Vattenfall and nature conservation organization De Rijke Noordzee started a joint study to find out if turbine foundations can support marine life. While previous studies focused on nature enhancement projects in the vicinity of turbines, both organizations want to know if the structures themselves can contribute to nature development. Water replenishment holes in the foundations offer an opportunity for fish and other marine species to enter and leave again. The study is aimed at finding if they use the inside of the turbine foundations to settle, shelter and as a feeding ground. The study is conducted at the Hollandse Kust Zuid wind farm.
It is the first time that research is conducted into what the water replenishment holes could mean for marine life. “If the results meet our expectations, this will boost marine biodiversity”, says Erwin Coolen, program director of 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.” Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research NIOZ is involved in the study too.
Blueprint for future wind farms
The elliptical openings measure approximately 30 centimeters by 1 meter and are located above the seabed and just below the water surface. Over the next couple of years data will be collected on several occasions to check the development of biodiversity. Last winter, scientists from De Rijke Noordzee carried out their first series of measurements. Findings will be included in a toolbox called “Nature development in wind parks” that De Rijke Noordzee will develop. Its open-source character makes it easy and cost-efficient to start up new projects.
Vattenfall wants to increase biodiversity in wind farms and gain more insights. Gijs Nijsten, responsible for sustainability at Hollandse Kust Zuid: “Offshore wind is growing rapidly and will continue to expand significantly over the next years. We are constantly looking for ways to minimize 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.”
What will we learn?
The first part of the project is completed at the beginning of 2022. Measurements were carried out with special equipment during a number of offshore expeditions. The data from these measurements gives a good first impression of the water conditions, such as flow rate, food and water turbidity. This information is important, because they determine the living conditions of different species. In addition, images and DNA analyzes provide insight into the first species to settle inside and outside the foundations. In the future, the researchers can determine whether water conditions and the types of communities around the foundations change over the years.
About De Rijke Noordzee
The study with Vattenfall is one of the projects that De Rijke Noordzee is carrying out into nature development in offshore wind farms and improvement of biodiversity. Four years ago, De rijke Noordzee was founded by environmental organisations Natuur & Millieu and Stichting De Noordzee. Without bottom fishing marine life gets a chance to recover and flourish again. De Rijke Noordzee is able to realise this ambition thanks to a contribution from the Dream fund of the Nationale Postcode Loterij.