A Spatial Analysis of the Potentials for Offshore Wind Farm Locations in the North Sea Region: Challenges and Opportunities
Over the last decade, the accelerated transition towards cleaner means of producing energy has been clearly prioritised by the European Union through large-scale planned deployment of wind farms in the North Sea. From a spatial planning perspective, this has not been a straight-forward process, due to substantial spatial conflicts with the traditional users of the sea, especially with fisheries and protected areas. In this article, we examine the availability of offshore space for wind farm deployment, from a transnational perspective, while taking into account different options for the management of the maritime area through four scenarios. We applied a mixed-method approach, combining expert knowledge and document analysis with the spatial visualisation of existing and future maritime spatial claims. Our calculations clearly indicate a low availability of suitable locations for offshore wind in the proximity of the shore and in shallow waters, even when considering its multi-use with fisheries and protected areas. However, the areas within 100 km from shore and with a water depth above –120 m attract greater opportunities for both single use (only offshore wind farms) and multi-use (mainly with fisheries), from an integrated planning perspective. On the other hand, the decrease of energy targets combined with sectoral planning result in clear limitations to suitable areas for offshore wind farms, indicating the necessity to consider areas with a water depth below –120 m and further than 100 km from shore. Therefore, despite the increased costs of maintenance and design adaptation, the multi-use of space can be a solution for more sustainable, stakeholder-engaged and cost-effective options in the energy deployment process. This paper identifies potential pathways, as well as challenges and opportunities for future offshore space management with the aim of achieving the 2050 renewable energy targets.