Europe is the global leader in offshore wind. Over the last decade the sector has attracted average investments of €9.4bn per year, more than any other renewable technology. This has fuelled the development of a thriving sector creating jobs and exports of equipment, skills, and services. There are 33,000 direct jobs in the offshore wind industry in Europe, and a further 140,000 indirect jobs active in both, on- and offshore wind (WindEurope, 2020).
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. The European Commission estimates between 240 and 450 GW of offshore wind power is needed by 2050 to keep temperature rises below 1.5°C, up to twenty times current capacity. Electricity will represent at least 50% of the total energy mix in 2050 and 30% of the future electricity demand will be supplied by offshore wind (European Commission, 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: https://odims.ospar.org/maps/832/view