Renewable energy

Optimising offshore wind at the ecosystem scale

Europe is the global leader in the development of offshore wind energy with electricity expected to represent at least 50% of the total energy mix in 2050, and 30% being supplied by offshore wind.

To ensure impacts on wildlife are kept to a minimum, cross-border approaches are needed to safeguard the future integrity of the marine ecosystem. Waardenburg Ecology highlights the importance of collaboration in an online storymap.

Wind farm effects

Flying birds are at risk of collisions or are forced to adjust their flight paths due to barrier effects. Local birds and marine mammals may be displaced due to disturbance or underwater noise. Indirect effects on wildlife include changes to prey species and ecological conditions.

Life without borders

A key step in the evaluation of the potential interactions between marine animals with proposed wind energy developments is understanding the scale at which effects may occur. Seabirds and marine mammals are highly mobile organisms and cover large distances during foraging trips. Tens to hundreds of kilometres are not unusual, especially outside the breeding season when animals are not bound to a certain breeding site.

International travel

Many seabird species are accustomed to travelling, at times covering huge distances during migration between their breeding and wintering areas. Northern gannets, for example, leaving their colonies in Northern Europe often migrate along the Atlantic coast of France and Spain and off West-Africa. Black-legged kittiwakes can use the whole of the Northern Atlantic during the winter. Sandwich terns breeding in Northern Europe migrate mostly along the Atlantic coast as far south as Southern Africa, but can even continue their journey to the Indian Ocean.

The strength of collaboration

International cooperation is essential for safeguarding the future integrity of the marine ecosystem while at the same time addressing the renewable energy demands of individual countries and the entire region. Looking beyond national boundaries provides opportunities and solutions for realising our offshore energy requirements whilst not only minimising the impacts to wildlife, but also providing benefits.

This work was commissioned by Rijkswaterstaat
and financed by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (EZK) by contributing to the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC).
Visit the visualisation