Swedish renewable energy company Vattenfall, nature conservation organisation De Rijke Noordzee and the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research NIOZ are to undertake a joint study to investigate whether wind turbine foundations can support marine life.
Previous studies have focused on projects to enhance biodiversity in the vicinity of turbines. In contrast, the new research, which will be conducted at the Hollandse Kust Zuid wind farm, will look at whether the structures themselves can contribute to the surrounding ecosystem.The wind farm is currently under construction 18–34 kilometres off the Dutch coast.
The study will focus on so-called water-replenishment holes in the turbine foundations. The elliptical openings, which measure about 30 centimetres by one metre, are located just below the water surface. They offer an opportunity for fish and other marine species to enter and leave again, and the study will determine whether or not they use the inside of the turbine foundations to settle, shelter and as a feeding ground.
‘If the results meet our expectations, this will boost marine biodiversity,’ said Erwin Coolen, programme director at De Rijke Noordzee. ‘Nature inclusive design is the future. I am proud we are working with Vattenfall on these kinds of innovative solutions, that will provide our country with sustainable energy while strengthening the environment at the same time.’
Vattenfall is keen to increase biodiversity in and around its offshore wind farms and hopes to gain insights that will make future projects more wildlife friendly. ‘Offshore wind is growing rapidly and will continue to expand significantly over the next years,’ said Gijs Nijsten, who is responsible for sustainability at Hollandse Kust Zuid. ‘We are constantly looking for ways to minimise the impact our projects have on the ecosystem. Continuous innovation and modification of turbines has led to an ever-improving balance between sustainable produced electricity and a healthy ecosystem.’
De Rijke Noordzee will include the findings in an open-source toolbox, dubbed ‘Nature development in wind parks’, that it’s developing for use by wind farm developers.