Biodiversity offsets for offshore wind farm projects: The current situation in Europe

Type Article
Date 2014-09
Language English
Author(s) Vaissiere Anne-Charlotte1, Levrel Harold1, Pioch Sylvain2, Carlier AntoineORCID3
Affiliation(s) 1 : IFREMER, UMR AMURE, Marine Econ Unit, ZI Pointe Diable,CS 10070, F-29280 Plouzane, France.
2 : Univ Montpellier 3, CNRS UPV, UMR CEFE 5175, F-34199 Montpellier 5, France.
3 : IFREMER, DYNECO Ecol Benth, ZI Pointe Diable, CS 10070, F-29280 Plouzane, France.
Source Marine Policy (0308-597X) (Elsevier Sci Ltd), 2014-09 , Vol. 48 , P. 172-183
DOI 10.1016/j.marpol.2014.03.023
WOS© Times Cited 36
Keyword(s) Mitigation hierarchy, Offshore wind farms, EIA
Abstract The European Union׳s energy policy aims to increase the proportion of energy derived from renewable sources in Europe. Marine renewable energy, offshore wind energy especially, contributes to the renewable energy mix. Offshore wind farms appear to be clean, and are supported by governments and NGOs as a way to reduce the use of conventional energy resources and thus decrease greenhouse gas emissions. However, developing infrastructure in marine areas can impact marine ecosystems. European directives ask offshore wind farm developers to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) including a mitigation hierarchy, i.e. envisaging measures that would avoid, reduce, and if possible offset significant adverse effects on ecosystems and human activities. This paper reviews EIA reports from seven European countries and is focused on impacts on the open water marine environment. According to the reports, measures have been taken for avoiding and reducing impacts, so there should be no significant negative residual impacts and hence no need of offsets. But the mitigation hierarchy for ecological impacts seems to have been incompletely implemented, because it is unlikely that there are no significant residual impacts. The paper proposes some technical and ecological explanations, followed by some governance and social explanations, for the absence of biodiversity offsets.
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