Wind farms in synergy with the environment

Wind turbines in the sea stand on constructions on enormous steel piles that are driven 35 metres deep into the seabed. ECN part of TNO has a separate research line for, among other things, the improvement of the design of these so-called monopiles.

Within a few decades, approximately a quarter of the North Sea will consist of wind farms. This is necessary in order to meet the growing demand for wind energy. ECN part of TNO is developing a number of pilot projects to provide knowledge about the consequences for nature and the environment, among other things.

The North Sea is also used by other parties, such as shipping, fisheries and tourism, and the sea is also, of course, the habitat of many animal species. The aim of ECN part of TNO is to ensure that future wind farms are built with respect for all these parties, especially nature and the environment.

The energy transition, in which traditional, finite energy sources - coal, oil and natural gas - are replaced by renewable energy sources, will result in many more wind farms in the North Sea in the coming decades. This requires consultation and, preferably, cooperation with other users of the North Sea.

Multifunctional use

Due to the currently limited size of the wind farms, this use is not yet such an issue, but this will soon change with the steady construction of the wind farms. As a result, the integration of these wind farms into their surroundings and the possibilities for multifunctional use already need to be carefully considered at this stage. This requires new regulations, but it also requires technical innovations. These include, for example, the construction of oyster beds, mussel farms or seaweed cultivation between wind turbines and the supported constructions. TNO plays a particularly important role in technical innovation.
 
At the moment ECN part of TNO is active in two areas: a system (Wind Turbine Birds) to monitor how often birds are killed by the blades of wind turbines, and which bird species are most affected. As soon as more is known about this from measurements at sea, research can be carried out to prevent bird mortality as much as possible, for example by deterring birds near turbines. A second pilot is a system that measures the distance to how far bats fly at sea, with the same goal: to make sure that wind turbines do not have a major impact on bats.

The fishing industry is not yet keen on the idea of more wind farms. There is a fear that valuable fishing grounds will be lost as a result. In addition, the pile-driving activities would result in so much noise pollution that fish species, seals and porpoises would be displaced and the areas concerned would become unsuitable for long periods of time as resting and foraging areas. This can be changed, not only by the development of quieter mooring techniques, but also by making the space between the parks accessible to fishing boats and by installing fewer, but more powerful turbines.

Towards a large-scale generatio of wind energy

Feike Savenije, MSc

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Feike Savenije, MSc

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ECN part of TNO

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