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Turbine foundation design creates new home for marine life

turbine foundationUtility provider Vattenfall and nature conservation organisation De Rijke Noordzee (the rich North Sea) 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 organisations 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 aims 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 offshore 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.

The elliptical openings measure approximately 30cm by 1m 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, states, “Offshore wind is growing rapidly and will continue to expand significantly over the next years. 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.”