Danes Launch New Offshore Wind Environmental Assessment Approach

The Danish Energy Agency (DEA) has decided that a Strategic Environmental Assessment must be completed prior to submission of final bids for the Thor offshore wind farm.

In addition to this, comprehensive environmental assessments are still to be carried out prior to final bids. Later, the winner of the concession will have to carry out the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the concrete project.

The Danish Energy Appeal Board decision of 20 December 2018 concerning Vesterhav Syd offshore wind farm has resulted in an adjustment of the approach for undertaking environmental assessments for the Thor offshore wind farm project, in order to ensure a legally appropriate process for environmental assessments and permitting, the agency said.

From now on, DEA will be using an approach based on a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) prior to final bids of the plan for the offshore wind farm in line with the Executive Order on environmental assessment of plans, programmes, and specific projects. The plan to be assessed consists of the political decisions regarding the Thor offshore wind farm project, namely, the Energy Agreement 2018 and related decision concerning the tender (the selected site, capacity of the wind farm in MW, and the decision to include the grid connection in tender). At the operational level, Energinet will be responsible for carrying out the SEA-process by order from DEA.

In addition to the SEA, Energinet will also carry out a range of environmental assessments as has been practiced previously. The purpose of these additional assessments is to provide critical data for as much risk-mitigation as possible for the Thor offshore wind site. These additional assessments focus on bird surveys, safety of navigation, radio links and radar, fisheries, marine archaeology, noise, and cumulative impacts.

After the deadline for bidding, the concession winner will carry out the EIA of the project at sea – i.e. wind farm, offshore substation and export cables forward to the landfall. In addition to this, Energinet will undertake the EIA of the concrete project on land, that is, from the landfall and onwards to the onshore substations, the onshore substations themselves as well as onwards to the 400kV transmission grid at Idomlund. The Environmental Protection Agency is the responsible authority for the project on land.

Not until the EIA of the concrete project has been carried out and approved, will it be possible to grant the licence for construction, which is the environmental permit for the project. Prior to the launch of the EIA, a hearing of the public and relevant authorities will be carried out on the scope and content of the EIA report will be carried out. There will also be a hearing of the public and relevant authorities, when the EIA report and a draft licence for construction have been drafted. Only hereafter will it be possible to make the final approval about whether a licence for construction can be granted. There will be a four-week time limit for complaints after granting the licence.

DEA will hold a first information meeting with local citizens and stakeholders on the process for environmental assessments for Thor offshore wind farm in the first quarter of 2020. This meeting will have a focus on the SEA of the overall project as well as on the EIA of the onshore project. The process for the SEA of Thor offshore wind farm is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2021, while the EIA-process for the onshore project is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2021.