European Research Concludes Offshore Wind Farms Benefit Wildlife

By MarEx 2011-08-17 13:21:01

A Dutch research study has revealed that offshore wind turbines are not detrimental to sea wildlife, and in fact can benefit animals in our oceans by providing shelter and new venues for habitation.

The Dutch researchers conducted a two-year study on a wind farm near Windpark Egmond aan Zee, which was the first large offshore wind farm off the Dutch North Sea coast.  Professor Han Lindeboom at the Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies at Wageningen University in the Netherlands reported that the study yielded little evidence to suggest that the turbines have a negative effect on wildlife.  He reported that while most bird species will simply avoid the turbines, underwater species on the seabed like mussels, anemones and crabs can make habitats from the structures and therefore is contributing to increased biodiversity.  Other than the animals on the sea floor, Lindeboom says the wind farm provides an oasis of calm for fish and marine mammals in an otherwise busy coastal area, noting that it helps to protect schools of cod and that porpoises are heard more frequently inside the wind farm as opposed to outside of it.

The funders of the study, NoordzeeWind, purported in a report that the offshore wind farm should have a long-term beneficial effect on wildlife.  They did acknowledge that the effects of wind farms on local fauna will vary from position to position, but happily report that they can be a contributory factor for more diverse sea habitats, and reviving the effects of intense fishing, pollution, oil and gas drilling, and shipping.

The study does, however, suggest that while damage to birds was minimal, and even unshaking to seagulls, they would recommend constructing wind farms in areas with certain bird populations to minimize the possible impact.  For instance, the location of the Dutch farm was favorable due to its relatively low bird populations.

PHOTO CAPTION: Offshore wind farm using 5MW turbines REpower M5 in the North Sea off Belgium.

Advocates against offshore wind energy have suggested the construction of wind farms is detrimental to the seabed, disrupting wildlife.  With the emergence of the study’s reports yielding evidence for positive effects on biodiversity, the proponents of the controversial new industry now have science on their side.

The North Sea wind farm being studied has the total capacity to provide energy for up to 100,000 homes.