NIRAS conducts environmental studies prior to the establishment of the Energy Island in the North Sea


In the next couple of years the occurrence of i.a. minke whales will be mapped in the environmental studies prior to the energy island in the North Sea

Energinet has chosen NIRAS to undertake Strategic Environmental Assessments as well as environmental studies of the proposed Energy Island and surrounding offshore wind farms in the North Sea. Over the coming years, NIRAS will record and study marine mammals, fish populations, and benthic flora and fauna during different times of year. The studies last until 2024.

August 12, 2021
  • SDG: #7, #14
  • SECTORS: Environment and Ecology, Offshore Wind, Energy
  • COUNTRIES: Denmark
  • CLIENT: Energinet
  • DURATION: 2021-2024

Energinet awarded NIRAS the assignment to undertake Strategic Environmental Assessments and execute environmental studies in connection with the proposed development of a new energy island in the North Sea approximately 100 km from the Danish west coast.

NIRAS specialists in Denmark and the UK are carrying out along with a strong team of sub-consultants from DCE, University of St. Andrews, Bio-App, DNV and Integra Consult.

In NIRAS we work extensively within the fields of environment, sustainability, and energy. It is of immense importance to us to be part of such a cruial project in the Danish energy sector. A complex, unique, and politically significant project, which we are looking forward to getting started on.

Betina Haugaard Heron, NIRAS’s Project Director

The plan comprises the establishment of the first energy island in the Northern Sea, as well as a 3 gigawatt offshore wind farm, with the option for a subsequent expansion to 10 gigawatts. The energy island will be the largest renewable energy project in Denmark and in the North Sea so far.

The team undertaking the environmental assessments and studies for Energinet has considerable experience working together. The team has also been leading the environmental studies for Energinet in connection with Hesselø Offshore Wind Farm.

Familiar tasks in uncharted waters

NIRAS is a global player regarding offshore consultancy with specialists based in Europe and Asia and is delighted to have been awarded this new assignment by Energinet.

“Although we have more than 25 years of experience with consultancy from the early phase with preliminary studies of the establishment and operations of offshore wind farms, we are really looking forward to this assignment. The project presents new professional challenges with the establishment of an artificial island in addition to offshore wind farms. Detailed environmental studies are required during the next few years, including surveys of marine mammals where porpoises, white-beaked dolphins and common minke whales will be recorded,” Betina Haugaard Heron. 

She stresses that the new energy island also represents a series of new challenges: 

“The energy island in the North Sea will be located much further away from the coast compared to earlier projects in Denmark, and in an area where the biology has yet to be recorded in as much detail as it has in many other ocean areas.”

The Strategic Environmental Assessment

A key part of the assignment is the preparation of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the plan for the establishment of the energy island, primarily based on existing data and information about environmental conditions, including wildlife.

The purpose is to identify the expected significant environmental impacts of the plan, and to suggest options to mitigate negative impacts. The SEA will be consulted with the public, where the public can comment and contribute on its findings.

The information and assessments in the environmental report, as well as comments made at the hearing, will be taken into account in decisions made by the Danish Energy Agency (the authority responsible for the environmental assessment of the plans for the Energy Island) regarding the specific project to be executed.

NIRAS will, in addition, also draft a report in accordance with regulations in the Environmental Assessment Act, for the Danish Energy Agency to inform their assessment of the plans for the Energy Island.

Environmental assessments

Between 2021 and 2024, NIRAS will undertake surveys and analysis of data for marine mammals, fish populations, and benthic flora and fauna during different times of the year in the area where the proposed Energy Island and offshore wind farm will be located.

Data and reports from these studies will be used by Energinet and the Danish Energy Agency in the initial development of the energy island project. The environmental studies are also essential for the subsequent tendering process to select developers for the island and the surrounding wind farms.

The studies will aid developers in identifying potential risks in the project area, and are thus an essential source of information for those preparing their bids during the concession tendering process. The developers selected through this process will then undertake comprehensive environmental assessments of the specific projects.

We are happy to be getting on with the assignment, which is both exciting and professionally challenging. The fact that the environment is such an important precondition for the execution of this significant project for the green transition, only makes us more motivated.

Margot Møller Nielsen, Project manager on the assignment

About energy islands

A political majority has decided that two energy island are to be established in Denmark.

  • One of them will be an artificial island located approx. 100 km off the west coast of Jutland in the North Sea. Once it is completed, the energy island in the North Se will collect 3 GW of energy from offshore wind farms close to the island, which will be exported to Denmark and other countries. In the long-run, the energy island in the North Sea may be expanded to a capacity of 10 GW.
  • The other energy island is Bornholm, which according to the plan will be a collection hub for 2 GW of energy from offshore wind farms on Rønne Bank in the Baltic Sea approx. 20 km from the southern coast of Bornholm. From here, green energy will be exported to Zealand and other countries. Rambøll was awarded the assignment for theenvironmental studies for this part of the project.
  • 1 GW of wind energy is sufficient to provide the equivalent of the annual energy consumption of one million households.

About the environmental studies

The environmental studies will be conducted based on both existing data and new studies in the North Sea between 2021 and 2024. The deliverables for this work comprise:

  • Preparation of reports to use for environmental assessment of the plans for the energy islands in accordance with regulations in the Environmental Assessment Act.
  • Preparation of assessments regarding the impact of the energy islands on protected Natura 2000 areas.
  • Studies of benthic flora and fauna.
  • Studies of marina mammals in the area, population size and movement.
  • Studies of bird migration routes, their wintering, and feeding and breeding grounds.
  • Studies of migration routes or food search for bats at sea.
  • Studies of fish and fish populations, their spawning grounds, etc.
  • Studies of fishery activities in the area.

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