Public acceptance of renewable energy technologies (RETs) is critical to the broader adoption of these technologies and reducing the role of fossil fuels in electricity generation. Recent investigations into the public engagement processes surrounding RET projects reveal certain procedural deficits, especially concerning procedural fairness and stakeholder trust. With this in mind, we analyze two engagement processes that led to the Block Island Wind Farm, the first operational offshore wind farm in the United States. Through semi-structured interviews we identify certain procedural techniques that allowed process leaders to first build public trust in themselves, then in the process, and ultimately in the outcome. This chain of trust was fostered through informal efforts of process leaders to meet stakeholder expectations concerning process leaders’ ability to work for the public interest, provide meaningful engagement opportunities, and to produce non-discriminatory outcomes. This case study highlights the potential of such informal actions to meet stakeholder expectations and build trust, while also empirically demonstrating specific techniques that future process leaders could employ to increase stakeholder acceptance of RETs.
Coastal and Offshore Energy
The global development of the offshore renewable energy sector has been driven by extensive investment and research in the utilization of offshore renewable energies, mainly at the regional level. However, for mid to long-term marine energy development planning, a comprehensive assessment of the global potential for the exploitation of the main offshore resources is required. This work developed and implemented an innovative methodological approach to identify potential zones for wind and wave energy exploitation at the global level, using long-term data series with fine spatial and temporal resolution. The proposed methodology was based on a five-step approach comprised of: (i) a resource assessment, to identify the zones with favorable conditions for energy exploitation; (ii) a structural survivability assessment, to identify feasible areas which would likely ensure the integrity and durability of the wind and wave devices; (iii) a logistics assessment, to evaluate the possibility of carrying out installation, operations, and maintenance activities; (iv) an assessment of the distance to consumer centers, to estimate the feasibility of transmission to the main urban areas; and (v) an estimate of the extractable power of the identified potential zones. For wind power, the United Kingdom (with 1470 TWh/month using a 10-MW turbine) and the United States (1079 TWh/month) were the countries with the highest estimated energy output of the identified potential zones. For wave energy, Brazil and New Zealand presented good opportunities for the development of the wave energy industry, with an estimated extractable power of 372 TWh/month and 286 TWh/month, respectively. The unique preliminary global analysis presented in this work provides guidelines to assist in the development of wave and offshore wind industries, in addition to supporting the management of marine spaces. Moreover, the methodologies can be replicated for other marine activities.
The development of the Marine Renewable Energy (MRE) industry is part of the EC Blue Growth Strategy. It brings together a range of relationships across people, sea, and energy, from developers to local communities and policymakers. This calls for diverse approaches, moving beyond an oppositional mindset to one that can establish an inclusive community around MRE development. Ownership of the marine environment is a legal issue, but MRE devices operate within a cultural and emotional sense of place. Early, sustained community engagement and advocacy is crucial to developing an industry whose impacts are likely to be felt before its social benefits materialise. Crucially, local communities could be supported by Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) research in creating new mythologies and imaginaries through which MRE technologies become an integral part of their culture, as well as part of their biophysical environment. A complex physical, political, and legal environment provides the context for these new marine energy technologies, and its development provides opportunities for SSH research to address issues around the sea and to integrate into the design of new marine energy seascapes.
Submarine power cables (SPC) have been in use since the mid-19th century, but environmental concerns about them are much more recent. With the development of marine renewable energy technologies, it is vital to understand their potential impacts. The commissioning of SPC may temporarily or permanently impact the marine environment through habitat damage or loss, noise, chemical pollution, heat and electromagnetic field emissions, risk of entanglement, introduction of artificial substrates, and the creation of reserve effects. While growing numbers of scientific publications focus on impacts of the marine energy harnessing devices, data on impacts of associated power connections such as SPC are scarce and knowledge gaps persist. The present study (1) examines the different categories of potential ecological effects of SPC during installation, operation and decommissioning phases and hierarchizes these types of interactions according to their ecological relevance and existing scientific knowledge, (2) identifies the main knowledge gaps and needs for research, and (3) sets recommendations for better monitoring and mitigation of the most significant impacts. Overall, ecological impacts associated with SPC can be considered weak or moderate, although many uncertainties remain, particularly concerning electromagnetic effects.
