Marine renewable energy: a solution provided by the Ocean (yet again!)


It is urgent to refocus our priorities and above all our efforts on the preservation of the Ocean (and its benefits) as we know it today.

To achieve this, we have no choice but to drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and migrate towards green energy production solutions.

Belonging to the broad family of renewable energies, MRE are energies produced from the resources of the marine environment and particularly from natural forces such as wind (offshore wind), waves (wave energy), water temperature or salinity (thermal or osmotic energy) as well as currents (tidal energy).

Because they present essential complementarities compared to terrestrial RE, we are in favour of the development of MRE production projects. 

However, we insist on the fact that it is essential that these :

- replace a source of carbon-based energy production (and not add to it) or allow the electrification of certain uses 

- become a part of a territorial project, in consultation with users, 

- are carefully studied in order to minimise their impact on the environment through a rigorous ecosystem approach.

Offshore wind turbines: a green solution that is gaining momentum

Offshore wind turbines are the most successful and efficient MRE technology, due in particular to the strength and regularity of the wind at sea.

There are two types of offshore wind technologies:

- So-called "land-based" wind turbines - that rest on the seabed (at a maximum depth of 50m) and require drilling to install.

- Floating wind turbines - held and stabilised by a ground anchoring system (cables) and positioned further offshore to exploit stronger and more stable winds.

Offshore wind is a particularly well-developed source of MRE in Europe, with more than 5,000 offshore wind turbines installed over the past 20 years. As Europe's maritime space is the largest in the world, many European countries have already relied on the power of offshore wind to produce energy.

Assessing the impacts of MRE projects to contain them as much as possible.

The implementation of an offshore wind farm involves an installation phase, an operation/maintenance phase and a dismantling phase.

 These different stages inevitably involve multiple impacts and are a source of nuisance both for the underwater fauna and flora and for the people whose daily lives are linked to the ocean.

Whether it is the restriction of fishing zones, the increase in maritime traffic, noise pollution or even the modification of the landscape and the collective imagination linked to the Ocean, the various impacts must be studied beforehand in order to be limited as much as possible.

The integration of the population and local actors in the discussion, upstream of any project of installation of a wind farm, is essential. This will ensure that different opinions are heard.

It is also important to carry out this type of project bearing in mind that it adds to pre-existing uses in an environment that is already constrained (particularly by maritime activities). The revision of maritime spatial planning is necessary in order to make room for wind farms without increasing and accumulating existing pressures, particularly on biodiversity.

While the development of offshore wind farms is one of the pillars of the energy transition, it is essential that their development does not become an additional threat to marine biodiversity.

From the construction phase (pile driving, seismic surveys, etc.) to the dismantling phase (involving heavy maritime traffic), the impacts on the latter are multiple: noise disturbance, risks of collision, modification of living environments, etc.

 We believe that it is absolutely essential to carry out upstream impact studies on the potential effects of these different phases on wildlife (including avifauna and marine mammals).

The main objective is to determine the best locations and arrangements for wind turbines with the aim of preserving ecologically important areas, in particular those where marine species are born, grow, feed, reproduce, move around, etc.

 Thus, while it may be possible to develop MRE projects in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) (as long as their protection status and management document allow it and if there are no better solutions), any development in MPAs under high or integral protection must remain forbidden.

It is also imperative to ensure careful monitoring throughout the operation of wind projects to measure the impacts on biodiversity over the long term.

Accepting residual impacts for a livable future...

Faced with the climate emergency, we no longer have a choice. We must act to abandon fossil fuels as soon as possible, commit to energy sobriety and favour decarbonised energy alternatives. These include MREs which, while not THE perfect solution, are part of the solution to reduce our GHG emissions.

For this reason, we encourage initiatives related to MRE. We closely follow ongoing projects and attend the various consultation phases (where possible) in order to ensure that the impact on the inhabitants and the environment is as minimal as possible.

We advocate a reasoned MRE development policy: it is important not to consider the ocean as a territory to be conquered and exploited in an unsustainable manner.

The preservation of our seas and lands will inevitably raise the fateful question of resignation. The renouncement of our current consumption patterns, of some of our uses and perhaps even of our attachment to certain landscapes.

One thing is certain: this will be beneficial: it will help to maintain a healthy ocean, capable of playing its role as a climate regulator, limiting the impact on marine fauna and keeping the Earth alive and livable!

It therefore seems essential to us to bear in mind today that MRE production projects have more acceptable impacts than those caused by climate change...

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