The European Directive 2001/77/EC on the promotion of electricity produced from renewable energy sources in the internal electricity market, imposes a target figure for the contribution of the production of electricity from renewable energy sources upon each Member State. For Belgium, this target figure is 13% of the total energy consumption, which must be achieved by 2020. Offshore wind farms in the Belgian part of the North Sea are expected to make an important contribution to achieve that goal.
Within the Belgian part of the North Sea, a zone of 238 km² is reserved for the production of electricity from water, currents or wind. Six wind farms are already operational, two more are under construction. A second area for renewable energy of 284 km² is foreseen by the new Belgian marine spatial plan (2020-2026).
Prior to installing a wind farm, a developer must obtain a domain concession and an environmental permit. The environmental permit includes a number of terms and conditions intended to minimise and/or mitigate the impact of the project on the marine ecosystem. Furthermore, as required by law, the permit imposes a monitoring programme to assess the effects of the project onto the marine environment.
Within the monitoring programme, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and its partners assess the extent of the anticipated impacts onto the marine ecosystem and aim at revealing the processes behind these impacts. The first objective is tackled through basic monitoring, focusing on the a posteriori, resultant impact quantification, while the second monitoring objective is covered by the targeted or process monitoring, focusing on the cause-effect relationships of a priori selected impacts.
This report, targeting marine scientists, marine managers and policy makers, and offshore wind farm developers, presents an overview of the scientific findings of the Belgian offshore wind farm environmental monitoring programme (WinMon.BE), based on data collected up to and including 2018.