The other issues

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The novelty of offshore wind power is raising socio-economic issues which could prove to be greater obstacles to growth than any technology or economic barriers. Who has first right to the riches of the sea and who should grant consent for construction of wind stations remains a legal minefield in most countries. Do human activities like fishing or national defence take preference to wind farming?

Only Britain has created a relatively streamlined process which takes account of shipping interests, military activity, defence systems (including radar interference), dredging concessions, and so on in a one-stop permitting process. Even it, however, has not tackled the siting of wind plant in international waters outside territorial jurisdiction. In America, proposals for offshore wind plant have sparked nothing less than a heated national debate on the right to use the seabed for commercial gain. Meantime in Germany, each project is being subject to a good dose of renowned German thoroughness by every institution and authority which could conceivably have an interest in sea territory and cable routes ashore.

Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is another area fraught with tension, not least because of the vast sums of money to be made from EIA contracts. Indications from more than a decade of studies of offshore wind plant suggest there are few environmental issues that are unique to wind: most of them, being generic to offshore industries such as oil and gas, are well understood. A number of bird studies have revealed that wind turbines and birds get along well, at least in northern Europe. One area perhaps in need of further study is the potential for disturbance to delicate underwater ecology from vibrating foreign structures and the identification of mitigation measures, if they are necessary.

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