Offshore Wind Ecological Programme (Wozep)
In 2016, a five-year research programme was launched to study the knowledge gaps in the ecological effects of offshore wind energy. This research programme will be managed by the Central Government and amongst other things will study the assumptions that were made in the Ecology and Cumulation Framework (KEC). We call this research programme the ‘The Dutch governmental offshore wind ecological programme’, and its Dutch abbreviation is Wozep (‘Windenergie op zee ecologisch programma’).
The construction and operation of the wind farms on the Dutch North Sea were preceded and accompanied by monitoring and research. For each individual wind farm, a monitoring and evaluation programme was implemented to examine the effects on the ecology and nature of the North Sea. The initiator of the permit was responsible for the research. The knowledge gathered from these research programmes for existing wind farms was used to create an initial model estimate of the net effect of all existing and planned wind farms on the North Sea up to 2023 on explicitly protected bird and marine mammal species in the Bird and Habitat Directive (EU). This Ecology and Cumulation Framework (KEC) was commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and developed by Rijkswaterstaat in cooperation with scientific partners.
However, the use of insufficiently validated model estimates due to a lack of knowledge has resulted in uncertainties about the predictability of being able to build all those offshore wind farms in an ecologically ‘safe’ way. Further research is therefore urgently necessary. Now that 10 wind farms must be realised in a short time, the search has begun for an approach that is better suited to research the (cumulative) effects of offshore wind energy on the ecosystem and the mechanism behind it. In contrast to the past, the Government is now directly managing these follow-up studies. The aim of this policy change is to conduct more efficient research and obtain more relevant information that can be applied more directly. The Ministry of Economic Affairs has therefore commissioned Rijkswaterstaat to develop and implement a new monitoring and research programme during the period 2016-2021. The new knowledge about the (cumulative) effects of offshore wind farms will be used immediately, for instance to reduce uncertainties in the KEC results. We have called this new programme the ‘Dutch governmental offshore wind ecological programme’, which has the Dutch abbreviation Wozep.
Activities in 2016
In the start-up year of 2016, Wozep set up a number of preparatory activities in the context of the specified themes. This mainly involved feasibility studies, possibilities for model-based approaches, the preparation of measurement systems, and surveys of existing knowledge and data. In this process we also take into account of what has been and is being done in the North Sea countries that surround us.
Monitoring and research programme 2017-2021
In late 2016, a long-term monitoring and research programme was completed in which the research lines for the period 2017-2021 were outlined. The client, experts and stakeholders were involved in working out and selecting the research lines. The research lines were selected by making a comparative assessment based on two time horizons:
- Short term (up to 2023): aimed at using the results in the planned wind farms. Here, the emphasis is on the study of the assumptions made during the ecological assessment of these wind farms. In addition, the study also examines the usefulness, necessity and effectiveness of the measures imposed on the wind sector in order to limit ecological damage.
- Long term (after 2023): which knowledge is necessary to ensure that further expansion of offshore wind farms takes place in a responsible way, what are the expected effects of the further expansion of the number of wind farms on the North Sea, where exactly can they be positioned and with which possible consequences, how can negative effects be adequately avoided, etc.
What will Wozep examine?
The main knowledge gaps are in the area of the (cumulative) effects of the construction and use of offshore wind farms on the protected habitats and groups of species (and habitats) of marine mammals (porpoises and two species of seals), marine and coastal birds, migratory land birds, underwater habitats (for seabed fauna and fish) and, surprisingly, bats that migrate across the North Sea.