The European directive 2001/77/EG presently imposes each member state a target figure for its contribution to the production of electricity from renewable energy sources that should be achieved by 2010. For Belgium, this target figure was set at 6 % of the total energy consumption. Since a Royal Decree on 17 May 2004 assigned a zone for the production of electricity in the Belgian part of the North Sea (BPNS), two companies, C-Power and Belwind, were granted a permit to build and exploit a wind farm on the Thorntonbank (60 turbines, 300 MW) and Bligh Bank (110 turbines, 330 MW), respectively. A third company, Eldepasco, initiated the environmental permit procedure in 2009.
The permits include an obligation to establish a monitoring programme (1) to ensure the ability to mitigate the negative effects of the concerned activities (or even halt them in case of extreme damage to the marine ecosystem) and (2) to acquire an assessment and understanding of the environmental impact of offshore wind farms to support policy, management and the design of future offshore wind farms. The first phase of the monitoring programme started the year before the anticipated construction of the first wind turbines at the Thorntonbank (i.e. 2005) and will last for six years to allow the identification and quantification of possible effects. At the end of this first phase, an overview and discussion of the monitoring activities and outcomes are planned between MUMM, its monitoring partners and the wind farm industry. This workshop will be the first thorough evaluation of possible impacts of marine wind farms in Belgian waters.