Proposals For Optimisation Of The Procedures On Offshore Wind Farm Environmental Impact Assessment

Abstract: 

The LIFE MARMONI project, although not thoroughly working on environmental impact assessment but on biodiversity assessment and biodiversity monitoring, had the task to evaluate the current implementation of EIA legislation in Estonia and Latvia in relation of new-coming OWF projects, to identify shortcomings and needs for improvement and to elaborate recommendations for potential amendments or improvements of EIA procedures, to support the countries in taking environmentally sound decisions. On request of the Swedish and Finnish project partners, the desk study has been extended to these countries as well.
 

Sea Basin(s): 
Year: 
2016
Application in MSP: 
Taken into account in an MSP process
Sectors: 
Nature protection
Offshore renewable energy production
Type of Issue: 
Coexistence of uses
Environment aspects
Type of practice: 
Study
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Analyse spatial aspects
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 
Yes
Coherence with other processes: 
Habitats and Birds Directive
Strategic Environmental Assessment

Questions this practice may help answer

  • What Environmental Assessment legislation is in place for Offshore Wind Farm developments in Estonia, Latvia, Sweden and Finland
  • What can be recommended to improve the environmental assessment process in Latvia, Estonia, Sweden and Finland?

Implementation Context

While technology for wave use for energy production is still under development, interest in offshore wind energy production quickly develops also in the Baltic Sea Region. it is obvious that such huge marine infrastructure projects can pose a serious threat to the marine ecosystem, especially to species and habitats, if carried out at wrong locations and with inappropriate technical solutions. Here the importance of a well performed Environmental Impact Assessment comes into place helping in decision making whether the project is acceptable for the society from the environmental viewpoint or not.

Aspects / Objectives

  • Evaluate the current implementation of EIA legislation in Estonia and Latvia in relation of new-coming OWF projects
  • Identify shortcomings and needs for improvement
  • Elaborate recommendations for potential amendments or improvements of EIA procedures
  • Support the countries in taking environmentally sound decisions.
  • On request of the Swedish and Finnish project partners, the desk study has been extended to these countries as well.

Method

The study extensively used the findings presented in the international seminar on “Environmental Impact Assessment of offshore wind farms and other large marine infrastructure”, which was held on 21-22 May 2013 in Riga. At the seminar, more than 40 stakeholders from various organisations (state institutions, developers, scientists, non-governmental organisations) of the Baltic Sea and North Sea Regions shared information on the existing EIA legal procedures in the countries, as well as experience on performing the procedures for recent OWF development projects.

The document has been updated according to new developments in February and March 2016 by the authors.

Main Outputs / Results

Summarising the outcomes from assessing the national offshore related EIA legislation and practical EAI cases, the overall conclusion is that most of improvements have to be made on rising information reliability and credibility for ensuring grounded decisions. It means to pose clearer requirements for comprehensive environmental impact studies to be undertaken by the developers and to build on national baseline information to be able to take decisions in an EIA process, while the formal legal frame is actually in place in the target countries and cannot be much criticised. Some minor recommendations for optimisation of EIA procedures have been defined here to improve performance of EIA. They reflect the viewpoint of the MARMONI scientists and experts, as well as their guest developers and policy makers from the Baltic Sea region.

The overall conclusion is that, despite the fact that the overall procedures for Environmental Impact Assessment are well inline with national and European legal frames, much needs to be done to give better technical guidance to developers and implementing competent authorities to take decisions that are environmentally sound. This guidance must address the specific ecological features of the Baltic Sea, especially its Northern parts which are less investigated, but more vulnerable; they must address more than the marine biology which has been the only theme of the MARMONI project. And they must have a wider outreach than the specific local project they refer to. The marine environment, in difference to the terrestrial environment, is more affected by cumulative effects of larger amounts of OWF installations. On the other hand, we know less about the marine ecology as well as on impacts by OWF – a situation that makes proper decisions even more complicated and delicate.

Transferability

The subject of Environmental Impact Assessment for offshore wind farms is relevant in many European countries, which have similar plans for wind farm development. The study can be used as a source of inspiration of other research on EIA and SEA.

Costs / Funding Source

European Union LIFE+ Nature and Biodiversity program

Responsible Entity

Baltic Environmental Forum

Latvia

Antonijas street 3-8, Rīga, LV

1010, Latvia

www.bef.lv

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