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Wave and Tidal Energy in the Maritime Spatial Planning Process

Date: October 07, 2013 at 18:38 GMT

Marine energies, (in this article we will deal with wave and tidal energy), are not currently at the stage of building energy ‘farms’ offshore; however, this scenario is expected in the near future. One barrier to the construction of marine energy test sites or pilot zones is the permitting process. Generally this process involves several administrative departments and projects of an innovative nature, such as marine energy installations, do not have a defined path to follow. 

When wave and tidal project developers begin applying for ocean spaces at a regular scale, they will face the problem of choosing suitable locations from a technical point of view, while ensuring that they do not interact negatively with existing users of that area in the sea and with the natural environment. This will not be a simple task without the proper tools and mechanisms. Having a framework that regulates all these aspects will not only be beneficial to the industry, but it is seen as critical by many actors. 

Many in the marine energy industry desire a simplified application procedure where one single application is used to inform all of the permitting bodies; this is known as one-stop-shop. 

The SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessment) Directive in Europe aims at introducing environmental criteria in the planning stage of certain programmes. This provides a preliminary classification of areas into those that are non-suitable for project development from an environmental point of view and those where the project could be allowed. Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) can simplify decision making and thus speeds up licensing and permit procedures as well as offering protection to environmentally sensitive areas, but it involves more than these two aspects. MSP is “the public process of analysing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marina areas to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives that are usually specified through a political process”. 

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