Marine renewable energy development raised concerns over the impact of underwater noise. Here we assess the acoustic impacts of an operating tidal current turbine (Paimpol-Bréhat site, France) on marine fauna. Its source level (SL) has been measured in situ using 19 drifting transects at distances between 100 m to 2400 m from the turbine. SL ranged from 118 to 152 dB re1 μ[email protected] m in third-octave bands at frequencies between 40 and 8192 Hz. It is comparable to the SL of a 19 m boat travelling at 10kt speed. This SL was used to estimate the impact of this noise type based on acoustic propagation simulations. The acoustic footprint of the device corresponds to a 1.5 km radius disk. Our results show that within this area of greatest potential impact, physiological injury of the hearing apparatus of invertebrates, fishes and marine mammals is improbable. Behavioral disturbance may occur up to 1 km around the device for harbor porpoises only. This is of little concern for a single turbine. However, greater concern on turbine noise impact, particularly on behavioral reactions has to be granted for a farm with up to 100 turbine. The lack of consolidated knowledge on behavioral disturbances identifies the needs for specific research programs.
The increasing number and size of offshore wind farms (OWFs), combined with the ambitious plans for future developments in the sector, portray a bleak outlook for ‘traditional’ maritime and marine players. The sustained growth of OWFs can cause conflict with other marine users, and thus certain risk control options (RCOs) may need to be adapted in order to maintain navigational safety and reduce the environmental impact of such installations; introducing such measures, however, may be counter-productive in terms of energy efficiency or financial sustainability. This leads to questions such as ‘is there a point when implementing certain RCOs actually makes an OWF project unfeasible’?
In this discussion paper, we describe a holistic and integrated framework that allows decision makers to evaluate the safety, energy efficiency, environmental impacts and financial sustainability aspects of OWFs. We consider a selection of vital factors and parameters in the current framework, and discuss how the different data sets can be integrated into a single framework. We also describe a novel evaluation tool that can allow users to ‘plot’ the output of the proposed framework in a spider diagram form. We conclude by discussing how the proposed work can be employed to optimize the use of limited sea-space.
Notwithstanding their potential benefit as a non-carbon-emitting energy source, the number and the size of marine renewable energy (MRE) farms increases conflict uses, creating a kind of private occupation of the sea space. The multipurpose marine cadastre (MMC) seems to be an efficient tool to determine a better way to allocate exclusive rights to ocean energy developers, in accordance with other users rights. The United-States are the pioneers with their marinecadastre.gov website, which has been set clearly to promote offshore renewable energy, and many others countries are studying this concept, as a complement to marine spatial planning.
The development of offshore wind energy and other competing interests in sea space are a major incentive for designating marine and coastal areas for specific human activities. Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) considers human activities at sea in a more integrated way by analysing and designating spatial and temporal distributions of human activities based on ecological, economic and social targets. However, specific tools supporting spatial decisions at sea incorporating all relevant sectors are rarely adopted. The decision support tool Marxan is traditionally used for systematic selection and designation of nature protection and conservation areas. In this study, Marxan was applied as a support tool to identify suitable sites for offshore wind power in the pilot area Pomeranian Bight / Arkona Basin in the western Baltic Sea. The software was successfully tested and scenarios were developed that support the sites indicated in existing national plans, but also show options for alternative developments of offshore wind power in the Pomeranian Bight / Arkona Basin area.
Increasingly, marine renewable energy developments are viewed as an opportunity to meet climate change obligations, with the added benefit of powering the economy and the creation of jobs. Technical, economic and engineering challenges co-exist with governance challenges in the development of large-scale marine renewable energy projects. This paper addresses the question, if the prerequisites for sustainable project development are evident in selected case studies. It also asks what lessons can be learned from current practice in the context of energy governance at the local level. The authors argue that these lessons can be central enablers to support decision makers in future programmes, to better understand how to build the enabling conditions for programme implementation towards renewable energy at higher spatial scales of governance, importantly the national level. The study builds on a multiple stakeholder approach involving interviews and group discussions with key individuals from industry, government and civil society in emerging pilot programmes along the East Coast of the United States (U.S.). New policy windows were opening at the time of the analysis and ambitious development was underway by a range of actors who are driving progress in the sector and positioning the area to become a major provider of blue energy.
Offshore wind farms (OWF) form an important part of many countries strategy for responding to the threat of climate change, their development can conflict with other offshore activities. Static gear fisheries targeting sedentary benthic species are particularly affected by spatial management that involves exclusion of fishers. Here we investigate the ecological effect of a short-term closure of a European lobster (Homarus gammarus (L.)) fishing ground, facilitated by the development of the Westermost Rough OWF located on the north-east coast of the United Kingdom. We also investigate the effects on the population when the site is reopened on completion of the construction. We find that temporary closure offers some respite for adult animals and leads to increases in abundance and size of the target species in that area. Reopening of the site to fishing exploitation saw a decrease in catch rates and size structure, this did not reach levels below that of the surrounding area. Opening the site to exploitation allows the fishery to recuperate some of the economic loss during the closure. We suggest that our results may indicate that temporary closures of selected areas may be beneficial and offer a management option for lobster fisheries.