Wind Energy

Offshore Wind Energy Development information from the RYA. With an increasing number of wind farms in operation, under construction or planned around the UK coast, it is more important than ever to remain engaged with offshore energy developers to ensure the best possible outcome for recreational boating.

With an increasing number of wind farms in operation, under construction or planned around the UK coast, it is more important than ever to remain engaged with offshore energy developers to ensure the best possible outcome for recreational boating.

Whilst the RYA acknowledges the Government's desire to promote renewable energy, it is keen to ensure that the navigational safety of recreational craft is safeguarded around the coast.

Over the past twelve years the RYA has worked together with the whole maritime community, notably the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Trinity House, the Chamber of Shipping, the UK Major Ports Group and other influential bodies in an effort to limit the effect that offshore renewable energy developments will have on recreational navigation.

In doing so the RYA has sought to educate the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) and each wind farm developer individually on all issues regarding recreational boating.  The result has been the widespread acknowledgement of the importance of navigational safety and regular engagement in the consultation process, both at the strategic level as well as on a site by site basis, particularly through the Round 2 and now Round 3 zone developments.

How has the RYA’s involvement safeguarded recreational boating to date?

The RYA is now routinely and directly consulted by each offshore wind farm developer. This ensures recreational boating is thoroughly considered throughout the planning process and mitigated for appropriately if the wind farm is consented.  The RYA position has always been focussed on the safety of navigation and is built around two fundamental issues:

  1. Avoidance of ‘squeeze’ of craft towards shipping lanes and dangerous coastlines.
  2. Minimisation of ‘diversion’ from the safest, most efficient or habitual routes.

The RYA has ensured that offshore wind turbine generators present a minimum obstacle to recreational boating through establishing numerous safety parameters including a minimum turbine blade height and appropriate charting, marking and lighting requirements.

The RYA has also worked very hard to establish a position with the developers which avoids mandatory safety zones around the bases of the individual turbines, other than during their construction, maintenance and decommissioning phase.  The RYA has been particularly successful on this point as other countries have imposed operational safety zones around turbines and in some cases exclude all craft from entire wind farm arrays. 

Are there any publications to support the RYA’s position?

The RYA has developed a detailed position statement on offshore wind farm developments, based on recreational craft data, which it provides to every developer during the consultation process.

The RYA believes that the impact that offshore renewable wind energy has on recreational boating can be minimised provided developers fully consider the following key points:

  • Collision risk. The RYA believes that the collision risk posed by wind farms and associated infrastructure to recreational craft can be minimised by specifying a minimum rotor tip air draft of 22 metres above Mean High Water Springs, a minimum safe water clearance over submerged structures and associated infrastructure determined in accordance with the MCA Under Keel Clearance policy paper and the UK wide standardisation of wind farm layouts which are uniform and predictable.
  • Charting, marking and lighting. The RYA supports the guidance provided by the MCA, UKHO and GLAs and works with them to identify site specific issues that may occur.
  • Navigational and communication equipment. Any proposed development should account for any effect on small craft navigation and communication equipment in detail.
  • Location. Recreational routes, general sailing areas, racing areas and access to boating facilities and anchorages must be considered when examining the impacts of wind farm developments and their associated infrastructure. Poorly sited wind farms and those that are built within the 12nm limit may increase the risk to navigational safety and discourage visiting boaters to the area. This would have an adverse effect not only on visitors but also on the local economy. 
  • Sailing and racing areas. Any interference in wind speed and/or turbulence created by a wind farm in a sailing or racing area would create a significant negative impact on the site and diminish its value for recreation.
  • Cumulative and in-combination effects. The RYA expects development site plans to include all adjacent developments that may have cumulative and in-combination effects on shipping and navigation.

The RYA has also carried out an extensive mapping project to identify the main cruising routes, sailing and racing areas to better inform the management process. Initially this culminated in a detailed description of cruising routes, racing and sailing areas for the three strategic wind farm development areas in 2004 and is reported in the document 'Sharing the Wind'.

This project then evolved to cover the whole of the UK following considerable demand from the wind farm industry.  In 2005, with funding from Trinity House, the RYA produced the first UK Coastal Atlas of Recreational Boating.  This dataset has since been updated and is now regularly incorporated into developers’ consultations and navigational risk assessments.