consequences for sectors relying on the good health of marine ecosystems, to promote a coexistence within the maritime space,”
Not the First Time for Concerns
In 2011, an offshore wind farm was authorised in Brittany’s Bay of Saint-Brieuc. However, the wind farm never happened because local associations disliked the poor public debate around the proposal, as well as a lack of an environmental impact study. Ultimately, there was no account of the impacts this would have on the environment and social aspects of the region.
The public’s battle against the wind farms in Saint-Brieuc was very strong. Local fishermen brought a case before the EU court of justice to highlight the negative consequences of the offshore wind project. They argued that there would be damaging impacts on different species of fish
, and scallops, something that brings the region pride and fame.
After the public’s resistance, an environmental impact study was initiated in 2015, four years after the authorization.
Since then, not a single offshore wind farm has been built in France despite the authorizations given by the French state.
Perhaps the only way the French public would approve of a wind farm is if a successful one is ever built in the region. “As long as we don’t have evidence of a successful (offshore) French wind farm, it will be difficult to remove the doubts of local actors,” said Anne Georgelin, Head of the French Renewable Energies Trade Association.
The European Commission acknowledges that the Green Deal cannot be successful without public support. Commissioner Kadri Simson said that fisheries, tourism, and shipping are some of the potential issues that need to be considered when planning offshore wind farms.
Grace Sullivan is calling on EU member states to provide adequate protection for marine life when installing new offshore wind farms. “Offshore renewables must not come at the expense of marine ecosystems and biodiversity,” she said in a statement.
The expansion of offshore windfarms is praised for the ways it will stimulate the economy while fighting climate change. But the main message from the Greens is effective maritime spatial planning and public consultation. If the EU has effective offshore wind planning, there will be positive effects – for example, there could be no-catch areas for fish. Whereas poor maritime spatial planning will threaten species and destroy wildlife.
Learn more about offshore wind farms including its advantages and disadvantages from the NES Fircroft website: