Marine Renewable Energy Generation
1.1 This paper summarises the status of marine renewable energy generation within the OSPAR region and measures taken to manage its environmental impacts. It briefly notes key messages from the QSR 2010 and IA 2017, and reports on progress since then.
Distribution, intensity and trends since QSR2010
Overall trends - Offshore wind
2.1 QSR 2010 noted that energy production by offshore wind farms had emerged as a new use of coastal and shallower offshore waters over the previous decade. In 2009, 17 wind farms, covering over 500km2 and involving 713 turbines, were operational or under construction, giving a capacity of almost 1900 MW. All development was in OSPAR Regions II and III.
2.2 The following decade saw substantial growth in offshore wind. Parts of the OSPAR marine area are very favourable for offshore wind development. The shallow waters of the North Sea have high and widespread potential, and the North Sea is the world’s leading region for deployed offshore wind capacity. The Atlantic Ocean has a high natural potential for both bottom-fixed and floating offshore wind energy. According to the European Commission, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Germany are the clear leaders in offshore wind development in Europe (European Commission 2020a, 2020b).
2.3 By the end of 2019, there was 22072 MW of installed offshore wind capacity in Europe, produced by over 5000 turbines (WindEurope 2020). Almost all – 99% - of this capacity was in five countries: the United Kingdom (45% of all installations), Germany1 (34%), Denmark (8%), Belgium (7%) and the Netherlands (5%). OSPAR countries with small amounts of offshore wind generation included Spain, France, Sweden, Norway, Ireland and Portugal. The North Sea accounted for 77% of Europe’s installed capacity, and the Irish Sea 13%2. A net new offshore wind capacity of 3632 MW of offshore wind capacity was added in 2019, the highest annual increase ever, nearly half of which was in the United Kingdom. By the end of 2019, Europe accounted for around 75% of global offshore wind capacity installed (European Commission 2020c).
|Number of wind farms connected||Number of turbines connected||Cumulative capacity (MW)|
|United Kingdom||40||2 225||9 945|
|Germany||28||1 469||7 445|
A. Construction/industrial aggregates - marine sand and/or gravel used as a raw material for the construction industry for building purposes, primarily for use in the manufacture of concrete but also for more general construction products.
B. Beach replenishment/coastal protection – marine sand and/or gravel used to support large-scale soft engineering projects to prevent coastal erosion and to protect coastal communities and infrastructure.
C. Construction fill/land reclamation – marine sediment used to support large scale civil engineering projects, where large volumes of bulk material are required to fill void spaces prior to construction commencing or to create new land surfaces.
D. Non-aggregates – comprising rock, shell or maerl.
E. Total Extracted – total marine sediment extracted by Member Countries.
F. Aggregates Exported - the proportion of the total extracted which has been exported i.e. landed out-side of the country where it was extracted. This value is not included in the total.
(1) No information is available for extraction quantities used for beach nourishment in France although sand extraction for beach replenishment is likely to have occurred.
(2) Licensed data (maximum permitted) because extracted data is subject to statistical confidentiality confidentiality.
(3) Average amount extracted every year from 2013.
(4) Fraction of total extraction attributed to “construction aggregate” and that to “construction fill/reclamation” has been estimated.
Figure 1 Route density map of service vessels in the OSPAR area 2019 (Source EMODnet 2020) and the Locations of Offshore Renewable Energy Developments https://odims.ospar.org/maps/1820/
2.4 The average rated capacity of turbines, the size of wind farm and the distance to shore have increased. The average size of windfarms in construction almost doubled over the decade, to 621 MW; the average capacity of a turbine installed in 2019 was 7.8MW, 1 MW larger than in 2018 and more than double the average size in 2010 of 3.2 MW; and the average distance of new installations to shore (59 km) and water depth (33 m) continued to increase, even though most wind farms are bottom-fixed (WindEurope 2011, WindEurope 2020). The costs of offshore wind have fallen steadily over the past ten years. In the second half of the decade, costs decreased from over €200/MWh in 2014 to a range of 45-79 €/MWh at the end of 2019. Drivers for the reduction include upscaling of turbine size, economies of scale due to larger project size, weight reduction due to innovative materials, and favourable financing (European Commission 2020b, 2020c).
2.5 Floating offshore wind is at an earlier stage of development. Only 45 MW of the total EU offshore wind capacity in 20193 was from this source (European Commission 2020a). Various technologies are in development. Capacity in 2019 involved different floating substructures: spar-buoys (the 30 MW Hywind project in Scotland); barges (the 2 MW Floatgen project in France) and semi-submersibles (the 25 MW WindFloat Atlantic project in Portugal, partially operational in 2019).
Overall trends - 'wet renewables'
2.6 So-called ‘wet renewables’ harness energy from tidal currents and wave power. Within the OSPAR area, the Atlantic Ocean has good natural potential for wave and tidal energy, and the North Sea also has localised potential (European Commission 2020a).
2.7 ICES advice to OSPAR in 2019 summarised the types and distribution of tidal and wave energy instillations, potential future trends, and environmental impacts (ICES 2019). Key messages from the advice are summarised briefly in sections 2, 4 and 6 of this feeder report. Tidal stream resource in selected European countries is shown below:
Figure 2 (left) Tidal stream resource distribution in Europe evaluating the tidal current resource for selected locations around Europe, with predefined characteristics making them suitable for tidal stream energy exploitation. Taken from ICES 2019, original source: www.aquaret.com
2.8 ICES identified 43 MW of tidal energy devices operational across the OSPAR area, with more than 320 MW under construction, consented or in planning phases. Tidal energy installations include different types of turbine, hydrofoils, Archimedes screws and tidal kites. In the OSPAR area, the UK had the largest level of deployment of tidal energy, with test centres as well as commercial sites under development. ICES noted that operational or planned developments also existed in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain4.
2.9 Tidal energy can also be obtained using barrages across estuaries, or by enclosing a tidal lagoon. The long-established barrage at La Rance in France was the world’s first tidal power station and has a peak capacity of 240 MW; however there are no current plans for further development of this form of tidal energy in France (French Government 2019). ICES noted that environmental concerns pose serious constraints on new tidal energy barrages in the OSPAR area, although installation of turbines in existing coastal infrastructure remains an attractive option.
2.10 In the case of wave energy, ICES reported that the OSPAR countries best suited for the technology are the UK, Ireland and Norway, followed by Northern Spain, France and Portugal.
Figure 3 (right) Wave energy resource distribution in Europe. Taken from ICES 2019, original source www.aquaret.com
2.11 A coastline infrastructure energy plant – turbines housed in a breakwater - with a capacity of 300 kW is operational in northern Spain, and a range of devices are being trialled within the OSPAR area. However, excluding test centres, less than 1 MW of wave energy was operational across the OSPAR area at the time of the ICES report, with around 20 MW consented or in planning phases. To date, there are no operational commercial-scale nearshore fixed and floating wave energy developments within the OSPAR region.
3.1 The EU’s Blue Economy report 2020 included partial economic data for the EU offshore wind energy (production and transmission) sector in 20185 (European Commission 2020a). Specifically:
- the sector directly employed 4624 persons, up from 582 in 2009. The largest number was in the United Kingdom (2758 persons), followed by Denmark (767), the Netherlands (743), and Belgium (356);
- the gross value added in the United Kingdom was €521 million, in Denmark €463 million, and in Belgium €105 million;
- net investment and turnover were highest in the United Kingdom, gross profit was highest in Denmark.
3.2 The wider supply chain for offshore wind creates employment more widely. For example, the Blue Economy report cited an estimate of 27000 jobs created in Germany due to the development of offshore wind. This employment extends beyond coastal regions to manufacturing facilities elsewhere: for example, key turbine components are made in southern and western Germany (European Commission 2020a). The 2020 EU strategy on offshore renewable energy stated that the offshore wind industry in the European Union employs 62000 people (European Commission 2020b).
3.3 The economic status of tidal and wave energy, given its current state of development, is far smaller than offshore wind. Employment in the sector in the European Union is around 2500 people (European Commission 2020b).
3.4 In global terms, OSPAR countries are global leaders in offshore renewable technologies and industries, based on a first-mover status offshore wind turbines and a strong home market. Around 42% of the global market in cumulative installed capacity is in the EU and another third is in the United Kingdom. Exports in the wind sector (both onshore and offshore) from the EU28 increased steadily between 2009 and 2018, to €2.32 billion, a 47% share of global exports. Imports during that period were far smaller, ranging between €0.03 billion and €0.17 billion (European Commission 2020c). European countries are also leaders in the new technologies of floating wind and of tide and wave energy (European Commission 2020b), or may have transferable expertise from other industries, such as petroleum (Norwegian Ministries 2019).
3.5 Major investment is associated with future ambitions for increasing offshore renewable generation (see section 4 below). For example, the European Commission gives a figure of up to €800 billion needed to meet objectives for 2050, and the UK Government has stated that its ambitions for offshore wind could encourage £20 billion of private investment into the UK and double jobs in the sector over the next decade (UK Government 2020).
4.1 A further major expansion of offshore renewable energy is anticipated in the OSPAR area in the coming decade and beyond, primarily of offshore wind but also involving tidal and wave power. There may also be developments of other novel technologies.
4.2 Co-location opportunities of marine renewable energy infrastructure with other uses are being investigated, in particular in relation to offshore shellfish culture. The Edulis project in Belgium has trialled offshore mussel culture in a wind farm, and the potential for using wind farms for flat oyster restoration projects has been studied in the Netherlands (European Commission 2020e).
4.3 The European Commission’s 2020 strategy on offshore renewable energy envisages an expansion in offshore wind from the current installed capacity of around 12 GW in the EU27 to at least 60 GW by 2030 and 300 GW by 2050 (European Commission 2020b). In the short term, most of this will be through bottom-fixed installations, but floating offshore wind is expected to develop further. Nearly 80 % of the wind in Europe blows in waters that are at least 60 meters deep and are thus unsuitable for bottom-fixed installations on grounds of cost. The estimated technical potential for floating offshore wind in Europe is around 4540 GW, 3000 GW of which is in water depths between 100m and 1000m (European Commission 2020a). The Commission’ strategy anticipates that around 150 MW of floating offshore wind will be commissioned by 2024, and that there is potential to reduce the costs of electricity from floating installations to below €100//MWh by 2030.
4.4 The strategy identifies various challenges associated with the expansion to 2050, and ways to address them. These include effective maritime spatial planning, ensuring coexistence with other uses of the sea, as well as compliance with environmental legislation (see section 6 below). While the strategy states that expansion of offshore energy is not incompatible with shipping routes, it also notes the importance of risk management, given that the areas with most for offshore renewable energy are the most exposed to risks of collisions with vessels, fishing gear, military activities, or dumped ammunitions and chemicals. Other areas to address include grid planning, the energy market framework (more on market arrangements is at European Commission 2020d), EU financing mechanisms, and research and development. Regional cooperation in sea basins is highlighted, such as through the existing North Seas Energy Cooperation mechanism (NSEC 2020).
4.5 The Commission’s strategy highlights the potential for wind energy in different seabasins, but does not specify where the increase in European installed capacity will occur in the next decade, or beyond. Precise locations will depend on factors such as available space, sea depths, wind speeds, cost, and where energy demand is located. However, substantial expansion in the next decade can be expected in OSPAR waters. For example, for NSEC states6
- for the North Seas, the ministerial meeting of NSEC in 2019 agreed to work together to achieve an indicative aggregate installed capacity of EU Member States of NSEC of at least 70 GW by 20307 (NSEC 2020);
- the Netherlands is planning for an overall capacity of 11 GW by 2030, involving 9.6 MW of new capacity being commissioned between 2020 and 2029 (Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy 2020);
- Belgium plans for around 4 GW of capacity by 2030, almost double the capacity in 2020 (Belgian Government 2019);
- Denmark is considering the possibility of building an ‘energy island’ in the North Sea with at least 10 GW of offshore wind connected by 2030 (Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Utilities 2019);
- In France, the government set a target of 5.2-6.2 GW of capacity by 2028, compared with 0.5 GW a decade earlier (French Government 2019);
- Germany projects an increase in offshore wind capacity to around 20 GW by 2030, from less than 8 GW in 2020 (German Federal Government2019); in November 2020, the Bundestag adopted a target of 40GW by 2040 (Deutscher Bundestag 2020)
- Ireland is targeting at least 3.5 GW of offshore renewable energy by 2030, mainly of offshore wind (Irish Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment 2019).
4.6 Smaller expansion is expected to 2030 in Portugal, to just 0.3 GW, although this is a ten-fold increase on the current capacity. Exploring the potential of offshore wind is a priority for the next decade (Portuguese Government 2019). In Spain, a strategy for the development of offshore wind is being developed (Spanish Government 2019).
4.7 In the United Kingdom, the UK Government announced in 2020 an ambition to quadruple the amount of offshore wind to a capacity of 40 GW by 2030, including 1 GW of innovative floating offshore wind. This expansion could support up to 60,000 jobs in 2030 (UK Government 2020). Within the UK, the Scottish Government’s offshore wind policy statement states that as much as 11 GW of installed capacity is possible by 2030, compared with less than 1GW installed and operational in 20208. Further major expansion is expected after 2030 (Scottish Government 2020a). A sectoral plan for offshore wind energy outlines areas for development (Scottish Government 2020b).
4.8 Other non-EU countries within the OSPAR area have small expansion plans in the next decade. In Norway, cost trends will determine how far offshore wind will compete with land-based alternatives, but the government is planning to open some areas for licence applications (Norwegian Ministries 2019). A 96-120MW offshore wind farm is currently planned for the Faroe Islands, with the aim of being operational by 2025 (SEV 2020b).
4.9 Overall, much of the expansion of offshore wind in European seas to 2030 and beyond will be in the OSPAR area. Under a maximum scenario developed by the wind industry of 450 GW installed in European seas9 by 2050, 212 GW would be expected in the North Sea10, 85 GW in the Atlantic and Irish Sea off France, Ireland and the UK, and 22 GW in Portuguese and Spanish waters11 (WindEurope 2019; also referred to in European Commission 2020e). An additional 83K was projected for the Baltic.
4.10 The 380 GW of offshore wind projected for the northern seas (including the Baltic) would require 76000 km2 of sea space (assuming 5 MW/km2), around 2.8% of the total area of the northern seas, and approximately equivalent to the size of the island of Ireland (European Commission 2020e). However, in some regions the proportion of the sea area occupied by offshore wind would be far higher – for example, 15-20% in parts of the southern North Sea, and 5-15% in the Irish Sea (WindEurope 2019).
4.11 The current scale of tidal and wave energy installations is small. Nevertheless, some increase in the next decade can be expected. ICES 2019 advised that wet renewables will be increasingly installed in the marine environment in the near future, and that the large number of developments in planning stages suggests a strong industry-led potential for increasing developments. For tidal devices, the trend seems to be away from heavy bottom mounted devices and towards floating tidal devices, which are easier to deploy and maintain, cheaper, and tap into faster tidal flows. For tidal lagoons, significant economic and environmental challenges remain although there is still interest in developing the technology. In the case of wave energy, ICES reported continuing test programmes at sites in the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Norway and Ireland.
4.12 Factors which could increase the opportunity for future developments include new marine spatial planning support tools, better understanding of the environmental impact of marine renewables, and new technologies. Nonetheless, many past applications have been withdrawn due to financial or logistical issues, and barriers to overcome include survivability and reliability of installations, uncertainties about environmental impacts, and investment conditions (ICES 2019).
4.13 European Union analysis has reached similar conclusions. While the current scale of installations is only a small fraction of offshore renewable energy (see paragraph 2.9), the potential for wave and tidal energy in the EU is said to be vast, with a theoretical annual potential of wave energy of about 2800 TWh, and for tidal current of about 50 TWh (European Commission 2020a). The Commission’s offshore renewable energy strategy aims for at least 1 GW of ocean energy capacity by 2030, with a view to 40 GW by 2050 (European Commission 2020b).
