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Marine Policy & Planning - Strategic Environmental Assessment

Strategic Environmental Assessment

EU Directive 2001/42/EC, on the Assessment of the Effects of Certain Plans and Programmes on the Environment (The SEA Directive), requires that a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is undertaken to evaluate the likely significant environmental effects of certain public plans and programme.

Ireland is the only EU country to have permitted and advanced a significant amount of near-shore wind farm development through the permitting process without first putting in place a strategic plan and carrying out a SEA to assess cumulative effects.

The Irish government did not draw up a plan for development of offshore renewable energy. Instead the entire process was developer- led. Developers were allowed to pick out sites on a “first come first served basis” in Ireland’s near shore zone and then apply to the Minister for the Marine for foreshore leases to construct some of the biggest offshore wind farms in the world under the outdated Foreshore Act 1933.

Extensive, individual offshore wind projects set out below have been approved (1620MW) or advanced (2145MW) under our inadequate regulatory regime without the high level protection of a Strategic Environmental Assessment to assess cumulative environmental impacts:

DEVELOPMENT

STATUS

520MW Arklow Bank Wind Park, Wicklow (10 km offshore)

Foreshore Lease for construction awarded 2002 by Minister Frank Fahey

1100MW Codling Wind Park, Wicklow (12 km offshore)

Foreshore Lease for construction awarded  2005 by Minister Noel Dempsey

330MW Oriel Wind Farm, Louth

Foreshore Lease application under consideration. Consultation closed

100MW Sceirde Windfarm, Galway

Foreshore Lease application under consideration. Consultation closed, March 2009

520MW Kish/Bray Bank Wind Farm .S.Dublin/Wicklow (Dublin Array)

Foreshore Lease application (June 2009). No public consultation as yet.

1000MW Codling Wind Park 2 Wicklow

Foreshore Lease application (March 2009). No public consultation as yet.

 

All the above wind farms, with the exception of the Oriel project, are sited on shallow sandbanks, a habitat listed for protection under the EC Habitats Directive because of its importance to wildlife and vulnerability to human interference. It is clear that such extensive developments will result in significant effects on the environment by virtue of their nature, size and location.

In addition, Foreshore Licences for initial site investigation have been awarded to developers for a further 13 offshore wind farm projects, five in Wicklow and six in Wexford.

Apart from the Sceirde project, all the proposed and permitted development is on the East coast. Essentially developers have been allowed to lay claim to extensive, wildlife rich, scenic areas of Ireland’s East coast from Dundalk to Wexford, without the high level of environmental protection provided by Strategic Environmental Assessment. A total of 1620 MW of offshore wind power has been fully approved in Ireland’s near shore zone and a further 2145 MW is advancing through our outdated and undemocratic permitting process with no SEA. This is almost three times the total amount of offshore wind power (1400 MW) installed worldwide at end 2009.

Foreshore leases for construction of offshore wind farms are extremely valuable commodities and can be sold on to international power companies at a price based on the size of the development permitted. The “free for all” permitted by the Irish government and its failure to carry out an SEA in line with EU policy, means that the profit motive rather than environmental protection has been the driving force shaping our coastal environment. Private individuals have benefited at the expense of the community at large.

Strategic Environmental Assessment - 2009

In 2009, the Irish government finally set about rectifying this serious failure in environmental protection. Eamon Ryan, Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources requested that the Ocean Energy Development Unit (OEDU) of Sustainable Energy Ireland, in close collaboration with The Marine Institute, undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment of Offshore Wind and Marine Renewable Energy in Ireland.

The OEDU website states:

“The SEA is intended to provide a high level of protection for the environment by integrating environmental considerations and promoting sustainable development. The SEA does not do away with the need for individual project environmental assessment (EIA) where such assessment is required under EU Law. The SEA provides an assessment at strategic high level (e.g. national, regional) with EIA providing a more detailed assessment at a project specific level”.

A Steering Committee has been appointed to guide the SEA. The first stage in the SEA process is the production of a Scoping Report to agree content and level of detail of the SEA, including the key environmental issues, likely significant environmental effects and alternatives which need to be considered, the assessment methods to be employed and the structure and contents of the Environmental Report.

This Scoping Report was sent to the environmental authorities on 17 July 2009 and was made available to the public and interested parties to submit their comments on 12 October. All submissions received during the initial scoping consultation period will be published on the Offshore Renewable Energy SEA website along with a formal response to those submissions.

The Environmental Report, the main output of the SEA process, will identify, describe and evaluate the likely significant effect that the Offshore Renewable Energy Plan will have on the environment. It is expected that a draft Environmental Report will be published for public consultation in 2010.

CCA comment

CCA welcomes this long overdue Strategic Environmental Assessment. It remains to be seen how the SEA will deal with the massive amount of offshore development already permitted and proposed without the benefit of an SEA. Does this mean, for example, that Wicklow, the key target county for developers, is not to be afforded the high level of environmental protection afforded to other counties in Ireland?

For further information:

SEA Scoping Report

CCA Comment on Scoping Report for SEA (Nov 2009).