The Ministry of Economic Affairs has published the draft site decisions for Borssele I and Borssele II for consultation, setting out the conditions for the construction and exploitation of offshore wind parks. Beside the draft site decisions, also the environmental impact assessment (milieueffectrapportage or MER) and memorandum of scope and level of detail (notitie reikwijdte en detailniveau) were published.
The Offshore Wind Energy Act is the legal basis for site decisions in relation to the parts of the wind areas designated in the National Water Plan and the Structure Vision Offshore Wind where wind parks may be built. In May 2015 a draft site decision for Borssele II was published for consultation, which was described in one of our previous updates on offshore wind legislation. The decisions now have been supplemented with new information that has become available over the last few months. In this newsflash we will focus on the new elements of the draft site decisions and the conditions attached thereto.
The draft site decisions
The draft site decisions themselves are brief, one page decisions issued by the Ministers of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure and Environment, designating site Borssele I and site Borssele II as locations for the development of wind parks, each with a capacity between 342-380 MW, determining the exact coordinates of the two sites, as well as the coordinates for the boundaries of the route for the connection. The draft site decisions furthermore determine that the natural characteristics of the sites (within the meaning of article 19g sub 1 Nature Protection Act 1998) shall not be affected by the site decisions and that the development of the wind parks is exempted from the prohibitions of article 9 and 11 of the Flora and Fauna Act.
Attached to the site decision are a number of preconditions for the development and operation of the wind parks (in the form of 7 Regulations) in relation to key aspects of the wind parks and ecological interests. These Regulations will be addressed in more detail below.
The draft site decisions furthermore contain an extensive explanatory section that elaborates on the legislative origin and legislative drafting procedure, the features of the sites, the environmental impact assessment, an evaluation of interests of the different designated uses of the area and the ecology.
Regulation 1 - Definitions
The first regulation constitutes an enumeration of the used definitions.
Regulation 2 - Wind park and ranges
This regulation contains the geographical coordinates of the wind park site, the planned route for the connection cable to the platform Borssele Alpha and - for the site Borssele I - of the areas in which no turbines can be erected due to maintenance zones. Furthermore, Regulation 2 provides the following requirements with regard to the turbines:
- maximum number of the turbines is 95
- maximum blade surface is 1,346,157 m2
- minimum blade surface is 921,055 m2
- minimum tip height is 25 m
- maximum tip height is 250 meters
The allowed foundations methods are monopole, tripod, jacket, gravity based and suction bucket. If the permit holder wishes to use another foundation method, it will have to determine the environmental effects of such foundation, which shall be submitted to the Minister of Economic Affairs for approval. Furthermore, the permit holder shall have to make a demonstrable effort to design the wind park in such manner that the park shall contribute to the strengthening of a healthy sea and to a sustainable preservation of species and habitats. To achieve this goal, the permit holder has to submit an action plan to the Minister of Economic Affairs 8 weeks before the start of construction.
Regulation 3 - The permit
The term of the permit was amended from 27 years (in the pervious draft site decision for site II) to 30 years. The operation period may start as of the third year and last until year 29, whereas decommissioning may start as from year 25 and has to be completed in year 30.
Regulation 4 - Mitigation measures
The draft site decisions include a number of mitigation measures to avoid negative effects on birds, fish, porpoises and seals. The following four categories of mitigation measures can be distinguished:
- measures to avoid permanent physical effects on porpoises and seals and to avoid fish mortality, including the use of an acoustic deterrent device 30 minutes prior to the start of, and during, pile driving and a 'soft start' of pile driving that allows porpoises to swim to a safer area. Ultimately 8 weeks prior to the start of pile driving, the permit holder shall submit an action plan for pile driving for approval to the Minister of Economic Affairs, addressing its choice for a particular type of acoustic deterrent device and the efficiency of such device and the duration and power of the soft start.
- measures to avoid disturbance of porpoises, seals and fish (noise limits), including under water noise limits for pile driving, continuous measurement of noise levels during pile driving (noise measurements can only be reduced with the written consent of the Minister) and the prompt submission of the measurement data to the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The permit holder is obliged to comply with the abovementioned action plan for pile driving and shall endeavor to limit under water noise and keep uninterrupted periods of under water noise as short as possible.
- measures to reduce bird-wind turbine collisions during mass bird migration by reducing the rotation speed of the turbine blades and the implementation of a bird migration monitoring system. Ultimately 8 weeks prior to the start of construction, the permit holder shall submit a plan for approval to the Minister of Economic Affairs, addressing the envisaged monitoring system and the transect used to determine bird density during the migration. The permit holder is required to inform the Ministry each year, on 1 July and 1 January, of the manner in which it has implemented these measures.
- measures to avoid bat-wind turbine collisions, including restrictions regarding the cut-in speed of the turbines during certain periods and the rotation of the rotor blades in case of a lower wind speed. The permit holder shall submit a report to the Minister of Economic Affairs within two months after the migration period of the bats with the records of measures taken.
Regulation 5 - Monitoring and evaluation program
The permit holder has to collaborate, without any financial compensation, with the monitoring and evaluation program, meaning that it shall give access to the park and allow the installation of monitoring equipment. The program will be initiated by the Minister of Economic Affairs and the results of the program shall be made publicly available.
Regulation 6 - Decommissioning
The wind park has to be decommissioned within two years after the operation has ceased.
Regulation 7 - Financial Guarantee
Prior to the start of construction the permit holder has to provide a financial guarantee in the amount of EUR 120,000 for each MW of capacity. This financial guarantee has to be increased by 2%, each year until decommissioning.
Please find below, the links to the site decisions, environmental impact assessments and the Memorandum of scope and level of detail.
The above is intended to provide an overview of most important amendments of the draft site decisions and is not intended to be a complete enumeration of changes.
Interested parties are invited to file their views until 17 September 2015. The final site decisions are scheduled to be published in November 2015, just before the tenders open in December. In order to ensure that the sites will remain available for the envisaged wind parks until the site decisions have become final and irrevocable, preparatory site decisions, blocking other uses for the designated areas, for all four Borssele sites were published on 14 July 2015.