Van Oord and Eneco, together with the North Sea Foundation and the Natuur & Milieu organization, are launching the Rich North Sea project dedicated to restoring natural underwater features around offshore wind farms.
A pilot project will take place at Eneco’s Luchterduinen offshore wind farm and will investigate how nature conservation and sustainable energy generation can reinforce each another.
The activities will begin this autumn with Van Oord’s installation vessel positioning various types of artificial reef systems at the 129MW wind farm. The reef systems will comprise reef balls and cages containing adult oysters, which will produce larvae, contributing to the creation of a full-scale reef with all kinds of other species.
How nature develops within the pilot project will be tracked in a scientific research and monitoring program in collaboration with Waardenburg consultants and Wageningen University and Research Centre.
The parties will investigate the optimum underwater conditions to enable nature to thrive once again, with the obtained data used for drawing up a blueprint that can be applied to future wind farms.
In addition, Van Oord said it is preparing an oyster project at the Borssele V innovation site, which will increase the understanding of how to speed up the recovery of oysters in the North Sea, which is crucial for improving biodiversity.
Human intervention and diseases have led to the virtually complete disappearance of natural reefs, often shellfish beds, from the North Sea, Van Oord said, emphasizing that reefs play an important role by filtering water and acting as an attachment point and source of food.
As the use of trawl nets is prohibited within wind farms, and marine life can attach to the support towers, wind farms are the ideal location for proactively reinforcing natural underwater features, the Dutch company said.