Energy generation sites are increasingly being constructed in coastal and marine spaces and the rate of implementation is likely to increase in coming decades, due to a combination of increasing energy demand and international targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In many cases, the installation of energy generation structures greatly reduces or entirely prevents other potentially damaging industries, such as fishing and mining, from operating in surrounding areas. These sites also provide hard substratum and complex habitat in what are commonly soft sediment environments. As such, they have been associated with high rates of colonisation by marine life, increased biodiversity and increased productivity. However, energy generation sites also have the potential to damage and fragment habitats and associated communities, and increase noise and/or chemical pollution in the marine environment. As competition for marine space grows, an emerging literature is increasingly considering whether conservation objectives and energy generation can be co-located. We synthesise available literature from around the world to consider what the potential conservation benefits of marine energy generation sites are. We discuss whether such sites are compatible with marine protected area designation, and examine this argument both from a biodiversity and policy perspective.
This is a book chapter in Offshore Energy and Marine Spatial Planning.