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EPA discusses wind farm monitoring standards

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday held an expert meeting to evaluate the monitoring standards for offshore wind farm projects, at which an expert said that the standards should be backed up by more solid research on the marine environment around the project sites.

The agency on Nov. 29 said that its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Committee had given initial approval to 19 projects with an aggregate capacity of 10.07 gigawatts.

The committee has required developers to demarcate an alert region with a 750m radius around a wind turbine, within which the maximum allowed sound exposure level of construction should be kept below 160 decibels, the EPA said.

Yesterday’s meeting aimed to establish “consistent” standards for the agency to monitor noise control methods at offshore wind farm projects, EPA Deputy Minister Chan Shun-kuei (詹順貴) said.

Current EIA procedure does not mandate sufficient risk assessment for offshore wind power projects, said Awareocean Technology Co general manager Chan Hsiang-chih (湛翔智), who is an ocean science and technology expert.

Most people are unfamiliar with the marine environment in the Taiwan Strait, where the offshore wind farm projects are to be realized, and each EIA committee meeting tends to produce new views on how projects’ environmental effects should be assessed, Chan Hsiang-chih said.

The EPA could learn from the UK government, which evaluates energy developers’ projects based on their “project design envelope,” he said.

UK developers may submit various proposals for the construction and operation of their wind farms, while the supervising agency may require that they submit impact analyses based on worst-case scenarios, he said.

The EPA should impose stricter standards at first and gradually relax restrictions as more studies on marine ecology become available, he added.

Most developers have submitted noise control plans to reduce the effects of offshore development on whales and dolphins, but they pay little attention to other marine creatures, such as benthos – communities of organisms living on sea beds – Changhua Environmental Protection Union president Shih Yueh-ying (施月英) said.

The monitoring standards will be finalized by the end of next year, before the first developers are expected to begin construction on their offshore wind farms, Chan Shun-kuei said, adding that Bureau of Environmental Inspection officials would be responsible for monitoring offshore construction work.

Asked whether the EPA had vessels at its disposal to monitor the developers, Chan Shun-kuei said the agency would consider borrowing ships from the Coast Guard Administration or could use developers’ ships.