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Nature conservation body files offshore wind complaint with European Commission

Fri 22 Mar 2019 by David Foxwell

Nature conservation body files offshore wind complaint with European Commission
A German environment association claims wildlife close to the Butendiek offshore windfarm is being adversely affected by it

A leading environmental body has filed a complaint against the German Government about an offshore windfarm it claims breaks European nature conservation laws.

The Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union’s (NABU’s) complaint centres on the Butendiek offshore windfarm, where, it claims, the authorities need to take immediate measures to protect seabirds.

“The reason for the complaint is the massive environmental damage caused by the Butendiek offshore windfarm and other windfarms in the Eastern German Bight European bird sanctuary in the North Sea,” said NABU.

NABU managing director Leif Miller said, “For nearly two years, data has shown that rare and protected loons (a type of diver) are being forced out of the protected area designated for them. The responsible authorities must act now. Otherwise, Germany will continue to be in violation of the EU’s nature conservation laws.”

The conservation body claims that scientific evidence shows the offshore windfarms in the North Sea “have a much greater impact on the avian population than predicted,” although several studies published recently seem to confirm otherwise.

“The loons are particularly affected, and avoid wind turbines,” said NABU, which claims that significantly fewer examples of the birds are found within a radius of 16 km of the windfarm. “Almost two-thirds of the EU bird sanctuary is affected.”

NABU has opposed construction and operation of the offshore windfarm for four years. The project was approved several years ago. It is owned by Siemens Financial Services, Marguerite Fund, Industriens Pension, PKA, Wpd, CDC Infrastructure and EWZ. Construction started in early 2014. The windfarm has 80 turbines and was commissioned in mid-2015. Compulsory investigations of the potential environmental impact of construction and operation of the windfarm were undertaken, focusing on the wildlife most likely to be affected, including birds.

“Although the licensing authority, the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, which is responsible for managing the protected area, are aware of the situation, no remedial measures have yet been initiated,” the conservation body said. 

“Additional pressure is needed for the federal authorities to take action. For the birds it would be best if Butendiek were partially dismantled. If that is not politically viable, then we now expect effective alternative measures. Germany is clearly violating the European Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive.”

NABU said it is committed to what it described as a ‘nature-friendly’ energy transition and believes that offshore wind energy “can also help stop climate change” but said the locations of future windfarms must be chosen so that nature is not affected.

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