Disagreement on Wind Power- The Battle for the Sea Has Begun

03 April, 2023

The North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia have been singled out for future offshore wind power.

Several authorities have tried to find suitable areas – but different interests are fighting each other.

53 areas, located in the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Gulf of Bothnia, are now identified as suitable for offshore wind power. But there is a caveat, notes the Swedish Energy Agency’s director general Robert Andrén. Nature conservation interests and also defense interests cover large parts of our coastal areas.

Not on Target

This is evident after the Energy Agency together with eight other authorities tried to agree on suitable locations for 120TWh offshore wind power, with the aim of trying to speed up the expansion to meet a growing need for electricity.

In today’s marine plans, there are designated areas that are sufficient for 20–30 TWh of electricity production per year. The authorities’ mission has been to find room for an additional 90 TWh for the new ocean plans to be drawn up by December 2024. Not quite easy, it turns out.

The work is not on target.

“It is not as we had hoped, which was to identify a large number of areas that could meet the condition of 90 TWh and to prioritize clean areas for energy extraction”, says Robert Andrén.

Shipping and Bird Life

At sea, many interests’ conflict with each other.

“A full expansion would have major consequences for shipping,” states the Swedish Maritime Administration on the one hand on its website. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, on the other hand, highlights the birdlife.

Finding these coexistence solutions is not so easy, but there are areas where it is probably possible, says Lena Odeberg, manager at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency who was involved in the work.

In several of the 53 areas that are now identified, it is possible to combine wind power with birdlife to varying extents, she continues.

The shallower and the closer to the coast, the greater the problem for birds.

When it comes to prioritizing one interest over another, Odeberg emphasizes that Sweden has international conventions concerning the protection of species of birds, for example, to be based on.

We must deal with that, as it looks today.

“A Question for Politics”

Who will be given priority, and how will the goal of finding space for the needed wind power be achieved?

The Swedish Energy Agency believes that “priorities and continued work for increased coexistence are required if offshore wind power is to be expanded”.

When there are conflicts of interest and you can’t agree, matters end up on the government’s table, says Robert Andrén.

This is primarily a matter for politics.

The Energy Agency has worked together with the Swedish Power Grid, the Swedish Armed Forces, the Maritime and Water Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Antiquities Authority, the Maritime Administration, the Swedish Agricultural Agency and the Swedish Geological Survey – authorities that are responsible, in some way, for interests that affect the sea.

Anna Karolina Eriksson/TT

Areas identified by the Energy Agency and eight other authorities as suitable locations for 120 TWh of offshore wind power. Grafics: Johan Hallnäs/TT

North Sea: A total of 11 areas are proposed. Challenges: Fairways – 44 percent of the designated areas overlap with the safety distances calculated by the Norwegian Maritime Administration. Commercial fishing is the other major interest in the North Sea which is difficult to avoid influencing. There are also natural values and defense interests and the impact on the cultural environment and outdoor life that overlap.

Baltic Sea: A total of 24 areas are proposed. Challenges: The biggest challenges concern defense interests and natural values. Here there is, among other things, an acutely threatened porpoise population, as well as alfalfa birds, which have some of their most important wintering areas in the world south of Gotland.

Gulf of Bothnia: 18 areas. Conflicts of interest with nature, commercial fishing and defense are generally lower. However, there is winter shipping here, which can be affected by possible wind power. In the west, the area borders the national interest-classified traffic route between Östra Kvarken and the Finnish ports of Kemi and Oulu. Above all, the southern part of the area is at risk of being affected by, for example, sensitive birds of prey, the extensive bird range over the Kvarken.

Source: Reports “Proposals on suitable energy extraction areas for the marine plans”.

Text: Anna Karolina Eriksson/TT/Nyhetsbyrån
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Grafics: Johan Hallnäs/TT

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