The installation and operation of offshore wind farms (OWF) and their corresponding electrical power transmission systems (e.g. converter platforms, grid connection) in the EEZ require a plan approval procedure pursuant to Art. 2 para. 1 of the Marine Facilities Ordinance (SeeAnlV) carried out by the BSH.
The BSH’s responsibility is defined in Art. 2, para. 2 SeeAnlV in connection with Art. 1 N° 10a of the Federal Maritime Responsibilities Act (SeeAufG).
A plan may be only approved, if there is no threat to the marine environment, no threat to safety or efficiency of shipping traffic, no threat to national or allied defence and if there are no other public law requirements (Art. 5 para. 6 SeeAnlV). Before deciding on the plan approval, the Waterways and Shipping Directorate-General must have granted consent. The consent may be refused only if an impairment of the shipping’s traffic and efficiency
is to be feared which cannot be prevented or balanced by conditions or requirements (Art. 8 SeeAnlV).
The main difference between a licensing and a plan approval procedure is the fact that in a licensing procedure the applicant is eligible for the approval if he meets all the required conditions, in a plan approval procedure such entitlement is not provided, as a balancing of interests must be carried out.
An OWF or transmission system plan approval procedure according to the Marine Facilities Ordinance consists of several phases:
Upon receipt of the official application for plan approval, it is first checked for completeness. If that is not the case, the applicant has the opportunity to correct and complete it. At the same time, in the first round of participation, the competent authorities (including the Waterways and Shipping Directorate-General, mining authority, Federal Environmental Agency, Federal Agency for Nature Conservation) are informed about the project application and asked to comment.
If the applicant requests the notification of the probable scope of the investigations according to Article 3 SeeAnlV, the BSH has the possibility to defer applications received later, which are inconsistent with the first applicant’s designated project area.
After evaluation of the first comments, a larger number of stakeholders take part in the second round of participation. It also involves associations (e.g. nature protection, commercial and small craft shipping, fisheries, wind energy associations) and the public, which has the opportunity to inspect the planning documents.
An important aspect of the approval procedure is an early involvement of the German coastal states, which have to approve the laying of land feeder cables through the territorial sea for the transport of electricity to onshore substations. Offshore wind farms normally have to be connected to the onshore grid through feeder cables. Cables to be laid on the seabed in the territorial sea have to be approved by the competent German coastal state.
Subsequent to the second round of participation, an application conference is held during which the applicant has the opportunity to give a presentation on the project and conflicting interests and uses are discussed.
The installation and operation of an OWF with wind turbines of more than 50 meters of total height might require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) according to the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (UVPG). In that case, the applicant prepares an Environmental Impact Assessment Study within the framework determined by the BSH and based on the “Standard for EIA” published by BSH, the Design Basis and the Preliminary Draft.
The approved plan shall include the indications according to Art. 73 para. 1 of the Administrative Procedures Act VwVfG) and
- a display of precautionary and security,
- a timetable and action plan,
- upon request of the BSH - the certificate of an recognized expert, that the installation and its operation represent the common state-of-the-art and meet the safety requirements,
- a risk analysis dealing with the probability of vessels colliding with wind farm installations.
After having received the complete documentation from the applicant, the BSH passes it on to the competent authorities and associations, asking them to comment. This is followed by a discussion, during which the comments and information concerning the marine environmental features to be protected, the subject of navigational safety, and other interests and uses are discussed with all stakeholders. Parallel to this, the documents are once more available for public inspection and comment at the BSH.
Then, the BSH reviews whether the requirements for official plan approval have been met. At the same time, the Waterways and Shipping Directorate-General reviews whether consent can be granted with a view to the safety and efficiency of navigation. If that is the case, the BSH decides on the plan (official plan approval), Art. 74 VwVfG.
An important part of each official plan approval granted by theBSH for an offshore wind farm is the incidental provisions, which are issued in a largely standardized form. They include, among others, a limitation of the official plan approval to a 25-year period, the requirement to start building the installations within a certain period of time after receipt of the official plan approval as well as requirements concerning
- safety in the construction phase,
- a state-of-the-art geotechnical study,
- use of state-of-the-art methods in the construction of wind turbines, prior to start-up,
- presentation of a safety and protection concept,
- installation of lights, radar, and the automatic identification system (AIS) on the turbines,
- use of environmentally compatible materials and non-glare paint,
- hull-retaining construction of the substructure of the foundations,
- noise reduction during turbine construction and low-noise operation,
- presentation of a bank guarantee covering the cost of deconstruction.
The official plan approval is published in the German notices to mariners (NfS) and in two national papers (Art. 74 para. 5 VwVfG) and is available at the BSH for public inspection. It is sent to all authorities and associations involved in the approval procedure.