Public participation is not new in offshore wind, but it is growing, building on the success of the practice in the onshore sector.
The aim is to allow people to take part in the energy transition, and promote better understanding and social acceptance.
Parkwind believes that the share of green energy can only be increased with the "involvement and engagement of communities," and that the "citizens’ participation model is becoming an increasingly important step" in the growth of the offshore industry.
To this end, Parkwind founded North Sea Wind, a cooperative structure in which each Belgian resident can invest €250-1,250.
Around €5 million is reserved for the company’s employees and shareholders, with €15 million open to the general public.
North Sea Wind will lend the money to Parkwind to help fund the maintenance of its existing portfolio — Belwind, Northwind and Nobelwind — and the construction of Northwester 2.
Investors earn interest, partially linked to the projects’ performance, with the internal rate of return estimated at 4.24% over the seven-year term, the firm explained.
This is not the first such initiative in Belgium.
In May, Eco2050, a cooperative society founded by renewables investment firm Nuhma, invited local citizens to invest in offshore wind, with a target of €5 million.
The money will be lent to Z-Kracht, which has shares in the operational 325MW C-Power and 309MW Rentel sites, as well as the 487MW SeaMade, due online next year.
A more direct form of engagement is community or co-ownership, with revenues generated from operation of the plant.
One of the first in the offshore sector was Denmark’s 40MW Middelgrunden site, commissioned in 2000 and jointly owned by a citizens’ guild and the local utility.
In 2008, Denmark introduced a compulsory co-ownership scheme to help encourage local acceptance. At least 20% of shares in offshore projects must be offered to local residents and municipalities.
Greater public involvement could help smooth the way for offshore wind in France, where legal challenges have held up projects.
Community ownership is difficult in France, but crowd-lending for a specific task, such as a wind-measurement campaign, is spreading from the onshore sector to offshore.
Last year, Quadran Marine Energies raised €400,000, largely from local and regional investors, to fund wind-measurement studies for its EolMed floating pilot project.
The company wanted to show that everyone "can be a player in the energy transition, and that renewable energy can offer an economic path open to all," explained Laurent Tokarski, Quadran Marine Energies’ head of offshore wind power projects.
The Engie-led consortium developing the Dieppe-Le Tréport and Yeu-Noirmoutier sites overshot their targets to raise €1 million per project. The money will help fund a wind-measurement campaign and archeological work.
That said, financial involvement is one tool among many to help ensure local community engagement, WindEurope said.
Other measures often include benefits to the wider community, such as contributing to environmental projects, educational programmes or tourism facilities.