The Council of Ministres has approved this week the Maritime Space Management Plans (POEM) for the five maritime districts, which map the one million square metres of Spanish marine surface area and provide for the possibility of deploying wind farms on up to 5,000 square kilometres of Spanish marine surface area. Thus, offshore wind farms in the Canary Islands are becoming closer to reality than ever.
The aim of these first plans for the period 2022-2027 is to achieve sustainable development of marine uses in such a way as to achieve a coexistence of activities in the five Spanish marine demarcations. Specifically, the POEMs identify Priority Use Areas for activities of general interest and High Potential Areas where the maritime sectors and possible future uses in the five areas – North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Strait and Alboran, Levantine-Balearic and Canary Islands – take precedence.
For the Government, this is a cross-cutting strategic instrument that allows for an optimal use of maritime space, reducing conflicts and promoting coexistence and synergies, which is being carried out for the first time in our country.
Specifically, the Priority Use Zones (ZUP) develop uses of general interest such as the protection of biodiversity; aggregate deposits for environmentally assessed coastal protection; the protection of underwater cultural heritage; R+D+i; National Defence and Navigation Safety.
In addition, the high potential areas, the plans pay special attention to sectoral activities and those of general interest that could be developed in the future: biodiversity conservation; aggregate deposits that could be used for coastal protection; R+D+i; port activity; the development of offshore wind energy and aquaculture.
The plans incorporate an organisation of the priority uses of the areas with high potential for different activities that are being developed or that may wish to be developed in the coming years, seeking where there may be synergies or prioritisation criteria. Thus, the limitations will particularly affect areas of cetacean corridors, national defence and maritime security, areas where other uses are “very restricted”, given that the POEMs must guarantee the protection of ecosystems, habitats and sensitive and vulnerable species, including those protected by regional, national or supranational regulations.
Spanish maritime spatial planning responds to compliance with Directive 2014/89/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning. In Spain, this Directive has been incorporated into our legal system as a regulatory development of Law 41/2010, of 29 December, on the protection of the marine environment (Royal Decree 363/2017, of 8 April, establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning).
OFFSHORE WIND FARMS IN THE CANARY ISLANDS, TWO KILOMETRES OFF THE COAST
Sources from MITECO (the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge) have explained in an informative meeting that these maps neither prohibit nor permit, but only order the spaces. Specifically, the plans establish 19 potential sites covering almost 5,000 kilometres, or 0.46 percent of Spain’s one million square kilometres of marine area, in which around 1 gigawatt of wind power can be deployed by 2030, as envisaged in the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC), without compromising the good state of the seas.
According to ministerial calculations, this gigawatt of offshore wind power can be more than enough in those 5,000 square metres, which is the maximum possible surface area, as a single large wind farm can achieve this objective, although it is not yet known whether these areas will be filled in the next six years.
More specifically, the new cartography establishes the minimum distances to the coast, which vary according to each marine demarcation, given that neither the marine soils nor the tourist interests are the same along the entire coastal perimeter, which conditions the developments.
For example, in the North Atlantic demarcation, the minimum distance from a possible offshore wind project to the coast is 21 kilometres and the maximum distance is 31 kilometres. However, in the Canary Islands, there is a wind farm at 1,850 metres in Lanzarote, while in Rosas (Gerona) the ‘Leva 1’ wind farm is located 12 kilometres from the coast and ‘Leva2’ in Menorca is 5 kilometres from the coast.
However, MITECO insists that if there has been a barrier to the use of these areas, it is the preservation of biodiversity, which has been a determining factor in locating offshore wind farms in areas with traffic light signs: red, prohibition, and yellow, restriction.
Specifically, for the delimitation of uses in areas of high potential, the Ministry has assessed the availability of the wind resource; the non-affection of marine biodiversity or other uses of general interest such as navigational safety and national defence; the reduction of conflicts with other uses and activities such as fishing, aquaculture and tourism.