A complex issue
A lot is happening. We currently find ourselves in a transitioning phase: the current energy system is no longer future-proof and the new one is still developing. Additionally, our balance with nature is severely disrupted – and nature seems to have drawn the shortest straw. Every day the consequences of climate change become more visible and the urgency to do something about it continues to grow. We realise this all too well. That is why we do everything in our power to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. This requires swift handling: implementing sustainability in everything that we do and replacing fossil fuels with CO2-free energy. We take our responsibility, together with partnerships and transition networks that contribute to finding adequate solutions.
A Dutch dilemma
The Netherlands has been contributing to the crucial global energy transition for years. Offshore wind energy (or: wind energy generated at sea) is a source of renewable energy. Our North Sea could become the driving force behind the energy transition, but is under pressure because of pollution, habitat loss, climate change and fishing.
This presents a dilemma for the Netherlands. Wind energy can only progress and develop if the construction of wind farms is responsible, we use the space as efficiently as possible and we optimise supply and demand of energy. Finding the right balance between generating energy and safeguarding our ecological interests can make the difference for our future. But how are we going to find this balance?
The mission of Hollandse Kust West
Hollandse Kust West (HKW) lot VI will be the first offshore wind farm with a focus on ecology – from design, construction and operation to research and knowledge sharing. We do this by minimising the negative effects on the ecosystem as much as possible while boosting positive effects. As such, we find ourselves at the start of future wind farms with a net positive impact: a flourishing ecosystem, a minimised impact on marine mammals, birds and bats, and a vibrant marine life.
A sustainable future for offshore wind that positively contributes to the North Sea’s ecology. So how can we bring this big ambition to life?
First of all, we are not doing this alone. We are working together with various ecological experts, organisations and institutions and have the technical expertise to realise a wind farm. Our collective strength is great, and we know what it takes to make projects of this size a success. We have a broad field of knowledge and will take the lead through bold innovations and technologies. As such we will remove obstacles for the future development of wind energy and contribute to the acceleration of the energy transition.
Our approach is also realistic, recognising that there are numerous points where our knowledge is still inadequate, and that testing of current knowledge is necessary. We simply cannot accurately predict what the actual effectiveness of our measures will be. At the same time, our understanding of the area’s diverse species is incomplete. Think about the various migration routes, the likelihood that certain species will avoid the HKW area because of the wind farm, and the long-term implications of the project.
This is why knowledge sharing is key. Knowledge is our biggest strength and an approach that is effective and adaptive gives us the opportunity to quickly respond and adjust to the things we learn along the way. We will help policymakers and the wind sector to make more informed choices. We will help researchers to fill new knowledge gaps by sharing (raw) data. And we will provide nature organisations and the public with more information by openly sharing our knowledge and learnings to contribute to meaningful discussions about offshore wind. More knowledge – and clear communication – means a better understanding of the impact of offshore wind and a more balanced discussion.
To make the most positive contribution possible, our approach meets five requirements:
- Holistic, because everything is connected within an ecosystem;
- Customised, because the effects of our measures will differ per species;
- The full project lifecycle, because every phase will have a different impact on the ecology;
- Continuous improvement, via the evaluation of new insights;
- Filling knowledge gaps as much as possible, so that future wind farms will have more knowledge regarding the ecology of the North Sea and the effectiveness of our measures.
To limit the negative effects for birds, bats, and marine mammals as much as possible, we have devised appropriate measures for each species group. We consider the visible activities both below and above water as well as the noise generated during construction and operation.