Experts advising the Isle of Man Government on offshore wind energy development have described how developers in the UK and overseas take measures to protect the marine environment.
The Government is seeking bids from developers wishing to generate wind and tidal energy for export. A tender process is under way.
The move, outlined in the Government’s Vision 2020 and approved by Tynwald, will not only generate renewable energy but will yield valuable income for the Island as it seeks to rebalance its budget. In addition to the leases, which would represent a £5 million boost to the Island’s economy, it’s expected that jobs would be created onshore, too.
However, in leasing areas of the seabed to operators, the Government Departments working on the project – Economic Development (DED), Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA), Infrastructure (DoI) and the Treasury – are committed to minimising any impact on the environment.
Cathryn Hooper and Andrew Prior, of Source Low Carbon, the consultants advising the Government on offshore wind energy leasing opportunities, addressed a meeting of the Manx Nature Conservation Forum last week.
The forum comprises representatives of more than 20 organisations with an interest in the countryside and the environment.
The speakers praised the Manx Marine Environmental Assessment (MMEA), a technical report on Manx territorial seas, drawn up by Government Departments, utilities, scientists, commercial sea users and independent bodies, that covers aspects such as hydrology, geology and the marine and bird life in Manx seas as well as mines and minerals and the infrastructure present there – cables and pipelines.
The MMEA provides a detailed description of the current state of the Manx marine environment and will provide a baseline to inform the thorough environmental impact assessments that will need to be carried out by the selected developer before a wind farm can be built.
The document, which can be found at www.gov.im/marineassessment, will be a major tool in assisting the Government and developers to balance economic development with protecting the environment.
Source Low Carbon – which specialises in offshore wind and tidal energy development – told the meeting at the iMuseum in Douglas that wind farms off the UK and Denmark have been constructed in a way to minimise impacts on birds, marine mammals and fish.
Richard Ronan MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, pledged that in implementing offshore energy plans, the Government would take the necessary measures to protect the environment.
He told the meeting: ‘Wind power is potentially a win-win for the economy and the environment. The development of offshore wind generation in Manx waters should enable the Island to benefit financially from renewables, thereby assisting in balancing the budget while making a contribution towards more sustainable energy generation in recognition of climate change issues.
‘The Department therefore supports appropriate offshore wind generation, where the issues to be outlined tonight are taken into account. The challenge for DEFA is to ensure that, in the drive to progress offshore renewable energy, the quality and diversity of the Isle of Man’s marine habitats, fisheries and natural features are maintained and, where possible, enhanced.’