EU-SCORES: Win-wins of offshore energy multi-use parks

The Dutch Marine Energy Centre (DMEC) and the EU-SCORES project partners have recently held a two-day stakeholder engagement event on energy multi-use parks at the Marine Energy Hub in the Hague, spotlighting the benefits of combining different offshore renewable energy sources at one site.

EU-SCORES: Combining offshore wind with offshore solar energy (Courtesy of Oceans of Energy)
EU-SCORES Stakeholder Event (Courtesy of DMEC)
EU-SCORES Stakeholder Event (Courtesy of DMEC)

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, according to EU-SCORES project – an EU-backed €45 million project involving leading companies and research institutions across Europe.

Short for European Scalable Offshore Renewable Energy Sources, the EU-SCORES project consortium will work together to showcase the benefits of multi-source offshore parks across Europe by 2025, paving the way for similar bankable projects in the future.

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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.

Therefore, EU-SCORES stakeholders came together at the end of January 2023, to promote the dialogue between project stakeholders, learn about needs and concerns, and to identify win-win situations.

Stakeholder perspectives

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 organizations, aquaculture and 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

EU-SCORES: Combining offshore wind with offshore solar energy (Courtesy of Oceans of Energy)
EU-SCORES: Combining offshore wind with offshore solar energy (Courtesy of Oceans of Energy)

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’ 70GW 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, according to EU-SCORES project.

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, the project partners noted.

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, according to EU-SCORES.

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 expects to contribute to closing some of the research gaps of today.

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