Researchers in consortia examine North Sea offshore wind farms

19 May 2020

Within the NWA programme Ecology and North Sea, NWO has awarded funding to three proposals from consortia of researchers, companies and civil society partners from within the Netherlands and abroad. The collaborating partners will investigate ways of improving the interaction between ecology and the physical aspects of wind farms in the Dutch part of the North Sea.

Ecologie en Noordzee

The three projects can now start quickly. The project leaders are Johan van der Molen and Karline Soetaert (NIOZ - Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research) and Hans Slabbekoorn (Leiden University). A total of 18 knowledge institutions, companies and civil society partners are participating.

The North Sea is used for various purposes, such as fishing, maritime transport, water purification, extracting oil, gas and sand, nature and recreation. Its function as a supplier of energy is relatively new. The increasing scale of offshore energy production is putting extra pressure on the balance between the various functions. To make the foreseen upscaling of offshore wind energy as sustainable as possible, the negative ecological effects associated with it must be prevented or limited.

There are also opportunities to strengthen the ecology or to deploy ecology for the benefit of other offshore ecosystem services. Three consortia will tackle these issues in various ways. The studies will provide a good description about what the effects of offshore wind parks are. Besides fundamental insights, tools for the governance of wind farm development will be provided.

The Dutch Research Agenda (Dutch acronym NWA) has made a total of 2.8 million euros available to tackle the issues in knowledge-chain-wide, interdisciplinary consortia. Basic funding for this research comes from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy and the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

Awarded projects

Effects of windfarms on the marine ecosystem, and implications for governance

The offshore wind farms required for our future energy may affect water, plants and animals in the North Sea. We do not know enough about this to plan these farms sustainably. We use observations by divers, satellite data and computer models to improve regulations and planning for the energy transition.

Footprint: effects of offshore wind farms on sediments in the Coastal North Sea

Current and planned windfarms in the North Sea are located in areas resembling underwater sand waves. Using field work and mathematical models, we will investigate how windfarms change these sand waves, and how this impacts sediment functioning. Our tools will be applied to delineate best practices in order to reduce environmental impacts.

Acoustic ecology of pelagic fish communities (APELAFICO): a study into the effects of construction and operation of wind farms

APELAFICO uses echo sounders to assess presence and behaviour of pelagic fishes around operational wind turbines and in a danger zone during pile driving. We also explore responses to sounds in captivity and at sea to improve an acoustic deterrent device (Faunaguard) to scare fish out of the danger zone.

Dutch Research Agenda

On behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, NWO has funded research in the context of the Dutch Research Agenda (Dutch acronym NWA) since 2018. The aim of the NWA is to provide a positive, structural contribution to the knowledge society of tomorrow, by building bridges now and jointly tackling scientific and societal challenges. Amongst other things, this is realised by thematic programming in collaboration with government ministries.

The aim of the thematic NWA programmes, in which collaboration is sought with government ministries, is to find answers to current societal issues.

Source: NWO