How to protect biodiversity when installing offshore wind turbines?

By ENGIE - 08 September 2022 - 10:23

The first offshore wind farm in the world was inaugurated in 1991 in Denmark. It is a source of precious experience for experts, scientists and energy operators, as they unite their efforts and gather knowledge about biodiversity in order to minimise the impact of offshore wind farms on marine fauna and flora. So, are offshore wind farms and biodiversity compatible? We explain in detail.


What is the difference between bottom-fixed and floating wind turbines?

Offshore wind farms can be installed in two ways: on foundations that are fixed to the ocean floor, or floating wind turbines that are anchored to the seabed. While some bottom-fixed wind farms are more than 30 years old, floating wind farms are still in their infancy. More


What are the impacts of offshore wind farms on biodiversity?



The reef effect. Submerged offshore structures attract a population of marine species that inhabit rocky environments (mussels, anemone, sea urchins, crabs, fish, etc.) and their predators. Consequently, the biodiversity of the ecosystem is enhanced. 


The reserve effect on fish. The reduction or absence of fishing around offshore wind farms creates reservations for species. The resulting proliferation is characterised by a higher concentration of marine species and their predators (birds, marine mammals, fish). 

The increase of the biomass and marine biodiversity has a positive effect on the seabed. 


The impact on sea birds. Migratory birds are most exposed to the risk of collisions, compared with sedentary birds, which become accustomed to wind farms. However, this impact is relatively small, because the birds learn how to avoid the areas around wind farms. 


The impact on marine mammals. Marine mammals flee the loud noise produced during the construction phase of the foundations of fixed-bottom wind turbines. This disruption is reduced by installing temporary bubble walls. 


Vibrations, noise and electromagnetic waves. These forms of disturbance are produced by the cables and have a minor effect, or no effect at all, on marine species. 


ENGIE’s commitment to biodiversity

The leading-edge measures that ENGIE has taken to manage the risks incurred by offshore wind farms include studies and monitoring of the seabed, aerial surveillance and GPS tracking. The Group has signed the UN’s charter of Sustainable Ocean Principles, which requires economic players to commit to the protection of seas and oceans. We have also adopted the “avoid, reduce and offset” principle, which has been at the heart of our Act4nature commitments since 2018. We assess the potential impacts of our activities in order to avoid, then reduce or, as a last resort, offset any residual impacts. 
The studies we conduct help us to improve our knowledge of both ecosystems and species (see the video below).


Watch this video to find out more about this experiment: 

“The French EFGL floating project will be the first floating wind farm installed in a Protected Marine Area, the “Golfe du Lion” Natural Park, with which we worked closely and in full transparency to develop an extensive environmental management and monitoring plan.  With the local company Ecocean, we have also developed an innovative eco-friendly system to see if we can accelerate the natural reef effect and use floating wind farms to even enhance local biodiversity. We are working on improving our knowledge of bird behaviour and monitoring, and we are testing the reliability of a new deterrent technology. Lastly, by implementing Impressed Cathodic Current Protection (ICCP) anodes, which have never been tested on a floating wind farm, we will avoid the release of any metals into the water column. These examples show our strong will to work closely with local stakeholders involved in the protection of the local environment as whole, in a holistic approach, and not only to protect, but also to assess, if there is any way to even enhance it thanks to our projects, including through innovative solutions.”
Grzegorz Gorski, COO of Ocean Winds

Material on the protection of the marine ecosystem: 

>> The impacts and benefits of offshore wind power: 10 years of experience in Belgium <<

>> Wind farms in the North Sea <<

>> Listen to (in French): A scientific interest group (GIS) that is monitoring the effects of the Île d'Yeu-Noirmoutier wind farm on the marine ecosystem <<

“This collaborative research network brings together 20 organisations to improve our knowledge of various subjects, such as water quality, underwater acoustics, etc., and to share it with both the general public and the scientific community.”


Discover the initiative of the “France Nature Environnement” NGO, l’Eoloscope offshore, which assesses projects and contributes to the dialogue with stakeholders