By Royal Decree of May 17, 2004 (as amended by the Royal Decree of September 28, 2008, February 8, 2011 and March 20, 2014), a zone was designated in the Belgian marine areas for the production of electricity. Project developers must apply for an environmental permit for the construction and operation of installations to generate electricity.
Nine projects in this zone have obtained a domain concession and an environmental permit for the construction and operation of a wind farm. From South to North: Norther, C-Power, Rentel, Northwind, Seastar, Nobelwind, Belwind, Northwester II & Mermaid. All parks have been operational since the end of 2020.
Pursuant to these Decrees and the Royal Decree of 9 September 2003 laying down the rules on environmental impact assessment in application of the Law of 20 January 1999 on the protection of the marine environment in maritime areas under the jurisdiction of Belgium, monitoring programs and permanent investigations into environmental impacts are carried out by , or on behalf of the BMM, at the expense of the holder of the permits or authorisations. This includes monitoring of the effects of authorized and licensed activities on the benthos and fish fauna of soft substrates.
The objectives of this monitoring are: (1) to determine the condition of the macrobenthic endofauna (macrobenthos) of soft substrates in the concession areas of the licensed projects, and (2) to identify any effects of the operation of wind farms.
Within the basic monitoring, attention is paid to:
- the impact of the operation of the wind farms on the macrobenthos and soft substrates (to what extent are the benthos disturbed/affected by the wind farms, loss of biotope, loss or attraction of organisms?);
- the recovery of the benthic ecosystem of soft substrates after installation of the wind farms (what dynamic equilibrium state is reached after how much time?);
- the effects of the exclusion of beam trawl fishing and any change in substrate type as a result of changed current patterns;
- the possible effects of the newly colonized hard substrates on the endobenthos of the soft substrates;
- the effects around the wind farms caused by a potential concentration of fishing activities along the edge of the farms