Corals under the offshore wind turbines

Inspenet, March 6, 2023

Danish energy company Ørsted is experimenting with growing coral on wind turbine frames in the sea near Taiwan, hoping to improve biodiversity around its wind farms.

The experiment follows the success of a test conducted two years ago in a staging environment. Therefore, the Danish company has started the world’s first pilot at sea. For this, it has assigned four wind turbines in the Greater Changhua offshore wind farm, in the warm waters of Taiwan.

Ørsted will collect coral eggs washed up on beaches that would otherwise be lost, these are then placed on the wind turbines’ casing structure (legs), just below the water surface. This way, the coral is exposed to enough light and has the best chance to grow. The waters surrounding the wind farm are also relatively stable in temperature, which benefits coral.

1503 Orsted proyecto ReCoral 3
Source : Ørsted

The energy company’s project is in line with the ambition to be “net positive” in terms of biodiversity by 2030. For all his projects that affect plants and animals, he wants to improve biodiversity. “Governments are working on a major expansion of offshore wind power,” said Mads Nipper, Chairman of Ørsted. “I am convinced that this expansion can improve the biodiversity of the ocean.”

The foundations of offshore wind turbines provide a unique environment in which corals can grow close enough to the surface to receive sunlight, but without being exposed to high temperatures. This limits the risk of coral bleaching.

1503 Orsted proyecto ReCoral
Source : Ørsted

There are different types of offshore wind turbine foundations that the turbine can be installed on, depending on depth and substrate. Jacket foundations (right) are used at transition depths (20-80m) and feature a lattice structure comprising three to four anchor points driven into the seabed. In this type of foundation, Ørsted will transplant the coral.

Mature corals that thrive in the foundations of offshore wind turbines will release their own young, which could be carried by ocean currents to settle naturally elsewhere. This could boost genetic connectivity and support the restoration of existing coral reefs.

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Cover photo : ShutterStock

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