Offshore Renewables

Marine Renewables

In recent years, energy production by marine renewables has emerged in the coastal and shallower offshore waters of the OSPAR area. The development of marine renewables is being driven by demands for increased renewable energy production as a result of policies to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and to mitigate the effects of climate change. The EU is committed to having 20% of its energy production from renewable sources by 2020.

Whilst the majority of renewable developments in the OSPAR maritime area are large scale wind farms, commercial scale tidal and wave developments are now also being considered and implemented. OSPAR has therefore expanded its offshore renewables database to include all marine renewable developments.

Impacts arise throughout the life cycle of marine renewable developments, including: site selection, construction, operation, decommissioning and removal. Impacts include the effects of noise on marine mammals and fish, disturbance and loss of habitats, bird collisions and visual intrusion. Marine renewables can also interfere with other uses of the sea – causing hazards to shipping and the servicing of the offshore industry, and displacing fishing activities and recreational boating. There may also be conflict with marine conservation objectives.

OSPAR has developed guidance on environmental considerations for the development of offshore wind farms. This recommends best practices to assess, minimise and manage the potential impacts of wind farms. Many of the environmental impacts associated with offshore wind farms can be mitigated through national licensing procedures. These should ensure that the OSPAR guidance is followed, in particular, that sites are selected to avoid important seabird feeding areas, construction is timed to minimise effects on spawning fish, and routes taken by construction vessels are positioned to minimise disturbance to seabirds. Monitoring at operational marine renewable sites will provide the basis for better management in the future.

Data are available here: