Building an ethical framework to assess offshore wind park projects
Due to controversies surrounding the installation of wind parks on land or near the shore to generate renewable energy, there is an increasing interest in installing turbines offshore in the North Sea. Placing wind parks offshore raises new ethical dilemmas and concerns. TPM researchers Andrea Gammon, James Hutton and Udo Pesch, led by Anna Melnyk and Behnam Taebi, have won a tender from the Topsector Energie and will be working on composing and refining an ethical framework for assessing offshore wind parks projects.
More renewable energy projects need to be installed to bridge the emission gap and achieve the goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. For the Netherlands, meeting national climate goals along with dealing with the European energy crisis and closure of the Groningen gas field entails more investment into wind and solar energy projects. However, such projects raise social controversies and can have negative externalities on ecosystem services.
The placement of wind parks, for instance, have been especially contested for their visual impact on the land- or seascape, therefore undermining place-based identity or threatening tourism. Due to controversies surrounding installation of wind parks on land or near the shore, there is an increasing interest in installing turbines offshore in the North Sea, as described in Missieprogramma 1: Renewable Energy at Sea of the Dutch Klimaatakkoord. This is also the only way to accommodate the incredible growth of wind energy in the Netherlands, upon which meeting the mitigation targets largely depends.
Ethical dilemmas of offshore wind parks
The societal urgency is clear, but this doesn’t mean that controversies are avoided. Placing wind parks offshore raises new ethical dilemmas and concerns, in particular with respect to the ecological risks. Think of disruption of seabird foraging and migration paths or the potential destruction of marine habitats. Spatial issues also arise with respect to the already overcrowded North Sea.
To address the call from the Topsector Energie, the researchers will develop a framework for systematically assessing the ethical acceptability of offshore wind parks in the North Sea. Based on a moral deliberative approach to stakeholder engagement, the framework will help to consider the complex interplay of societal, environmental, and technological factors and risks, from which ethical dilemmas may arise.
The project starts in November and the framework is expected to be ready in July 2024.