A key challenge for the offshore wind industry is to ensure environmental impact is minimised or avoided completely where possible. Every offshore wind farm project has to be built under stringent environmental requirements, including tough underwater noise mitigation measures. The industry has tackled the challenge this brings by working in collaboration with knowledge and research institutes to find new tools and methods for both measuring environmental impact and minimising it, particularly during the construction phase.
An overarching Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a prerequisite for any planned offshore wind project and is therefore one of the first things to be done. Involving a range of environmental surveys to assess possible impacts on the physical, biological, and human environment, an EIA can take up to two years to be completed.
Importantly, EIAs take into account impacts throughout the full lifecycle of a wind farm, from construction to operation to decommissioning. There are various methods for conducting the research accurately, and the studies required need specialist knowledge and experience.
In the Netherlands, government agency ‘Rijkswaterstaat’ oversees the research companies and specialists conducting the surveys. In other countries, EIAs are often mandatory, conducted by developers themselves, and can affect whether or not a project is granted planning permission.
The Dutch Approach
Environmental Impact Assessments are just one element to minimising the impact of offshore wind farms on the environment. A new wave of innovative technologies is also being developed and deployed, especially for the construction phase of an offshore wind farm. These revolve around noise mitigation and limiting damage to the seabed and marine ecology generally.
The Netherlands has some of the most stringent environmental regulations for offshore wind farm construction in the world. Therefore, Dutch companies and knowledge institutes have been at the forefront of developing, testing, and implementing noise mitigation technologies and new methods of construction with noise mitigation built in. There are some new and exciting developments on the horizon too.