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newsGuidelines to reconcile wind energy development and biodiversity policy

The European Commission has issued guidelines aimed at avoiding conflict between wind energy development and biodiversity conservation in Natura 2000 protected areas.

Natura 2000 is an EU-wide ecological network of nearly 26 000 sites in the 27 EU countries, established under the 1992 Habitats Directive and covering almost 18% of the EU’s land area.

The aim of the network is to assure the conservation and sustainable use of areas of high biodiversity value and long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats.

Natura 2000 is not a system of strict nature reserves where all human activities are excluded. Whereas the network will certainly include nature reserves, most of the land is likely to continue to be privately-owned and therefore some of these sites may be put forward as possible sites of wind farms. Europe has set itself a target of obtaining 20% of its energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020, and wind energy is destined to make a significant contribution to achieving that goal.

While in general terms wind energy does not represent a threat to wildlife, poorly sited or designed wind farms can have a negative impact on vulnerable species and habitats.

Therefore, as the demand for wind energy increases, there are likely to be an increasing number of conflicts between renewable energy policy and biodiversity policy, and this is why the European Commission has issued these guidelines, which aim to provide guidance on how best to reconcile these two EU objectives.

These guidelines highlight the importance of strategic planning and the need for good quality appropriate assessment of new developments. The guidelines also help show how wind energy developments can avoid damage to nature sensitive areas.

Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment said: “These new guidelines will give Member States and industry clarity regarding the undertaking of wind energy development activities in accordance with Natura 2000 requirements. There is no change of legislation or policy, but merely guidance on existing law. Our aim is to ensure that renewable energy targets are met while fully respecting EU law on species protection."

Guidance on wind energy and Natura 2000

EU nature and biodiversity Policy

EU Wind energy policy

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REF: ELM 29th October 2010