How can fossil-free offshore wind power, sustainable mussels – and seaweed be produced in the same marine area? And what are the effects on the marine enviroment and on biodiversity? This will be elucidated in a new collaboration between Danish universities and companies.
Denmark is surrounded by sea offering excellent conditions for wind energy. A broad political majority will exploit this to create more fossil-free energy. Therefore, over the next seven years, Denmark’s energy production from offshore wind will – as a minimum – be quadrupled. At the same time, there is a growing demand for food with a low climate footprint AND it is well-known that the marine environment is under strong pressure. Is it possible to solve all those challenges at the same time – at the same place?
A collaborative project will answer this question when Aarhus University, the energy company Vattenfall, Technical University of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, the seaweed and mussel producer named Kerteminde Seafarm and the Kattegatcentre join forces to develop a model for how to combine offshore wind farms, seaweed and mussel production and environmental monitoring in the same marine area.
Great demand for space at sea
There is a great demand for space at sea for fishing, sailing routes, wind farms, raw materials extraction, aquaculture and recreational activities, and cables transferring power, gas and data. These are just some of the activities undertaken at sea. Some areas however, are designated for nature conservation and cannot be used for other activities.
“It is our goal to create a so-called “multi-use platform” where we produce energy and food in the same marine area, while simultaneously investigating the effects on the marine environment and biodiversity in that area. At the same time, multi-use can make it possible to exempt other marine areas from activities,” says senior researcher Annette Bruhn, Department of Ecoscience, Aarhus University, who is leading the new partnership.
It is obvious to combine the offshore wind farms with the production of seaweed and mussels, but the energy companies also focus on the most efficient operation of the wind farms.
“The energy companies have traditionally focused on optimising the energy production itself, but it is increasingly acknowledged that the contribution to biodiversity is also important. Therefore, one of the main objectives of the project is to identify both the challenges and the opportunities that arise when offshore wind farms are combined with other activities,” says Annette Bruhn.
The project has been named WIN@sea, which is an abbreviation of “Wind Energy and Nature-based solutions integrated at sea”.
An investment in the future
The activities will take place at the offshore wind farm, Kriegers Flak, which is located east of Møn and is operated by the energy company Vattenfall. One of the goals of Vattenfall is to make an active contribution to a fossil-free future with the development of sustainable solutions – not just within renewable energy. Large stones are arranged around the wind turbines to protect their platforms. These stones also act as artificial boulder reefs, and the project will generate knowledge about which type of biodiversity is linked to the artificial hard-bottom habitats that the turbine towers and the stones together provide.
“As wind turbines at sea cover larger and larger areas, it makes very good sense for us to look at how the areas can be used for several purposes. Therefore, we have decided to invest both time and money in the groundbreaking project WIN@sea,” says marine biologist Matthieu Povidis-DeleFosse from Vattenfall.
“At Vattenfall, our purpose is to create a fossil-free future, but it must not be at the expense of the environment. We are working towards ensuring that our energy plants contribute positively to biodiversity. If offshore wind farms can also be used to grow seaweed and mussels, we can remove nutrients from the sea water in which they grow. This will support the already positive effects that the wind farms have” says Matthieu Povidis-Delafosse.
No off-the-shelf items
There are no easy solutions when you grow seaweed and mussels at sea. Depth, conditions at the bottom of the sea, currents and waves vary. Thus, the cultivation systems must therefore be tailored to fit the local conditions. In WIN@sea, the company Kerteminde Seafarm, together with the researchers involved in the project, will study which systems that work best in the exposed marine area near Kriegers Flak, where the depth is more than 20 metres and where the waves can be up to 6 metres high.
- WIN@sea is supported by approx. DKK 18.5 million. The VELUX FOUNDATION supports the project with DKK 5 million, the AAGE V. JENSEN NATURE FOUNDATION supports activities related to biodiversity and communication with DKK 2.5 million, and the EU supports the project with DKK 11 million via the lighthouse project OLAMUR.
- The activities will take place in the period 2023-2026 at Scandinavia’s largest wind farm, Kriegers Flak, which is located approx. 15-40 kilometres east of Møn.
- WIN@sea will prepare proposals for guidelines for the authorities to use in the future in connection with the establishment of various operations at sea.
- WIN@sea will map animal and algae life on wind turbines and erosion control structures at the wind turbines at Kriegers Flak and compare it with the fauna and flora on natural reefs in the area to find out how offshore wind farms affect biodiversity.
- The project will also examine how the offshore wind farm can be used as a platform for measuring equipment that can contribute to better monitoring of the marine environment. This includes, among other things, measurement of power, waves, salinity and temperature, but also the development of equipment that can count the prevalence of jellyfish.
- The results of WIN@sea will be disseminated widely through i.e. exhibitions and teaching at the Kattegatcentre, involvement of citizens in test fishing and participation in events such as Denmark’s Political Festival and the People’s Festival of Nature.
- WIN@sea is part of the EU lighthouse project OLAMUR, which also concerns combining offshore wind farms with, among other things, food production within a so-called multi-use concept.
Short interviews with some of the team members behind the project
Senior Scientist from AArhus University
“Our goal is to create a so-called ‘multi-use platform,’ where we produce energy and food within the same marine area, while simultaneously studying its impact on the marine environment and biodiversity in the region. The concept of multi-use can also enable other marine areas to be kept free from activities.”
Professor from Copenhagen University
“Climate change affects life both on land and particularly at sea. Therefore, it’s crucial to incorporate sustainability and nature conservation at sea, just as in the WIN@sea project.”
Head of research AT the Kattegatcentre
“The perspectives and outcomes in the WIN@sea project are crucial not only for the involved educational institutions and businesses but also for marine life and thus for the entire society. Therefore, it is important that knowledge about the project reaches both decision-makers and the general population.”