The plans for offshore wind: 100-meter towers, barely visible from the coast...

When, in a few years, the first wind turbines are installed to produce offshore wind powerthe posts should have about 100 meters high -and 140 meters in Canary Islands waters- and be located in areas where the depth of the water is less than a thousand meters. Depending on your location, they will be far from the coast between a minimum of 1,850 meters and a maximum of 31.5 kilometers, but its promoters must guarantee in the projects that will be submitted to the authorities for evaluation that the mills are seen as little as possible from the beaches.

These are some of the details that appear in the royal decree published this Saturday by the BOE on the Management Plans for Marine Spaces (POEM), which as a great novelty provide for the location of offshore wind farms. For Commercial usecan only be developed within 19 areas of a total of 5,000 square kilometers, but the offshore wind power of “experimental” type It may be located in the 28 square kilometers reserved for R+D+i use, in the Canary Islands (20.5 km2) and North Atlantic (5.3km2) demarcations. In addition to windmills, offshore wind also contemplates the laying of evacuation cables and possible electrical substations, for which the Ministry of Ecological Transition asks to “facilitate their passage” to other permitted uses.

Graphic: offshore wind power off the Spanish coast.
Henar de Pedro

Four days after its approval by the Council of Ministers, the BOE publishes the royal decree where the Ministry of Ecological Transition details the uses that the different areas will have in the five marine demarcations. Except in the one of Strait, in which the priority use for National Defenseexcludes the possibility of putting wind turbines, in the other four the department that directs Teresa Ribera He trusts that he has found a balance that was not easy to achieve between opposing interests to determine in which areas wind turbines can be placed to produce electricity for commercial purposes. In total and without prejudging that it is fully occupied, it will be allowed in a 0.46% of the million square meters that has the space covered by the POEMs that run along the 10,000 kilometers of coastline Spanish. However, according to the royal decree, there may be wind power outside these areas, also in those intended for the use of R+D+i, as long as it has a “merely experimental purpose”.

According to the royal decree, the 19 areas of high potential for offshore wind energy (ZAPER) have been located in places where the wind speed is greater than 7.5 meters per second at a height of 100 meters, although in the Canary Islands it is 140 meters. The depth of the waters may not exceed a thousand meters and must be near places on earth equipped with infrastructures that allow the evacuation of electricity produced by marine plants.

Wind turbines in the sea.

With these requirements, the Ministry indicates in detail the distance from the coast to which the wind turbines may be located in each of the 19 zones, something that was agreed -or at least attempted- with all the interested parties, from sectors such as the fishing or tourismand particularly with the aforementioned regional governments.

So, the nearest wind turbines to the coast they will be at 1,850 meters and in the demarcation of the Canary Islands, where there are four other areas in which they will be at a maximum distance of six kilometers from the beaches. In the two areas of the Estrecho-Alborán demarcation -between the eastern coast of Cádiz and Almería- the mills will be at 7,500 and 13,600 meters from the coast and in the Levantino-Balearic demarcation there will be three areas for offshore wind where the wind turbines they will be at a distance of between 5,000 and 12,000 meters from the coast.

The demarcation with more zones and more dimensions reserved for offshore wind power is the Noratlántica -on the coast of Galicia, to Asturias– and there the Ministry has agreed on the greater distances to the coast, not only with the Xunta, but with the fishermen’s associations that, even after years of consultations and after the Ministry has assumed a good part of their demands, have welcomed the approval of the POEMs with protests from the fishing sector. In this demarcation there are eight areas where offshore wind power can be installed and the closest distance between the wind turbines and the coast will be 14,500 meters, although most will be more than 20,000 and will reach up to 31.5 kilometers.

Small and inconspicuous

Once these basic criteria have been established, projects to build offshore wind farms must have a positive environmental impact assessment -they will not be able to use the express way planned by the Government because marine projects are excluded – and to overcome it they must comply with a series of criteria, among them that wind farms “they will occupy the least marine space possible” within the areas permitted for this use and ensure that they originate “the less visual impact possible from land, both from protected areas and well-established tourist or residential areas, as well as assets of cultural interest (BIC) located on the coast”. To do this, they must submit an “impact study and landscape integration” that includes “potential coastal, littoral and marine observers”.

In addition, they must document the noise levels caused by wind turbines, how they can affect marine fauna and bird species and an analysis of the fishing activity in the area. As with other uses, offshore wind power will not be exclusive in the 19 areas where its development will be allowed and the promoters must “prioritize” their coexistence with fishing, especially with traditional arts and crafts. They must also identify what type of vessels could navigate “within the space occupied by a wind farm”, since these have been banned, in addition to in National Defense and biodiversity zones, in areas that are of priority use for security in the navegation.

In addition to an area where floating or ground-anchored wind turbines can be installed, another element of a wind farm is the energy evacuation channel that they produce, that is, the way to make it reach the electrical network on dry land. This is one of the reasons why the Ministry has ensured that they are all the closest to the coast that has been possible and the wiring and possible electrical substations will exceed the areas of use of wind energy to try to reach the coast occupying “the least marine space possible”, using already existing wiring routes and taking care not to go through areas of I fish for cultural heritage. If these requirements on evacuation routes are not met, the promoter must submit alternative methods. Even with everything, the royal decree indicates that the competent administrations must ensure that no activity coexisting with offshore wind “may put at risk” its development” and “facilitate the passage of electricity evacuation routes” on its way from the wind farm to the mainland.

There will be no auctions yet

In any case, there is still time until these parks become a reality. The recently approved POEMs are valid for six years before being reviewed and the Ministry does not expect to inaugurate any wind farms within this period. Neither does the sector. The Association of Wind Power Companies (EEE) estimates a term until 2029-2030, as long as the Ministry accelerates to gain all the time that has been consumed in an elaboration of management plans that has taken two years longer than expected.

In addition, within the Ministry, the POEM will now pass from the baton of the Secretary of State for the Environment, to that of Energy, which will have to deploy all the regulatory development to determine how the auctions will be carried out or what remuneration regime will have offshore wind. Ribera department sources They ruled out a few days ago that this year offshore wind auctions can begin to be held now.

Ribera and the Galician fishermen

Meanwhile, the third vice president, Teresa Riberahas occupied a good part of the first days after the approval of the POEMs to appease the wrath of the fishermenparticularly of Galiciawhere this activity is particularly important and where the brotherhoods have already managed to reduce and eliminate areas and move future wind farms away from the coast much more than in other demarcations.

Given the discontent that has generated among the fishermen the possibility of seeing forced to reduce their activity for the wind farms, Ribera has not ruled out that the Government allocate some type of compensation for the affected fishing sector.

“It is important to recognize that there is a change of uses that prevents any activity from being carried out and that this requires some compensation”, he said this Sunday in an interview on Cadena Ser in Santiago de Compostela. Last Friday he was in Ferrol, where he was insisted on these compensations. At the moment without detailing, they are aligned with the reflection that the Government seems to be making on grant aid or benefits to territories -or sectors, as is the case- neighbors of the renewable energy parks. “Giving aid where fishing is more difficult or cannot be done, it seems coming from“, has valued the president of the Xunta, Alfonso Rueda.

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Deborah Acker

I write epic fantasy; self-published via KDP. Devoted dog mom to my 10 yr old GSD, Shadow! DM not a priority; slow response at best #amwriting #author.

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