ORE in a context of multiple constraints
The need for an integrated and holistic management of the governance of marine ecosystems is clearly identified in various European directives established since the early 2000s. These have been translated at the French level. Offshore renewable energies must therefore be integrated in a context of multiple constraints, which represents a technical, legal, societal and ecological challenge. The ORE sector therefore needs tools that allow a good environmental and socio-economic integration of future projects.
Developing the cumulative impact study and the ecosystem approach
As a result of pressures induced by human activities, some marine ecosystems are reaching a stage beyond which they are undergoing restructuring that may affect their composition or functioning, but also the services they provide. Understanding how ecosystems behave in the face of various cumulative pressures is therefore essential to assess and improve the environmental integration of ORE, and thus prevent the risk of changes in state.
Ecosystem modelling, often used in fisheries management or for the development of marine protected areas, has been adapted for the first time to the development of ORE in a collaborative project completed in 2019 (TROPHIK project). This project has enabled the construction of an ecosystem model integrating the anthropized context and climate change in an area concerned by a future ORE farm. The foundations for studying the cumulative impacts of various human activities on ecosystem functioning were thus laid. This project also enabled the transition from the fragmented vision of the ecosystem, which prevails in current environmental impact studies, to an integrated and functional approach. This approach is described in a report, which was favoured by the industry, on the technical recommendations for the implementation of future offshore wind farms.
The recent launch of DRACCAR, the first French research platform at sea dedicated to offshore wind power, coupled with an innovative R&D programme, will improve the understanding of the interactions between offshore wind power and the environment, the optimisation of the design of wind turbines and allow co-construction of a permanent observation network of the seafronts.
Considering ORE as a component of the socio-ecosystem
Alongside ecological issues, those related to the acceptability of offshore renewable energies, their economic consequences and their interactions with maritime space stakeholders have become crucial. In order to study these aspects, it is important to characterise the existing relationships between the different components of a vast whole called socio-ecosystem. The food web, which is the set of organic matter flows induced by predator-prey interactions, is first modelled in all its complexity, and then interactions with human activities are added. In this way, the development of ORE projects can be considered, while maintaining the integrity and resilience of the marine ecosystem and its functions such as recycling, primary production and secondary production. A R&D project associating natural, human and social sciences is underway on this theme (APPEAL project). It integrates the coupling of ecosystemic, economic and sociological models to produce tools to qualify and quantify the local and global effects of floating offshore wind farms on the functioning of coastal socio-ecosystems.
Predicting accurately and reliably the functioning of socio-ecosystems
To take the socio-ecosystemic approach even further, a new collaborative project is studying the interactions between ORE farms and ecosystem services in order to develop new relevant indicators based on the quantification of organic matter flows (WINDSERV project). To this end, the implementation of a multi-model approach coupling physics and biology will make it possible to describe the functioning of ecosystems in the areas of the future Dunkerque wind farms in the Channel and Leucate wind farms in the Mediterranean. Forcing with a biogeochemical model will then enable an end-to-end approach with an equivalent quality of representation of all trophic levels. These coupled models will then be used to project the evolution of ecosystem services over time by simulating various scenarios. This R&D work is part of a win-win strategy between the development of ORE and the conservation of ecosystems and human well-being.
Analysing the life cycle of commercial farms
Offshore wind farms are a promising option in this respect. However, it is of paramount importance that these projects are sustainably integrated into our environment and our societies. To ensure this, life cycle assessment is an internationally recognised tool. However, there is currently no holistic approach quantifying the sustainability of offshore wind farms. A collaborative project has just started to develop a comprehensive methodological framework for the environmental and societal life cycle assessment of offshore wind farms (LIF-OWI project).
Photo credit: Patrick Bonnor / AdobeStock
Socio-ecosystemic approach to the impact of floating wind farms
Modelling the role of offshore wind farms in modifying the functioning of coastal food webs and cumulative impact
Towards a multi-model approach of indicators of ecosystem services
Environmental, socio-economic and technological challenges for life cycle assessments of offshore wind farms
First French offshore research platform dedicated to offshore wind energy coupled with an innovative R&D programme
Modelling Tools and Ecosystem Approach Research Engineer
Head of the Ecosystem Approach Unit
Published on 02/11/2020