Offshore wind energy plays a central role in building a carbon neutral energy system and in meeting the climate targets set internationally. In the coming years, a considerable number of offshore wind turbines will be installed in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. However, the construction and operation of wind farms will affect the marine environment, as already seen with existing installations. To set the agenda towards an environmentally sound offshore wind energy deployment, the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation held a symposium on the subject in Stralsund, Germany, on January 23rd – 26th 2012. The symposium awakened great interest from the invited parties: originally planned to number 30 to 35 participants, the symposium was actually attended by 48 participants from six countries: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden and United Kingdom.
Twenty presentations were given by national and international experts on up-to-date research results, regulations and requirements with regards to nature conservation and offshore wind farms, with particular focus on marine mammals, sea birds, migratory birds, and fish. The aim was to identify and describe research priorities and needs of action for the further expansion of offshore wind energy.
The symposium served as a platform for experience exchange between scientists, members of consenting and nature conservation bodies, as well as NGOs. Lectures, working groups and discussions gave opportunities to discuss the most relevant impacts on the marine environment, and to address solutions. In addition, the symposium provided an opportunity for building networks and co-operation between the participating institutions, and for enhancing knowledge exchange between international experts.
The symposium consisted of six thematic sessions. The aim of the first three sessions was the determination of the impact of offshore wind energy deployment on marine animals, with special focus on fish (session I), marine mammals (session II) and birds (session III). These sessions also outlined the sensitivities of these taxa. Session IV dealt with the concerns and demands of nature conservation agencies and environmental organisations to the deployment of offshore wind energy. Session V introduced the present regulatory framework in different countries with regards to nature conservation issues. Finally, session VI included the presentation of various methods leading towards an environmentally sound offshore wind energy deployment. As an example, an approach for a common data base was shown.