While much of the focus in the offshore wind sector is on the growing financial challenges and uncertainties, a project in Denmark is being put on hold over objections from environmentalists on how and when the number of bats in the region are counted. The project’s developers are saying it is creating uncertainty about the ability of the project to receive its permits to proceed.
The project known as Aflandshage Vindmøllepark is proposed for the southern Øresund region near Copenhagen and was to be operated for HOFOR, a utility company that provides energy, water, gas, sewage, and other services to the capital region in Denmark. The project is advanced in the planning process with the company highlighting that it is one of the few projects that was on track to be operational by 2030, a critical target date in decarbonization and the next phase of renewable energy.
The company is citing the uncertainties raised by complaints and the lack of clarity over the permitting process. They had been moving forward, including selecting Siemens Gamesa to supply the turbines before protests derailed the project. The company announced it is taking a write-down of nearly $72 million because the costs for developing the project will have to be recognized in the accounts for 2023.
“We are now putting the investment in the Aflandshage project on hold,” says Susanne Juhl, chairman of the board of HOFOR. “The project will be abandoned completely unless it proves possible to continue the project in another form in the near future.”
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They note the location of the project was selected with consideration for migration patterns and wildlife as well as the Swedish territorial border, the nearby airport, and busy sailing routes. The plan which was approved in the fall of 2022 calls for 26 offshore wind turbines with a total height of up to 721 feet to the top of the blade. With a total output of 300 MW, it would be able to supply green electricity that corresponds to the consumption of approximately 300,000 households.
The permit included conditions regarding the monitoring of bird and bat migration. HOFOR reports it had agreed to a counting of the bats during the construction phase for the wind farm to develop a preservation plan for when it was in operation. Potentially, the wind farm would have to stop operations at certain times to prevent bird or bat strikes.
The company’s permitting for the wind farm however was canceled in July 2023 due to complaints. The requirement for the bat count was moved to before the construction begins with the company reporting it must update the project’s environmental impact report. They are saying as a result it is uncertain based on the current stipulations if they would ever receive permits. They determined that it entails an enormous financial risk for both HOFOR and the Municipality of Copenhagen to initiate the project without the necessary permits.
“The experiences from the Aflandshage project confirm the need to look at the overall authority processes in wind turbine projects,” says Juhl. “We have experienced stumbling blocks in our project that cause us to put an otherwise ready-and-ready project on hold.”
HOFOR is proceeding with the bat count because it is the minimum requirement to regain the permits. They are pointing out that as this proceeds however it raises the prospects of further uncertainties or delays as the process has been reopened for more complaints. They are working to remap the project and looking for a path forward while also warning the write-down will reduce HOFOR’s ability to develop other green energy projects. Juhl concluded by saying they were confident the wind turbines and bats would have been able to live side-by-side and meet the renewable energy goals.
Top photo by Leonard G. of wind farm off Denmark – CC SA 1.0