Energinet launches offshore environmental studies at the energy islands

Energinet has awarded the assignment of conducting environmental studies of the energy islands to Niras and Rambøll. Until 2024, they will, among other activities, map and study marine mammals, fish stocks and bird life at different times of the year.

Energinet launches offshore environmental studies at the energy islands
Photo: Energinet

Niras will conduct environmental studies at the coming North Sea energy island approximately 80 kilometres off the western coast of Jutland, while Rambøll will perform the same studies in the Baltic Sea, where the offshore wind turbines will operate approximately 20 kilometres off the southern coast of Bornholm. The contract was awarded to Niras and Rambøll following a call for tenders. 

Hanne Storm Edlefsen, Vice President for Energy Islands in Energinet, says: 

“Renewable energy from wind turbines in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea is to help Danes and Europeans use energy without damaging the climate in the long term. But it’s vital that the green transition goes hand in hand with protection of nature and wildlife. Therefore, I’m pleased that Niras and Rambøll can now commence the very extensive offshore environmental studies at the energy islands.”  

Concurrently with Energinet having awarded the assignments regarding environmental studies, ships in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea are already in the process of mapping sea depths, objects on the seabed and the geological layers under the seabed. 

Data from the geophysical investigations will be used when wind turbines, cables, etc. are to be constructed in a technically sustainable manner. However, the data will also be included as background data for the environmental studies to the greatest possible extent. 

The construction of the energy islands (wind farms, power cables on the seabed, electrical installations, etc.) is subject to the Danish Environmental Assessment Act.  The actual artificial island in the North Sea will also have its own construction act (‘Bill on Planning and Construction of an Energy Island in the North Sea’). A consultation procedure for the Bill is in process until 18 August 2021. 

The authorities responsible must perform an environmental impact assessment of both ‘plans and programmes’ (energy islands as an overall, politically decided plan) as well as of the specific construction projects which subsequently realise the plan (for example onshore electrical installations or power cables to other countries).

The Danish Energy Agency is the authority responsible for the environmental impact assessment of the plans for the energy islands. The overall assignment awarded to Niras and Rambøll includes the preparation of a draft report in accordance with the provisions of the Danish Environmental Assessment Act, which the Danish Energy Agency will use in its environmental impact assessment of the plans for the energy islands. The data for this report will primarily consist of existing data. 

Data and reports from the new environmental studies to be conducted by Niras and Rambøll will primarily be used as part of the authorities’ environmental impact assessment of the energy islands later in the process regarding specific construction projects. This will be done by the winners of the call for tenders for offshore wind farms using data from the environmental studies in the environmental impact assessment reports which the developers must prepare for the individual construction projects and submit to the public authorities for approval.

In autumn 2021, the Danish Energy Agency initiated the first consultations in connection with the environmental impact assessment of plans for the energy islands. The consultation procedure for North Sea Energy Island will commence at the end of August and for Baltic Sea Energy Island at the beginning of October. Both consultations will take five weeks.