‘20% of Dutch North Sea to transform into wind farm’
The North Sea is at the eve of some drastic economical and ecological transformations that will require several tens of billions of euros but environmental organizations, the fishing sector, the wind farm sector and the oil and gas industry are worried about the environment and call for more research and guidance before further expending new wind farms, artificial islands and hydrogen plants “at a terrifying pace”.
Nobody knows the exact number of wind turbines that are planned to be built in the North Sea but there surely will be a lot. They’re necessary to increase the share of sustainable energy in the Netherlands with more than 30%.
Today, there are ‘only’ some hundreds of them in the Dutch part of the North Sea, with a combined capacity of 1 gigawatt, whereas the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate is providing 11,5 gigawatt by 2030.
To achieve the European climate goals alone, Europe needs to develop 230 gigawatt by offshore energy, of which 180 gigawatt in the North Sea. For the Dutch part of the sea this means 60 to 75 gigawatt in 2050.
Migration of birds
“About 20% of the North Sea will transform into a wind farm”, says Floris van Hest, CEO of the foundation for the North Sea (Stichting Noordzee), representing several companies and organizations. “Today this is 0,2% but this will go up to 2% in 2023, a tenfold increase.”
Van Hest worries about the migration of birds, marine life and changes in the bottom of the sea. “We really have to carry out measurements offshore”, he says. Also the plan bureau for the environment (Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving, PBL) thinks more research is necessary. According to the PBL, the claim for space for wind energy will be so huge that it will be difficult to maintain the spacial separation of the wind farms on the one hand, and nature reserve on the other hand.
Fishing sector worried
The fishing sector is worried too, since wind farms often are built in areas rich in fish. “I can understand their anxiety”, says professor marine ecology, Han Linderboom. “When deciding on the location of wind farms, the areas where cables are of where shipping routes are situated, are usually taken into account but not the fishing zones. We really need to be more thoughtful, as we already learned from a recent study that the increase of the number of pillars in the sea has a larger effect on ecology than we presumed.”
Lindeboom pleads for a slower approach and more research instead of continuing “at a terryfying pace”.
“We need the energy transition”, says van Hest, “but we also need the North Sea for food production and nature. We need a global and future-proof policy to steer this fast transition in the right direction.”
In the meantime, van Hest has consulted with several organizations, network administrator Tenned, sector federations (NWEA), the fishing sector (Visserij) and the oil and gas industry, and they all agree on opting for a more balanced approach, paying attention to all involved parties. “Next time we have to give it some extra thought.”