Floating Wind Farms: Key strategy points for a rapid and efficient development in Greece


Copied Link

Floating offshore wind farms: a significant opportunity for economic growth in Greece

A public discussion has recently started in Greece concerning the exploitation of the country’s enormous offshore wind energy potential.

Formulating, legislating and applying an integrated, coherent, effective and efficient institutional and regulatory framework for the development of floating offshore wind farms in Greece is an issue of vital importance for the national economy, the environment and the local employment. This framework must, on the one hand, provide the necessary legal certainty for investment in a dynamic and, at the same time, technologically and economically continuously evolving field, and, on the other, it must incorporate the lessons learned (and avoid the mistakes made) during the failed first attempt of the Greek State to launch the development of marine wind farms in the country, in the 2010-2012 period.  

Fixed-bottom wind farms and floating wind farms stand at very different maturity levels, from an institutional, technical/technological and economic standpoint, where floating wind farms are still at an advanced but, nonetheless, essentially demonstration stage, and still associated with numerous technical and financial risks. Therefore, for the fast and efficient development of floating wind farms, the private sector should be given the opportunity, at their own responsibility, expenses and time, to conduct the necessary surveys and measurements, by launching buoys and carrying out the required research, studies and project viability planning. This is a process that could only be to the benefit of the State, especially in countries such as Greece, where there is currently neither the legislative, regulatory and space planning framework, nor the required studies, data and measurements, for initiating offshore energy investments. Thorough this process, a proper  legislative and investment framework will be established in the country, the fourth in the world, which will attract capital, investors and will internationalise  the Greek marine space.

Possible adoption of “open tender” procedures, at the very early stage of conducting measurements/studies and exploring the initial viability of a potential floating wind project (an early stage which is difficult, cumbersome, time-consuming and costly) will excessively delay the entire process. This is so because it will require from the State to take over and perform all necessary operations at sea (studies, surveys, measurements, marine space planning, etc.), so that the sea areas concerned can be delivered free of any incompatibilities and conflicts of uses (with regard to fishing, shipping, underwater antiquities, Posidonia oceanica, etc.). In Greece, such a procedure will require, even with the most optimistic estimates, at least 2-3 years to complete.

Our proposal for an effective institutional framework

The suitable institutional framework proposed in this article closely follows the process of siting the so-called Areas of Organised Development  (in Greek, POAs) for  Productive Activities, a process that has been successfully tested in  marine and coastal areas for the establishment of organised aquaculture development.

For an area to be declared and delineated as a POA for Floating Wind Farms (in Greek, POAPAP), an application must be submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Energy, by a public or a private POAPAP-establishing/managing entity. The POAPAP establishes the exact location of a floating wind farm, the sea area it occupies and the maximum installed power capacity, as well as any land area necessary for the operation of the floating wind farm (i.e. for erecting the required electric substations, etc.)

In order to designate a specific sea area as a POAPAP Wider Investigation Area, a pre-approval procedure is followed which includes:

a) the submission of a pre-approval application by the POAPAP-implementing entity,

b) the opinion/proposal of the Directorate of Spatial Planning of the Ministry of Environment and Energy, and

c) the consent of the Central State Council for Urban Planning Issues and Disputes.

The proposal of the Directorate of Spatial Planning of the Ministry of Environment and Energy takes into consideration the opinion of:

a) the Directorate of Navigational Safety of the General Secretariat for Navigational Safety of the Ministry of Civil Protection,

b) the Civil Aviation Authority and

c) the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, all in relation to the possible obstruction of the activities and operations under their competence, as well as

d) the opinion of the competent Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities.

The pre-approval decision by the Minister of Environment and Energy provides the authorisation to launch a measurement buoy and carry out the necessary surveys and measurements, in order to investigate all relevant parameters in terms of the precise location and viability of the floating wind project. The requested and pre-approved area will be reserved for research for a period of 18-24 months, with a possibility for a 12-month extension, following a justified request .Once the decision of the Minister of Environment and Energy is issued, granting the pre-approval to the floating wind project under consideration, the project developer starts the necessary research surveys and measurements at sea, and initiates the procedure of carrying out a Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment, considering, in particular:

a) the protection of the natural and underwater cultural heritage and its general ecosystems, focusing on the sustainability of marine life and birdlife,

b) the national security,

c) the prioritised energy sufficiency of the islands, and

d) the safety of sea transport.

The deliberation process for the Strategic Environmental Impact Study and for the POAPAP itself is common to both. The POAPAP is finally approved by a Presidential Decree, issued on the recommendation of the Minister of Environment and Energy and the Ministers of Finance, Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy, Foreign Affairs and National Defenses, following the opinion of the Central State Council for Urban Planning Issues and Disputes. The relevant Strategic Environmental Impact Study is approved by the same Presidential Decree.

The project then moves to the energy and environmental licensing stage, which comprises the Environmental Impact Assessment, the final binding connection offer from the Transmission System Operator, and the tendering process for securing the quantity and the selling price of the electricity produced by the offshore (floating) wind farms.

The great domestic added value of floating wind farms

At this point, it should be underlined that the designation of sea areas as POAPAP, as well as the proposed floating wind farm pre-approval procedure, is a necessary substitute for the complete lack of Maritime Spatial Planning in the country. Once this Maritime Spatial Planning is carried out, deliberated, legislated and applied in practice, within the next few years (most probably, in the 2025-2030 time horizon), it will regulate both the sea polygons, where the offshore wind farms are established and, most importantly, any conflicts with competitive uses in the relevant sea area (tourism, leisure, shipping, fishing, national defense, etc.).

Transparency and fair competition are ensured by launching an open tender for the quantity and the selling price of the electricity produced by the offshore (floating) wind farms. In all these procedures associated with floating wind, the economic added value for the country is clearly enhanced, since specialised measurements, surveys and studies are required throughout the process of the POAPAP approval, which, most probably, will be carried out by Greek companies and engineering firms. At the same time, this process will act as a catalyst and will promote the development of relevant equipment and production infrastructure at the Greek ports and shipyards. In fact, it should be noted that the installation and operation of floating wind farms will provide an opportunity for the Greek companies to undertake a lot of the main and auxiliary manufacturing and construction works, such as the construction of the floats, or even the wind turbines at the shipyards, the manufacturing of the undersea interconnection cables and the construction of all the required civil engineering and electromechanical infrastructure/works in the coastal areas, and/or on small uninhabited islets. 

Read the full -length paper here.

Professor & Lawyer Dimitris Melissas

National Technical
University of Athens      

Dr Nikos Vassilakos

Senior Energy
Expert, European Commission