EU releases guidelines to reconcile wind energy development and biodiversity policy

The European Commission published on 29 October its Guidelines for wind energy development in protected natural areas. These guidelines will apply to the Natura 2000 network, a cornerstone of EU biodiversity policy and a key tool to achieve the EU target of halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2020.

Wind energy has an important role to play in meeting the EU target of 20% renewable energy in Europe’s total energy consumption by 2020. Within this context, and although its deployment in Natura 2000 Network areas is not automatically excluded, the Commission highlights that such developments would need to be evaluated on a case by case basis.

The guidelines published by the European Commission are aimed at avoiding conflict between wind energy development and biodiversity conservation in Natura 2000 protected areas. They highlight the importance of strategic planning and the need for good quality appropriate assessment of new developments. The guidelines contain examples of best practice, and show how wind energy developments can avoid damage to nature sensitive areas.

Planning wind farm developments in a strategic manner over a broad geographical area is one of the most effective means of minimising the impacts of wind farms on nature and wildlife from the start of the planning process. It not only leads to a more integrated development framework but should also reduce the risk of difficulties and delays at later stages at the level of individual projects.