Wind energy is a clean, renewable source of electricity whose contribution to the EU’s total electricity production is set to grow significantly with a 20% target for 2020. As a result, the number of wind farm installations across the EU is likely to increase radically in the short to medium term. Some of these new wind energy sites may be located in or near areas of high nature value, such as Natura 2000 sites.

It will be important to ensure that such a rapid expansion is sustainable in all respects and is done in accordance with EU environmental legislation, including the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora) and Birds Directive (Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the Conservation of Wild Birds).

Natura 2000 sites are not intended to be ‘no development zones’ and new developments are not automatically excluded. Instead, the Directives require that new plans or projects are undertaken in such a way that they do not adversely affect the integrity of the Natura 2000 site. Guidance documents offer practical recommendations to guarantee that renewable energy developments do not pose further threat to species, habitats and Natura 2000 sites.

The relation between nature conservation and alternative energy projects like wind farms should not be regarded as an antagonistic one. The ‘Natura 2000’ network derives from the [EU] ‘Birds and Habitats’ Directives and is the centrepiece of the European Union’s nature and biodiversity conservation policy. Many Member States, however, have failed to comply or behave in a way that is consistent with the legislative objectives in the two Directives.

Greensolver can provide a better understanding on how to avoid or minimise potential effects on Natura 2000 sites in particular and can advise on how to devise wind energy plans and projects in line with the requirements of EU nature legislation.