Van Oord to lead marine conservation pilot

NETHERLANDS: Offshore contractor Van Oord is launching a second project in the Dutch North Sea investigating how natural conservation and renewable energy generation can be mutually reinforcing.

An artist's impression of the planned Rich North Sea project (pic credit: Van Oord)
An artist's impression of the planned Rich North Sea project (pic credit: Van Oord)

It is launching a project to restore natural underwater features around developer Eneco’s 129MW Luchterduinen wind farm off the coast of South Holland along with conservationists Natuur & Milieu.

Their "Rich North Sea" programme will involve placing various types of artificial reefs within the 43-turbine site in an effort to attract species such as crabs, fish and seals.

They hope to learn more about the optimum underwater conditions to encourage wildlife to thrive and how this can be applied to future wind farms.

The pilot project at the Luchterduinen wind farm will be tracked in a scientific research and monitoring programme in collaboration with Waardenburg consultants and Wageningen University and Research Centre.

Van Oord in proef oesterherstel in de Noordzee (NL) from Van Oord on Vimeo.

Reef structures consisting of cages containing adult oysters will be positioned amid the 43 Vestas V112-3.0 turbines later this autumn using a Van Oord installation vessel.

These will produce larvae that help to create a full-scale reef attracting other species.

Reefs filter water, attract wildlife and provide a source of food, the offshore contractor explained. However, human intervention and diseases have led to a near complete disappearance of natural reefs in the North Sea.

Van Oord added that wind farms provide an "ideal location" for the project as use of trawl nets are prohibited in their immediate vicinity and marine life can also attach to turbine towers.

The offshore contractor is also leading a consortium preparing to plant oyster beds around two 9.5MW turbines at the Borssele V demonstration site, creating reef systems that prevent erosion of the sea floor and enable the "diversification of the North Sea".

Borssele V, which will also be situated off the coast of the Netherlands, is due to be operational in 2021.

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