Energy multi-use parks where wave- and offshore solar energy is integrated in offshore wind parks can mitigate the current climate, energy, and biodiversity crises. Making use of renewable energy sources, the electricity produced is carbon-free. By generating energy locally off the coast, energy independence and security can also be increased. Furthermore, other uses such as aquaculture and nature can be included in energy multi-use parks, too. However, there are still some challenges when it comes to such offshore parks. To promote the dialogue between different stakeholders, learn about needs and concerns, and to identify win-win situations, the Dutch Marine Energy Centre (DMEC) and the EU-SCORES project organised a two-day stakeholder engagement event on energy multi-use parks on 24 & 25 January 2023 at the Marine Energy Hub in The Hague.
On the first day of the event, representatives from the European Commission and five Member States involved in the EU-SCORES project (Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, and the Netherlands) met during a policy summit. Together with representatives from the offshore energy sector, they discussed topics ranging from the effect of energy multi-use on the energy system and marine spatial planning to permitting and tender processes in the different countries. During the second day, different stakeholder groups came together, including offshore energy industries, nature organisations, aquaculture & fisheries, and ports and security. Lively and constructive discussions about the different perspectives on energy multi-use within and between stakeholder groups took place during the entire day. While controversial questions were discussed, all stakeholders saw win-win situations and articulated their interest in continuing the intensive exchange on the project. To facilitate this beyond in-person events, the participants suggested to advertise and strengthen existing collaboration platforms, such as the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC), the eMSP project and the EU Sustainable Blue Economy Partnership.
The Netherlands as a front-runner
During both days, the necessity of energy multi-use for a successful energy transition was highlighted, not only due to its grid balancing characteristic but in general to achieve the Netherlands’ 70 GW target of offshore energy by 2050.
The wind park tenders for Hollandse Kust West have shown that the Netherlands are at the forefront of including multiple aspects like ecology and system integration in their tenders. Area Passports which specify different uses in wind farms post-tender are a good example of how energy multi-use can be implemented in wind parks that have already been tendered. Many participants showed high interest in the Netherlands’ practices and articulated that they will consider similar systems for their countries.
Win-wins of energy multi-use parks
The North Sea offers a lot of potential for the blue economy and natural development. Being already one of the busiest seas worldwide, it is very important to use the space in the North Sea as efficiently as possible. By including wave- and offshore solar energy in wind parks, the electricity generated at the same area can be more than doubled. Since less space will be needed for energy generation, this leaves more areas for other uses such as nature, leisure and fishing. Also, energy multi-use parks have a more balanced energy profile than wind-only since the combination of energy sources results in a smoother power output. This contributes to energy security which is important for political stability while also improving the business case of offshore wind parks. Opportunities also arise from a safety and security perspective: when integrating other renewable energy sources in wind parks, monitoring becomes easier compared to a non-integrated deployment because the same infrastructure can be used. Multi-use parks can also offer potential for natural development at offshore installations, for example, for oysters and artificial reefs that could attract species and contribute to biodiversity. Business opportunities can also arise for aquaculture and fishery (passive fishery) which could take place in between the wind turbines and which can potentially use the electricity generated right next to it, providing financial benefits. The development of energy multi-use parks can stimulate the local supply chain, create jobs and benefit local communities when they are involved in the process.
Needs that should be addressed
A need that all stakeholder groups mentioned is the importance of stable political leadership and a vision including clear roadmaps on how to achieve the energy transition goals. Furthermore, developers face complicated and lengthy administrative procedures that include a multitude of permits from different departments, which they experience as a hurdle for deploying and scaling-up marine energy technologies. The introduction of a one-stop shop where all permits and administrative processes are bundled could overcome this. There is also still a lack of knowledge regarding the combination of different offshore energy technologies and the effects of scaling them up, for instance, on nature. Other aspects that need to be investigated in more depth are the opportunities for natural development within energy multi-use parks and whether this nature is “significant” to contribute to the weakened ecosystem in the North Sea. This requires long-term interdisciplinary research, cross-country collaborations, and joint data gathering and sharing to spark cross-learning.
The EU-SCORES project, in the context of which the stakeholder events took place, is working on filling these gaps in knowledge. By investigating the technical and economic feasibility of energy multi-use projects, the potential for scale-up, and impacts on the environment, EU-SCORES can contribute to closing some of the research gaps of today. Engaging with its stakeholders is a key priority on that journey.
For more information, please contact Benjamin Lehner via email@example.com.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101036457.