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Energy, Climate change, Environment

Wind farm Siting

International and European commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are driving significant changes in the energy generation mix to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Offshore wind is seen as making an important contribution to greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and many European coastal states have developed ambitious programmes for the deployment of offshore wind farms. As with the development of any new major infrastructure, there are significant challenges in ensuring that developments are technically robust and economically viable but also environmentally sustainable. The development of new industries within the marine area also needs to respect and work with many existing activities, particularly shipping, fishing and tourism. The identification of areas that are potentially suitable for offshore wind farm development therefore presents many challenges.

The objective of the Wind Farm Siting Challenge was to:

  • determine the suitability of sites for development of a wind farm. All aspects should be considered - wind strength, seafloor geology, environmental impact, distance from grid, shipping lanes - even if one of the factors makes this a no-go scenario;
  • determine whether a floating or fixed wind farm would be more appropriate.

The sites to be analysed within this challenge were at the most appropriate points within the Arctic circle in the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea.

This challenge was conducted in the following steps:

Assessment 1: identifying locations with the best potential for developing offshore wind. Offshore Wind Development should be economically viable. For the Arctic Ocean Checkpoint project this means identifying the most appropriate areas to locate wind farms from an economic perspective.

Assessment 2: excluding areas too important for other stakeholders from the locations identified in the first assessment. Offshore Wind Development should have little impact on other uses – including the ecosystem of the proposed area.

This was followed by phase II in which the available data sets and the underlying shared questions are reviewed.

Main results 

Results of assessment 1 and 2

Fixed wind turbines
Of the 13 blocks spread out along the Norwegian coast in a technical OWE assessment,  none remained after taking other sea uses into account. Most were excluded due to their locations being in major shipping routes or marine protected areas.  

Floating wind turbines
Of the 290 blocks in a technically suitable area, 124 blocks remain after taking other sea uses into account (table 1 and figure 1). Six of these blocks are in the Russian part of the Barents Sea (ICES area Ib), on the Murman Rise. The remaining blocks are in Norwegian waters (ICES area IIa2), mostly around the Lofoten and Tromsø. West of Trondheim the combination of other sea uses results in only a few remaining OWE blocks.  

Table 1. Main characteristics of the remaining blocks with potential for developing (floating) offshore wind energy parks in the Norwegian Sea and Barents Sea, based on the first round of assessments within ‘SeaBasin Checkpoints – lot Arctic’.

ICES area No. OWE blocks Mean distance to port (km) Mean water depth (m) Mean wind speed (m/s) Area (km2)
Ib 6 238 179 8.2 1553
IIa2 118 203 272 8.4 29969

Map area wind energy parks figure 1
Figure 1: Map showing the area with potential for developing (floating) offshore wind energy parks in the Norwegian Sea and Barents Sea, based on the first round of assessments within ‘SeaBasin Checkpoints – lot Arctic’. Also shown are human settlements that may play a role in this development.

More details on the approach and detailed results can be found here:

Results of phase II

The Arctic Checkpoint – Wind Farm Siting project derived its data sets predominantly from sources outside EMODnet. This is mostly due to the fact that the study area is located outside the focal area of EMODnet, and is therefore not covered. This situation may change in the future as the Arctic has been recognised as an area where more attention from the European Union, and therefore also from EMODnet, is warranted. The main dataset for this challenge, the wind resource, was available from Copernicus and thus from an EU-related source.
Two ecosystem-related data layers that were included in the plans could not be included. No data sets were found that could be used as a reliable basis for 1) bird migration routes and 2) sea mammal migration routes. This should be labelled as an identified data gap. It is however not necessarily a data gap that is specific to the Arctic. Such maps/data sets are also not be available for e.g. the North Sea.


Problems and gaps

The data sets that were used are available on the internet, but these should be easier to find and more readily available. Discoverability is often low.

Lessons learned
The final results suggest that with the available data an adequate assessment can be made on the potential development of offshore wind parks in the Norwegian Sea and Barents Sea.

Offshore development of wind energy in this region will have to rely on floating turbine technology. This technology may need several more years to mature sufficiently before successful deployment in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters. For an in-depth assessment of the economics of an offshore wind farm, specific information will be needed regarding the technology used for determining moorings and assessing geophysical conditions on and in the seabed.

For the next round of assessments, a smaller and more detailed block size for the OWE-analysis could be used. This could result in less area being excluded due to other users and/or ecosystem concerns. The wind resource data, at a resolution of 0.25 degrees, was not detailed enough to more precisely define geographical boundaries for development. However as this resource is mostly changing gradually in a repeated assessment a smaller block size can be used.

Now that the three most promising areas are identified, the possibility exists that more suitable data sets can be found. Data sets that do not cover all of the original study areas, but do cover at least one or two areas can be used, although preferably all three areas would be included in one dataset.

References and Links: