Closed to commercial shipping and fishing, offshore wind farms aren't put to much use besides generating clean energy. Ecofys, a Dutch sustainable consulting company, hopes to turn the empty space between turbines into an environment teaming with fish and farmed seaweed.
Last March, the company installed a trial module of steel nets in the North Sea and seeded the nets with native seaweed species. If the trial succeeds, the company says, it will be the first "offshore cultivation of biomass", and a way to produce two renewable resources in the same area. The seaweed could eventually be used for biofuels or as an energy feedstock, or as a replacement for soy protein in fish and livestock feed. It's a win-win situation for the environment, with less land cleared for soy, more nursery habitat for fish, and more clean energy for us humans.
Ecofys will be presenting their proposal at the Transnatural Festival in Amsterdam, from September 7 to October 7.
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I think the idea is that seaweed farms will serve as refuges for hatchling fish. Areas with any stationary feature near the surface (a reef, a coastline, a rock, an oil rig) are more ecologically productive than open ocean. Seaweed doesn't require any fertilizer or pesticides to grow, so these farms would actually be a net benefit for the ocean.
I had thought that the space around offshore windfarms would act marine parks - as refuges for fish to regenerate their populations numbers. Isn't this enough of a benefit? I would be worried if some kind of farming was going on - can't we just leave these bits of the sea alone?