Offshore wind farms create biodiversity

A study conducted at a Dutch wind farm over the last two years has shown that wind farms, rather than destroying habitats, can act as a new type of habitat […]

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By Tom Gibson

A study conducted at a Dutch wind farm over the last two years has shown that wind farms, rather than destroying habitats, can act as a new type of habitat with a higher biodiversity of organisms, both on the sea floor, in the water and in the air.

An extensive monitoring programme is being undertaken at the Offshore Windfarm Egmond aan Zee (OWEZ) off the coast of the Netherlands, and while the study has only been conducted for two years it has surprised researchers with its findings.

The paper from IOP Publishing, ‘Short-term ecological effects of an offshore wind farm in the Dutch coastal zone’ states: “The soft-bottom benthos (sea floor) community is not affected by the wind farm… There is an increase in biodiversity due to the newly introduced hard substrata of the piles and stones… Some fish species, such as Cod, seem to find shelter in the wind farm. Some bird species appear to avoid the farm while others are indifferent or even attracted.”

“Overall, the OWEZ acts as a new type of habitat with a higher biodiversity of benthic organisms, a possibly increased use of the area by fish, marine mammals and some bird species and a decreased use by several other bird species.”

The paper’s researchers say the findings “do not indicate a need for major changes in the development of more wind farms in the open sea” but make the point that the findings are only based on two years of research and only apply to a small wind farm close to the coast.