Recommendations

Strategic and Governance (Management)

  • Wind farm development within territorial waters should be incorporated within Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) and spatial planning instruments, where applicable.
  • Coordination of conservation measures (e.g. Natura 2000 designation) and wind power development should be facilitated through enhanced information exchange among authorities.
  • Cumulative effects of concurrent development activities should be minimised by coordinating at central level both the timing and areas for construction by different developers.

Mitigation – Monitoring

  • Mitigation of impacts can be done in many stages, based on a so-called ‘mitigation hierarchy’, for example, through avoiding sensitive sites, mitigating impacts through clever design and compensating for residual impacts, or through offsets.
  • Ongoing monitoring will be crucial to identify how successful previous mitigation strategies have been in avoiding or reducing impacts on the marine environment. Future decisions can integrate new findings and mitigate new threats.
  • Learning from other processes, other types of installation (e.g. multi-use sites in Japan) should not be overlooked.

Uncertainty and points to address

  • Substantial knowledge gaps and uncertainties still exist in this area, and these hamper the effective assessment of impacts and the issuing of some construction and operational permits.
  • There are major differences in regulating factors, species and habitats at different latitudes and scale of wind farm development.

Environmental Impact Assessment

  • To avoid arbitrary or non-precautionary approaches, solid scientifically based standards and threshold values for assessments of impacts should be developed at national, and if possible also at regional levels.
  • Additionally, international guidelines and information exchange networks (such as EMODNET) should be established to minimise local and national obstacles to conduct and scope EIAs.
  • The relevant criteria upon which impact prognoses are to be based should be clarified at national as well as transnational levels.
  • Appropriate assessments of cumulative effects should be supported by data provided at SEA level. Information on environmental requirements for completion of SEAs for construction at sea is, however, still too minimal.

Research

  • Research on species distribution and abundance over annual cycles, population structures and status, as well as the development of analytical tools for assessing ecosystem and cascading effects are therefore required.
  • Strategic research to develop species-specific sensitivity indices in relation to offshore wind energy development (currently only available for birds) in different life stages and in different regions is also required.
  • More research on the effects of noise on different species, as well as the mechanism and cues underlying avoidance behaviour by birds, is required for the development of appropriate mitigation strategies where necessary. This is also the case in regard to the impacts of electromagnetic fields as barriers for migrating fish. In addition, the potential benefits of fishery closures and the provision of artificial habitats as a by-product of wind farm development should be further explored.

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