9 July 2018

Report: Renewable energy projects and species protection

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The Dutch ministries of Economic Affairs and Climate and Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality commissioned this report in order to learn about species protection practices in the other member states.

Read the entire report (pdf): Renewable energy projects and species protection. A comparison into the application of the EU species protection regulation with respect to renewable energy projects in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark and Germany.

Summary

By Chris Backes and Sanne Akerboom

Renewable energy projects, such as offshore and onshore wind and solar farms, including the necessary infrastructure, have an impact on biodiversity. Species can be negatively affected by wind farms and transmission grids and in a lesser extent by solar fields. Birds and bats fly into the blades of wind turbines, and bats may also suffer consequences from the effects of these blades on local air pressure, which can cause barotrauma. Also foraging and breeding species can suffer during the construction phase and operational phase because their landscape, including foraging and breeding places, has changed. 

Due to sustainability targets, such as the share of renewable energy as set by the European Union, renewable energy projects are increasing. In the initial planning phase of renewable energy projects, species protection plays an important role. Migratory routes and foraging and breeding areas for instance, may in part determine the location of a wind farm. If it can be expected that the location of a wind farm may still kill a specimen of species, other mitigation measures can be taken, such us turning down (certain) wind turbines at specific times of the day when birds or bats fly. 

There is an extensive legal framework issued by the European Union to protect species and in this report, we analyse how species protection law is applied in five European member states with regard to such projects. How do other countries interpret the prohibition to kill birds and bats?; are derogations asked for and granted?; How are mitigation measures prescribed and is there are programmatic approach to protect species whilst stimulation renewable energy?

The Dutch ministries of Economic Affairs and Climate and Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality commissioned this report in order to learn about species protection practices in the other member states. United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium and Denmark, all North Sea littoral states, were selected for the comparison with the Netherlands. The study demonstrates that the national law transposing the requirements of the Bird directive and the Habitat directive is very much the same, but that the application of these common legal framework differs dramatically. The researchers have provided recommendations to further develop the EU and national law and policy in order to prevent a clash between renewable energy and species protection and optimally support both policy goals. 

Read the entire report (pdf)