The Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK), Eric Wiebes has chosen the Eemshaven west cable route as the preferred alternative for connecting the future 700 MW Ten Noorden van de Waddeneilanden offshore wind farm which is planned to be ready by 2027.
Wiebes confirmed his choice in a letter to the concerned municipalities, the provinces of Fryslân and Groningen and the water boards Wetterskip Fryslân and Noorderzijlvest, with a copy to the relevant directorates of Rijkswaterstaat and TenneT. The choice is in line with the advice given by the region in October 2020.
In addition to the regional advice, the decision was also based on the information in the integrated impact analysis (IEA) and the responses to this submitted by the environment like Rijkswaterstaat, and the advice of the Commission for environmental impact assessment (based on EIA phase I).
In the Eemshaven West route, the 2two 220 kV cable connection run 85-90 km through the North Sea and Wadden Sea. It comes ashore via the eastern tip of the island Schiermonnikoog, after which the route runs parallel to the coast east to Eemshaven. National grid operator TenneT is responsible for the connection. This preferred alternative affects the municipalities of Schiermonnikoog and Het Hogeland.
Eemshaven is a logical connection point for the cables of wind farms as it is already an energy hub and the power from the wind farm will be used here, Wiebes writes. The route passes through sparsely populated area and is less technically complex than a number of other routes. The route is an average in terms of costs. The cable route could also potentially be used to connect possible future wind farms.
This route runs over a length of 35 km through high-quality agricultural land where there could be risk of salinization. Wiebes advices TenneT to look also at other agricultural values that are important for agriculture in EIA phase 2. A working group will be established. In addition to the local and regional authorities, this working group will include representatives of the agricultural landowners and the Dutch Agricultural and Horticultural Organisation (LTO).
The route will also cross vulnerable nature areas such as the Natura 2000 areas Noordzeekustzone, national park Schiermonnikoog National Park and the Wadden Sea, a Unesco World Heritage Site. In EIA phase 2, the prefered alternative is examined in detail and follow-up steps are taken to avoid or mitigate negative effects and, if necessary, to compensate for them. It will then become apparent whether the route from Eemshaven West can cross the Wadden Sea without significant damage to nature. Based on EIA Phase 1, the impact on seagrass beds and the crossing of the salt marshes should be further investigated.
In his letter, Wiebes advices TenneT, in addition to mitigation and compensation of environmental impacts within this project, also to look at possibilities to create a ‘plus’ for nature in the Wadden Sea. In the elaboration of the preferred alternative, in addition to local and regional authorities, nature and environmental associations will also be involved in a nature & environment working group.
A transformer station is needed to bring the electricity from the wind farm ashore and to connect it to the national electricity grid. Two places are possible for the Eemshaven-West route: the Waddenweg and the Middenweg location. Both places will be further developed in the coming months to determine which is the most suitable.
In order to prevent spatial developments taking place in the cable route area that make the area less suitable for the project, a preparatory decision (Voorbereidingsbesluit) will be made, together with the Minister of Interior and Kingdom Relations. The preparatory decision is available for inspection from January 15 to February 25, 2021.
Preparation for the integration plan and the permits and exemptions and coordination with the parties involved will now start. TenneT is expected to submit the necessary permit applications in Q4 of 2021. Wiebes expects that all draft decisions (integration plan and permits) will be ready by spring 2022.