Ørsted trials coral growing at offshore wind farm

4C Offshore | Tom Russell
By: 04/05/2022 Ørsted

Ørsted is planning an attempt to support coral reefs by growing corals on offshore wind turbine foundations. Together with Taiwanese partners, the company will test the concept in the tropical waters of Taiwan this summer. The aims are to determine whether corals can be successfully grown on offshore wind turbine foundations and to evaluate the potential positive biodiversity impact of scaling up the initiative.

Named ReCoral by Ørsted, the project aims to implement a non-invasive approach for collecting surplus indigenous coral spawn as it washes ashore and for growing healthy coral colonies on the foundations of nearby offshore wind turbines.

Increased surface temperatures in shallow waters can lead to coral bleaching. At offshore wind farm locations further offshore, temperatures are more stable due to vertical mixing in the water column, preventing extreme temperature increases.

The innovative idea behind ReCoral is that the relatively stable water temperatures at offshore wind farm locations will limit the risk of coral bleaching and allow healthy corals to grow on wind turbine foundations. Corals will be grown close to the water's surface to ensure sufficient sunlight.

In 2020, biologists and marine specialists in Ørsted teamed up with private and academic coral experts to mature and test the concept. In 2021, the ReCoral team successfully grew juvenile corals on underwater steel and concrete substrates at a quayside test facility for the first time.

In June this year, the offshore proof-of-concept trial will begin at the Greater Changhua offshore wind farms in Taiwan to test the concept in open waters on four separate wind turbine foundations.

Mads Nipper, Group President and CEO of Ørsted, said: “To halt climate change and create a sustainable future for the planet, its ecosystems, and its people, we must speed up the transition from fossil fuels to renewables. Governments are preparing a significant expansion of offshore wind energy, and I’m confident that if done right, the offshore wind build-out can support and enhance ocean biodiversity.” He continues: “If we succeed with ReCoral and the concept proves to be scalable, this Ørsted innovation could create a significant positive impact on ocean biodiversity.”

Ørsted collaborates with the Penghu Marine Biology Research Center in Taiwan, and together they have developed a non-invasive methodology for coral seeding, in vitro fertilisation, larvae transport, and larvae attachment to wind turbine foundations. Rather than removing anything from existing coral ecosystems, ReCoral’s non-invasive approach relies on the collection of surplus coral egg bundles that wash up on shorelines and would not otherwise survive.

Hern-Yi Hsieh, Director of Penghu Marine Biology Research Center, said: “We’re excited to take part in such a great initiative and partner up with the world’s most significant player in offshore wind. Environmental protection and marine biodiversity will continue to be one of the key topics of the world in the coming decade. It’s great to see that, apart from its effort to supply clean energy, Ørsted is also launching its coral project here in Taiwan to promote environmental friendliness. We’re honoured to participate in the project, and we look forward to more such initiatives in the future.”

If the proof-of-concept trial is successful, Ørsted will explore opportunities for scaling up the initiative, with the ultimate aim of using additional coral larvae generated at offshore wind farm locations to restore and enhance threatened near-shore reef systems.



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