With over 14GW of installed capacity, offshore wind energy has become an important part of the renewable energy mix in many parts of the world and a key component of decarbonizing economies. Currently offshore wind generates over $15 billion of annual investment; this is expected to grow to between $20 and 30 Billion over the coming decades. This represents adding between $ 0.5-1 Trillion in Ocean Asset Value over the next 25-30 years, which can be used to reinvest in sustainable ocean activities.
Offshore winds expansion will involve installation of projects with as many as a hundred turbines, so there is a need to address issues related to environmental sensitivities and interaction with other ocean users, including commercial fisheries and shipping.
As offshore wind energy project developers seek superior wind resources further offshore and in deeper waters, they are increasingly turning to floating offshore wind foundations. These new technologies provide access to these resources, while enabling new methods for installation that reduces risk and cost. Projects in deeper water further from shore also tend to not feature visual impacts and use mooring systems that minimally disturb the seabed, making them, in general, more environmentally friendly.
But floating wind energy installations typically feature mooring lines that extend away from the foundations and may therefore have an anchor spread that presents a bigger footprint on the seabed than conventional bottom-fixed offshore wind foundations. There is therefore an emerging challenge to understand and address the potential conflict between floating offshore wind and commercial fishing.
In many places around the world, commercial fishing activities are already operating in locations that are promising for offshore wind development. In some cases, these areas have been actively fished for decades or even centuries. Different fisheries use different gear, and therefore interact in different ways with offshore wind development. Some projects are likely to introduce challenges to particular commercial fishing activities, like trawling.
It is necessary to take steps to address this issue in order to enable co-existence of both sectors, with activities appropriate at a range of levels to facilitate interaction between industry, authorities and other interested parties.
Principle Power, working with coordination and facilitation provided by the World Ocean Council (WOC), will foster a group of interested parties to establish a framework for discussion related to issues, requirements and the use of ocean space that relate to the floating offshore wind and commercial fishing industries. The purpose is to identify strategies and approaches to optimize the sustainable development and economic opportunity potential for both uses, in recognition that each play important existing and future roles in coastal economies and policy.
Participating parties will be invited to interact in a number of ways to identify and prioritize a work plan that is responsive to the topics above. While recognizing that co-existence of floating offshore wind with commercial fishing is a global issue, some specific context (and therefore solutions) will be local or regional. The work plan can therefore include a geographic prioritization and assignment of tasks.