At the forefront of international efforts to fight climate change, the European Union is working hard both to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and to encourage other countries to follow suit. Bearing that in mind, the Delegation of the EU to Brazil (DELBRA) financed, through the Sector Dialogues Support Facility, an international workshop on the Environmental Impact Assessment of Offshore Wind Farms. The two-day event was held by IBAMA (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) in Brasília on July 2nd and 3rd. Five European experts and dozens of players in the Brazilian energy sector attended the event to share their experience and discuss best practices adopted both in Brazil and the EU.
At the opening ceremony, Lise Pate, Project Manager at DELBRA, said that the EU is largely interested in "exchanging best practices and knowledge on offshore wind energy with peers worldwide, specially with Brazil", despite the country not having any wind farms in operation. "Offshore wind energy is a remarkable future opportunity. Resources are stable and abundant, and enjoy great public acceptance. Governments and investors are investing in offshore wind energy, but to make it competitive there needs to be major cost reductions. Research and innovation projects supported by the EU are primarily geared towards reducing costs and increasing offshore wind energy performance and reliability," Ms Pate said.
She stressed that as a renewable energy source, wind power may very well assist in achieving the GHG emissions reduction targets set by the Paris Agreement. In addition, wind power can reduce EU's dependence on fossil fuels for energy generation. "The renewable energy industry is also a driver of technological innovation and job creation across Europe."
As far as IBAMA is concerned, the partnership with the EU should be fruitful. President of IBAMA Eduardo Bim thanked the European Union for its support. "We have already accumulated expertise in other areas of the energy sector. Offshore wind farms are fairly new to us and we have to face several challenges. But whenever there is a challenge, IBAMA looks for ways to develop the necessary skills to tackle it" he said.
Brazilian Electricity Regulatory Agency (ANEEL) director Sandoval Feitosa stressed how important the international workshop is. According to him, "offshore wind generation helps diversify energy sources and encourages the use of renewable energy sources in the Brazilian electricity sector." We are aware that the use of this sustainable energy source can only increase in our country if we have modern regulations that support innovation and encourage the development of this technology," he said.
According to IBAMA Licensing Director Jonatas Trindade, the event is one of the steps towards understanding and deciding the process offshore wind farms will have to go through in Brazil. "The discussions will help us determine the best scope for the terms of reference so that we can have environmental studies that best serve the environmental impact assessment of projects," he explained.
Mr Trindade said that the intention of the institute is not to "reinvent the wheel" but rather to create parameters, taking advantage of their licensing expertise in areas with similar characteristics, such as oil and gas, which also have offshore structures. "We could tap into this knowledge to guide our analysis. We want to gain considerable knowledge to improve our ongoing actions at IBAMA," he said.
Likewise, he believes that sharing experience with countries that have already implemented offshore wind farms is extremely fruitful, and that is the opportunity created by the workshop. For IBAMA's director, the hardest part about granting permits to offshore wind farms is probably assessing the impact the implementation of the projects would have. Possible conflicts of interest with fishing and with other land-based infrastructures to connect to transmission systems are some of the examples to be considered.
At present, there are four offshore wind farm licensing projects underway at IBAMA, awaiting final environmental impact studies to move towards the green light given to this type of venture.
During the two-day event, more than 100 participants learned some examples of offshore wind energy deployment in European Union countries, and the main legal and environmental challenges faced to make these projects feasible.
Teresa Simões Esteves, from Portugal's National Energy and Geology Laboratory (LNEG), presented an overview of the legal framework for offshore wind energy licensing in her country. She explained that a significant number of organizations are involved in the implementation of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations. She also cited a few case studies of offshore wind farms, including one given EIA exemption. "In exceptional and duly justified circumstances, the licensing of a project may, on the initiative of the proponent and upon permission of the responsible governmental body, be granted total or partial EIA exemption," Teresa explained, referring to the example of a wind power plant installed along the northern coast of Portugal. The licensed project had its EIA requirements waived since it was regarded as not having a significant impact on the environment.
In turn, Belgium has dedicated 238 km² in the Belgian part of the North Sea to the production of renewable energies. Three out of nine wind farms have been granted an environmental permit to operate in the region and are already up and running. The remaining six are under construction, expected to be ready by 2020.
According to Steven Degraer of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS), there are plans to build between 409 and 433 turbines in the North Sea by 2020, generating a total capacity of 2,230 to 2,280 MW. That means wind farms will account for about 10% of Belgium's total electricity production, supplying almost half of the country's households. Mr Degraer talked about OD Nature (Operational Directorate) and their monitoring operations to continuously assess the consequences to the marine ecosystem of installing wind turbines. "As provided in the environmental permit, OD Nature coordinates a monitoring program to estimate the positive and negative effects of offshore wind farms."
The UK has an installed offshore wind capacity of 8.5 GW. The goal of the government and industry is to reach 30 GW by 2030 and 75 GW by 2050, according to Alex Thompson of the Department of Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Mr Thompson explained how offshore wind farms obtain installation and environmental permits, a process that could take 17 months. The concession of maritime areas was done through auctions held in 2001, 2002 and 2010. EIAs must be carried out for all offshore plants, and involve a large number of players: tenderers, government agencies, environmental non-governmental organizations and the civil society.
Expert Johannes Dimas, from Energy & Project Management, gave an overview of offshore wind energy in Germany. The country has received one of the largest investments in offshore wind farms in Europe. According to WindEurope (2018), investments amounted to 4 billion euros in 2017. The goal is to reach 15 GW of installed wind energy by 2030.
Wind Farms in Brazil
On the second day of the workshop, panelists addressed several aspects related to the building of offshore wind farms in Brazil. Elisângela Medeiros, Superintendent of Social-Environment and Sustainability at the Brazilian Energy Research Company (EPE), presented the planning strategy of the energy sector in Brazil. "The Brazil 2035 Offshore Wind Roadmap, drafted by EPE, sets out actions that Brazil should take to have offshore wind farms in operation. In the roadmap, we have identified current opportunities and barriers preventing offshore wind projects from competing with other mainstream energy sources in Brazil. We have also proposed some improvements to current policies and regulations applicable to these projects," she said.
Vitor Correia Lima França of ANEEL's Superintendency of Concessions, Permissions and Authorizations spoke on the regulation of the energy sector, the current installed capacity of all types of energy, and the challenges for the creation of offshore wind farms. He touched on topics such as zoning laws, environmental permits and the connection of offshore wind farms with the National Interconnected System (SIN).
Finally, Eduardo Wagner da Silva, analyst of IBAMA's Environmental Licensing Board (DILIC), talked about the federal environmental licensing process for offshore wind farms. He addressed the different phases on IBAMA's proposed agenda, which includes the training of stakeholders, the creation of a benchmark and EIA guidelines, and the development of environmental zoning regulations.
"The best practices drawn from the German EIA experience with offshore wind farms highlight the need for standardising monitoring and impact analysis procedures. In terms of strategic planning, they call for the integration of those procedures with Maritime Spatial Planning, taking into consideration protected and environmentally sensitive areas," Mr Silvia explained.
At the event, Brazilian senior expert Rafael Monteiro gave a preview of his study on Environmental Impact Assessment Models in Europe, to be published in September. As well as the workshop, the study is part of IBAMA’s project supported by the Sector Dialogues. A technical team of the Institute is also expected to go on a mission to Europe. The initiatives are all part of the federal environmental licensing improvement agenda for offshore wind farms started in 2017.
*Based on information from ASCOM of IBAMA
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