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Jun 29, 2023 Projects

EU's Nature Restoration Law and Wind Energy Expansion: A Synergistic Approach

The European Union (EU) is taking decisive steps towards restoring Europe's natural ecosystems through the Nature Restoration Law. Proposed by the European Commission, this legislation aims to establish binding restoration targets for specific habitats and species. By 2050, the EU envisions restoring 30% of its degraded areas, with a long-term goal of revitalising all ecosystems in need of attention. WindEurope, a prominent industry association, wholeheartedly supports this ambitious target, emphasising the compatibility and mutual benefits of nature restoration and wind energy expansion.

Contrary to certain political groups' claims, such as the European People's Party (EPP), which have suggested an inherent conflict between nature restoration and the energy transition, this argument is fundamentally flawed. Wind energy and nature restoration are synergistic endeavours.

Climate protection plays a crucial role in safeguarding biodiversity, with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) highlighting the interconnectedness of biodiversity loss and climate change as "two sides of the same coin." Wind energy emerges as a pivotal technology in climate protection due to its clean, abundant, and renewable nature. In 2022 alone, wind energy saved 138 million tonnes of CO2 in Europe, with the EU aiming to increase this figure to 270 million tonnes by 2030—equivalent to Spain's annual CO2 emissions.

Moreover, the environmental impact of producing and installing modern wind turbines is swiftly offset. Within a mere six months of operation for onshore wind turbines and less than a year for offshore wind turbines, the carbon emissions generated during their manufacturing are compensated. Additionally, wind energy emits no nitric oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), or particulate matter, and its water footprint is negligible.

The wind industry is continually striving to mitigate its impact on nature and biodiversity while maximising positive contributions. For instance, wind farms are thoughtfully designed and avoid construction during bird nesting seasons or along major migratory routes. To reduce noise pollution affecting marine life, innovative methods such as air bubble curtains and hydro sound dampers are employed when installing offshore wind farms.

Collaboration with local authorities and bird specialists enables the wind industry to enhance its understanding of vulnerable species. Through careful planning and siting, efforts are made to prevent and minimise wind farms' impact on these species. Decoy systems and radar-based detection systems are employed to halt rotor operation when birds or bats approach the turbines. Detailed studies are also conducted to better comprehend the industry's influence on local biodiversity, including bird populations and fish stocks.

Interestingly, wind farms can even have positive effects on local biodiversity by contributing to the preservation of habitats and ecosystems. Once wind farms are established, the sites remain undisturbed for extended periods, promoting ecosystem regeneration. In offshore wind farms, activities like bottom trawling and dredging are prohibited, allowing the seabed to recover and fish stocks to replenish. The turbine foundations also foster the growth of mollusks, further supporting marine life. Wind farm operators proactively create new and improved biotopes for local flora and fauna through targeted compensation measures.

In collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), wind farm developers are exploring innovative approaches to amplify positive biodiversity impacts. Ørsted, in partnership with WWF Denmark, is investigating the potential of artificial reefs to protect endangered oyster species. Additionally, efforts are underway to provide corals with new habitats within offshore wind farms. 

Vattenfall is deploying artificial boulder reefs to enhance coastal protection and marine biodiversity, while also exploring sustainable kelp and mussel farming. Furthermore, the wind industry, in collaboration with the Dutch North Seas Foundation, is pioneering oyster farming within wind farms.

In conclusion, the EU's Nature Restoration Law, a crucial component of the EU's Green Deal, has garnered the support of WindEurope. Restoring 30% of the EU's degraded areas is an ambitious target that aligns harmoniously with the expansion of wind energy. Climate protection and biodiversity preservation are intrinsically connected, with wind energy playing a pivotal role in both realms. 

The wind industry is actively working to minimise its impact on nature and biodiversity while maximising positive contributions, creating a balanced approach towards sustainable development.

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