Interest in renewable energy technologies is steadily increasing as international and national mechanisms are developed to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and to address the effects of climate change. In recent years national authorities and developers have been exploring options for the potential development of offshore wind-farms. This assessment explores the status of offshore wind-farm development within the OSPAR area in terms of the current scale and planned potential schemes, and the environmental effects of this. Its conclusions relate to the effects that all offshore wind-farm developments under construction and operational within the OSPAR area have and how these affect the quality status of the OSPAR maritime area.
The pressure on the environment will increase if planned developments are realised
This assessment shows that the level of development within the OSPAR area in 2008 is relatively small. There are 12 operational offshore wind-farms in the OSPAR area and the total number of turbines is 467. There are 31 authorised offshore wind-farms (2324 turbines) where construction has yet to start, and 47 applications (3792 turbines) are being assessed by the regulatory authorities in the OSPAR area. If realised, these planned and future activities will exert greater pressures on the OSPAR maritime area.
At the scale of development in 2008, national and international controls are in place to ensure that the environmental impacts associated with offshore wind-farm developments are appropriately evaluated and managed. The main instruments are the Strategic Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Assessments.
More knowledge and experience are needed before definite conclusions on impacts can be drawn
Whilst research is ongoing on certain impacts, e.g. underwater noise, electro-magnetic fields, bird displacement, public perception, there are also several aspects of offshore wind-farm developments where the effects are fully understood (e.g. suspended sediment concentrations from monopile foundations installation and cable laying; scour pit development around monopiles; seabed morphological effects within arrays of monopile foundations and species composition and rates of organisms colonising the sub-sea structures). Only a relatively small number of developments are operational so the determination of definitive trends is not possible.
Further OSPAR actions may be needed in future as offshore wind-farm development increases
This assessment concludes that the OSPAR measures for offshore wind-farms leading up to 2010 have been adequate and that the ongoing work programme to monitor the scale of development in the annually updated offshore wind-farm database; the knowledge exchange; updates to the 2006 current state of knowledge paper and the guidance on location, construction, operation and removal of offshore wind-farms is adequate with no immediate priorities for further action. These conclusions should be regularly revisited after 2010 as the scale and rate of offshore wind-farm development within the OSPAR area increases. Of particular importance will be the assessment and management of cumulative impacts and transboundary effects.