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In Northern Europe, wind turbines have little effect on marine environments

A scientific diver examines the

The challenge seems to come from all sides. Elected officials, fishermen, associations… The wind farm project off the island of Oléron (Charente-Maritime), for which a public debate has just ended at the end of February, largely federates against it. Beyond its impact on the landscapes or the economy, the question arises of its consequences for the environment, while its perimeter of establishment is located in a Natura 2000 zone, in a marine natural park and on a migration. “This park would threaten tens of thousands of sea and coastal birds. The energy transition cannot be done on the back of biodiversity”denounces the League for the Protection of Birds.

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The concerns expressed in Oléron are not new: according to the National Commission for Public Debate, which took stock of fourteen debates and consultations on offshore wind power organized since 2010, the question of environmental impacts is a “recurring worry” of public opinion and “France still does not have data” sufficient.

However, if the country is lagging considerably behind in the development of offshore wind power – the very first wind turbines should be commissioned in the spring off Saint-Nazaire (Loire-Atlantique) – Europe has a real feedback on the subject: more than 5,400 wind turbines in twelve countries are connected to the network. These parks gave rise to regular monitoring, which made it possible to establish a solid knowledge base. Northern countries have been monitoring marine ecosystems for twenty years: if there were spectacular ecological changes, we would have seen themsays Antoine Carlier, specialist in benthic invertebrates at Ifremer. The main conclusions are therefore rather reassuring, even if of course we should not be satisfied with them. »

Bubble curtains

In Belgium, where nine parks are in operation, Steven Degraer coordinated an important report, published in 2020, on a decade of scientific monitoring. “Even if the species are different, the types of impacts, at least on sandy soils, will be largely the same in France as in the other Nordic countries or in the United States”assures this specialist in marine ecology at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

According to this monitoring, it is during the construction phase that the changes are most marked: driving wind turbines into the ground generates significant noise. Species that can then flee the area. “Noise can impact organisms over large areas, but this effect is temporary and reversible.notes Antoine Carlier. Once the work is done, the cash returns. »

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