Inspection and enforcement
Offshore wind farms are subject to requirements. These are safety (and other) requirements in and around the wind farm during construction and use of a wind farm and requirements aimed at mitigating its impact on marine life where possible. Inspection and enforcement are necessary to confirm that the requirements are being complied with and, where necessary, to give information and advice or to intervene. Better compliance with legislation and other rules is beneficial to both water quality and offshore safety.
Monitoring and inspection
The Enforcement unit of Rijkswaterstaat Zee en Delta (RWS ZD) is the competent authority in respect of monitoring for the design, construction, operation and the subsequent dismantling of offshore wind farms and grids.
Inspection starts as soon as the owners of wind farms start construction on the wind farm in question. The RWS ZD Enforcement unit holds information meetings, carries out inspections and assesses work plans drawn up by the operators of wind farms and the electricity grid operator, TenneT. Work plans may include descriptions of how the transmission cables are laid in the seabed, how the wind turbines and platforms are built and installed or how they are lit. Rijkswaterstaat involves SodM in the assessment of the work plans and also solicits advice from relevant regulatory bodies for the North Sea, such as the Dutch coast guard and the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate. Draft versions of these plans are subjected to critical evaluation at an early stage, so that any errors in the data or defects in the plans can be remedied in good time. The Enforcement unit uses this to assess whether the requirements are compliant with the Water Decree and the permit under the terms of the Water Act. But also to evaluate whether the specific requirements of the Site Decision have been met. These involve, for example, the protection of birds, bats, underwater life and archaeological finds.
The constituent parts of the wind farms are produced in factories. Together with SodM, the Enforcement unit inspects whether work there is carried out in accordance with the regulations. At the time of actual construction on site, inspections are carried out by vessels or aircraft deployed by the Coast Guard. For instance, inspections look at whether the required measures are being taken to mitigate disturbance to marine mammals caused by underwater noise from pile driving. Inspections also assess whether vessels and fellow users are respecting the safety zones. SodM combines offshore inspections with inspections relating to health and safety regulations. In this way, government agencies can assess whether measures relating to employees' health and safety are being observed during the work.
Management and maintenance
As soon as a wind farm is in use, the RWS ZD Enforcement unit inspects management and maintenance. There are requirements that must be reviewed in that respect, too. This involves looking at aspects such as whether the wind farm owner's administration shows that maintenance is organised properly, and whether work is focused on prevention and the potential for incidents is taken sufficiently seriously.
Where breaches are identified during monitoring and inspection, the RWS ZD Enforcement unit is entitled to intervene with administrative, regulatory and legal means (or sanctions). This may occur in any of the various phases of the service life of a wind farm, from preparation to construction, operation and the subsequent dismantling; when a wind farm is dismantled, Rijkswaterstaat also has a role to play in terms of inspection and law enforcement. In addition to RWS ZD, SodM and the Coast Guard are also mandated to intervene where offshore inspections make immediate action necessary.