Offshore wind farms unleash potential for multifunctional aquaculture


Europe – As European waters become increasingly crowded with the ambitious EU target of achieving 60 GW of offshore wind energy by 2030, concerns about potential conflicts and threats to ecosystems have emerged.

However, a groundbreaking initiative, the EU and industry-funded United project, is proving that offshore wind farms can be more than just generators of clean energy—they can also serve as hubs for sustainable food cultivation.

The United project, driven by the goal of exploring the multifunctionality of offshore wind farms, has successfully implemented five real-life pilot projects. According to Ghada El Serafy, project coordinator at Deltares, the key lies in utilizing the spaces between wind turbines for sustainable food cultivation. One notable pilot project in Germany focused on shellfish and algae cultivation, overcoming technical challenges and demonstrating promising results.

The Dutch and Belgian pilots delved into the cultivation of seaweed and molluscs within dynamic offshore wind farms. Simultaneously, Belgian partners worked on restoring oyster beds within wind farms, with the vision of utilizing these natural beds for oyster farming activities.

Challenging convention

In essence, the United project challenges the conventional notion that offshore wind farms must exclusively serve energy production. The same areas designated for wind farms can now accommodate compatible activities such as seaweed, mussel, or oyster farming.

The integration of seaweed farms, especially within wind farms, offers more than just food production—it provides a refuge and habitat for various marine species. Through extractive aquaculture methods employed in seaweed farming, excess nutrients from land-based activities can be effectively removed, contributing to water purification. The combination of oyster aquaculture and seaweed farming emerges as a sustainable approach to aquaculture while addressing environmental concerns related to nutrient pollution.

The success of the challenges the United project has paved the way for a follow-up initiative in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands. The team aims to investigate the commercial viability of aquaculture within wind farms, exploring the potential for harmonizing offshore wind energy production with sustainable food cultivation.

In an era where environmental sustainability is paramount, the United project showcases a transformative vision, turning offshore wind farms into multifunctional spaces that not only power nations but also nurture marine life and promote ecological balance.