Story 3: Adding visibility requirements to the MSP in Mecklenburg Vorpommern (Germany)
Marine spatial planning in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (MV) arose in the late 1990s out of concerns that investment in offshore wind farming was too slow. At the time, projects individually applied for a license in what amounted to a hit and miss approach, with consent often refused because of environmental or shipping concerns. Planners in MV thus suggested a systematic approach, specifically looking for areas that were reasonably conflict-free and could be made available to offshore wind. To alleviate the concerns of the tourism industry and local residents, “suitable areas” for offshore wind farming were designated in the 2005 plan, all of which were well away from a reservation area for tourism which ran along the entire coastline.
A new, revised plan replaced the 2005 plan in 2016. The first draft of the new plan, put forward in 2014, foresaw a considerable expansion of priority areas for offshore wind compared to 2005. This was driven by a state energy strategy that emphasised renewable energies, in particular offshore wind because of its ability to cover base load demand. In order to identify new areas that could be considered for offshore wind, the planning authority decided to take a step by step approach. It firstly commissioned an expertise on which areas would be deemed suitable from a nature conservation perspective. Other sectoral demands were then added. The idea was to identify taboo areas where offshore wind could definitely not be located, as well as areas that would have no restrictions and could be used. The problem was that no areas emerged that had no restrictions at all. To come to a solution, it was decided to at least consider areas that had one or two restrictions. When these areas were put on a map, it caused an outcry of coastal communities, municipalities and tourism communities. There was concern that wind turbines would be visible from almost the entire coastline; citizen’s initiatives formed with names such as “Free Baltic”. Posters were put up in hotels. Arguments against offshore wind often referred to nature conservation, but most of the concern was related to the supposed visibility of turbines and the impacts this could have on tourism - an important part of the local economy. Nature conservation additionally worried about bird migration, and fishers worried about losing convenient access to fishing grounds.
As a result of these responses, the proposal was considerably softened. The second draft and the final plan contain fewer priority areas for offshore wind than originally suggested, amounting to only one third of the original 580km2 proposed. Changes were also made to the tourism reservation area along the coast. The principle is still to enable a high-quality landscape experience, but now there is no longer a uniform reservation area along the coast. The reservation area is now determined based on estimating the distance from the shore at which offshore wind turbines will no longer be considered visually disruptive. Priority areas for offshore wind have been allocated beyond that line.