Annual Review 2019
Wind turbine farm

Offshore wind power gains ground but faces environmental challenges

To maximize its potential, industry players will have to navigate a complex web of national, state and local environmental regulation

The growing offshore wind industry is expected to continue to create local jobs, boost regional economies and mitigate the effects of climate change globally. However, offshore wind also raises environmental challenges.

In recent years, the pipeline for new offshore wind farms on the East Coast of the US has grown considerably. Japan’s coastal regions are also attracting more interest in these projects due to strong governmental support. And in Europe, particularly in Germany and the UK, the offshore wind industry is even more advanced. Although clean energy demand in these jurisdictions is expected to spur construction of significant numbers of offshore towers, related environmental risks could delay or ultimately sink an offshore wind project if not managed properly and pursuant to local environmental laws.

While environmental regulators generally mandate assessments of how offshore wind projects will affect the environment, and how those impacts could be mitigated, offshore projects face varied obstacles based on each jurisdiction’s environmental laws. Further, different countries often require unique mechanisms and solutions to protect different aspects of the local environment.

Wind project developers, financiers, investors, acquirers, contractors and materials suppliers should understand how environmental regulators in different regions require offshore wind projects to manage environmental risks and impacts. These requirements may present companies with unique local compliance obligations, and opportunities to take advantage of similarities among regional requirements. As national, state, provincial and territorial governments accelerate green-power mandates to fight climate change, wind sector participants should recognize the related legal risks and opportunities as they develop, support, finance, acquire, sell and operate offshore wind assets. 


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