4.14 At present, there is no dominant technology for tidal and wave energy generation, and significant cost reductions would be needed for them to play a significant role in the energy mix. There has been some drop in costs in recent years: by 2020 costs had fallen by 40% since 2015. A key step towards commercial uptake would be to implement an existing programme of 100 MW pilot projects by 2025 (European Commission 2020b).
Other energy sources
4.15 Other offshore energy technologies exist, but are in relatively early stages of research and demonstration. Floating solar photovoltaic installations may have applications in industries such as aquaculture, or for remote coastal communities. Sea trials of a 17kW system have demonstrated its survivability in storm conditions. Offshore hydrogen generation is being investigated in combination with tidal turbine systems or offshore wind (European Commission 2020a).
QSR 2010 and IA 2017
5.1 QSR 2010 noted that impacts arise throughout the life cycle of wind farms, including site selection construction, operation, decommissioning and removal. Specific environmental issues highlighted were noise, disturbance and loss of habitats, bird collisions, and visual intrusion, as well as potential impacts on other uses of the sea (e.g. hazards to shipping, displacement of fishing) and conflicts with marine conservation objectives.
5.2 QSR 2010 concluded that knowledge about the environmental impacts of offshore wind was limited, and recommended that OSPAR should address knowledge gaps and keep measures to manage environmental impact under review. The QSR did not discuss other forms of marine renewable energy generation.
5.3 IA 2017 did not cover marine renewable energy specifically, although noise impacts of pile driving during the installation of wind turbines were covered in its assessment of impulsive noise.
Impacts and measures
6.1 Understanding and managing the environmental impacts of the substantial existing and future growth of offshore renewable energy are essential for its sustainable development. The European Commission’s offshore renewable energy strategy states that the scale-up of offshore wind would require less than 3% of the European maritime space and can therefore be compatible with the goals of the European Biodiversity strategy. Nevertheless, it acknowledges that monitoring and scientific knowledge need to be developed, including through in-depth analysis, data exchange and modelling tools, in order to understand potential cumulative effects on the environment and interactions with other activities (European Commission 2020b). The strategy proposes ways to take this forward, including building a ‘community of practice’ to promote sharing of experience and joint working. The European Commission has also published a revised guidance document on wind energy developments and EU nature legislation (European Commission 2020e – further details below).
6.2 OSPAR produced guidance on environmental considerations for offshore wind farm development in 2008 (OSPAR 2008). The guidance aimed to assist those involved with developments to identify and consider issues that may be associated with the environmental impacts of developments, covering location, licensing, monitoring, construction and operation, and decommissioning. A 2020 OSPAR survey of its contracting parties showed that the offshore wind guidance was generally fully implemented, or that implementation was in progress, although not all contracting parties provided information for the survey. OSPAR also maintains a database of individual marine renewable developments, including tidal and wave as well as offshore wind.
Impacts and measures - offshore wind
6.3 The European Commission’s guidance document discusses offshore wind developments in the context of the European Birds and Habitats Directives (European Commission 2020e). It describes the approach to assessing developments which could affect Natura 2000 sites, species protection provisions, and the role of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures. It notes that assessment of cumulative environmental impacts is very relevant to wind farm development, particularly in view of the projected expansion in capacity. Understanding potential cumulative impacts is nevertheless complex: for example, impacts at population level are poorly understood; the extent of pressures is difficult to evaluate; and data availability can be lacking. The guidance includes recommended approaches for dealing with the challenges of cumulative impacts assessment. It also highlights examples of existing good practice, such as from the Netherlands on cumulative impact assessments, and from the United Kingdom on handling uncertainty in design trends. The role of strategic planning, in the context of the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, is also emphasised. Wildlife sensitivity maps, such as the seabird mapping and sensitivity tool (SeaMaST) developed for English waters, are also a useful tool.
6.4 The Commission’s guidance includes an overview table:
Potential impacts of offshore energy developments
Marine habitat loss
Habitat loss and degradation
Habitat loss and degradation
Disturbance and displacement
Noise disturbance and displacement
6.5 The Commission’s guidance outlines mitigation methods to address the potential impacts. It recommends appropriate siting of wind installations to avoid impacts on protected habitats and species, and the use of the least disturbing methods for activities such as cable installations. It also notes that the creation of artificial reef habitats on the foundations of structures can affect biodiversity, particularly in areas without natural rock habitats such as large parts of the North Sea. This can increase the biodiversity of benthic habitats, but also affects local community structure. The risk that the foundations may also enable establishment of alien invasive species also has to be considered (European Commission 2020e).
6.6 The Commission notes the need to consider the potential impacts on fish or marine mammals of noise from offshore wind developments, in particular impulsive noise from pile driving of foundations. Impacts may include physical effects (e.g. damage to hearing) and behavioural effects (e.g. driving animals away from favoured habitats). Increased levels of noise from the operation of wind developments (e.g. noise from maintenance vessel movements) may also have negative impacts. Mitigation measures can include appropriate siting of developments, scheduling of activities to avoid sensitive periods (although hard to implement for species with long sensitive periods, such as harbour porpoise), engineering and surveillance approaches to reduce the risk of noise impacts, and deterrents.
6.7 In the case of birds, the guidance discusses mitigation measures such as design of infrastructure (e.g. to reduce collision risk), scheduling of activities to avoid disturbance during sensitive periods, temporary shutdown of turbines (e.g. during migration periods), and acoustic or visible deterrents.
6.8 The need for improved evidence to support decision-making on offshore wind developments is being addressed in various monitoring and research programmes, including in Belgium (Degraer et al 2019), the Netherlands (Noordzeeloket 2020) and the United Kingdom (The Crown Estate 2020). Work exploring the use of Bow Tie Analysis to the concept of ecosystem services as a way to assist decision making in OSPAR has also been carried out (Rijkswaterstaat 2020).
Impacts and measures - wet renewables
6.9 The ICES advice to OSPAR highlighted that because tidal and wave devices remove energy from the marine system, they have the potential to affect local and wider hydrodynamics (ICES 2019). Significant changes may only occur with large-scale installations, above 1.5 GW. Regional hydrodynamic models can be used to assess the potential impacts of developments, but the uncertainties involved means that continued monitoring of environmental impacts.
6.10 Similarly, developments could have physical seabed and sediment transport impacts affecting erosion and deposition of coastlines and offshore sandbanks, or changes to bathymetry or geomorphology. Again, large developments have the highest potential to cause change, but there may also be localised impacts such as scouring.
6.11 ICES advice covered potential impacts on marine life, including the benthos, fish, birds, and marine mammals. In the case of benthos, most changes would be local and site specific, with broader spatial effects mainly associated with tidal barriers or lagoons. Benefits for the benthic habitat can be achieved through design of infrastructure, or through exclusion of bottom fishing. However, colonisation of structures by non-indigenous species could also occur.
6.12 In the case of fish, siting of structures should avoid essential habits such as nursery zones, spawning grounds, and migration routes. Impacts on foodwebs (e.g. due to fish aggregation), collision risks, effects of cables (e.g due to electro-magnetic fields), and behavioural responses to noise could occur, but require further research and monitoring. Collision risk and habitat displacement are potential concerns for mammals and birds; underwater noise could also be a concern.
6.13 ICES highlighted the need for strategic research and monitoring to improve understanding of impacts on key receptors, and to facilitate a more ecosystem level approach to cumulative impact assessments. ICES suggested development of guidance and examples of cumulative impact assessment approaches. The potential effects of other emerging technologies needed to be kept under review, as well as analysis of decommissioning options.
1 Including the Baltic for Germany and Denmark
2 The Baltic accounted for most of the other European capacity (10%) available.
3 Including the UK in 2019
4 A tidal energy installation, using a kite system, is also under development in the Faroe Islands (SEV 2020a).
5 Figures for Germany were not available and only employment and investment data were available for the Netherlands (European Commission 2020a)
6 Estimates from NSEC, Denmark, France, and Germany include OSPAR and non-OSPAR waters
7 Aggregated planned project pipeline by EU Member States, including the UK at that time, of the North Seas Energy Cooperation (including for offshore areas other than the North Seas)
8 The total offshore wind capacity consented in Scotland as at 2020 was over 5 GW
9 Including non-EU waters
10 Including all Norwegian waters
11 Including the Mediterranean
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