Offshore Wind Farms Could Double As Seaweed Farms

A Dutch company is leading a project that, if the whole crazy scheme pans out, would turn offshore wind farms into actual farms.

The company is Ecofys, which does extensive work consulting with developers on things like offshore wind project siting and turbine testing. It thinks seaweed might be cultivated around offshore wind turbines and harvested “for the production of fish and animal feed, biofuels and energy.”

seaweed cultivation, offshore wind ecofys

image via Ecofys

To begin testing the notion, this month Ecofys, in a project backed by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, sent out a 20-meter-square “cultivation module” to a site six miles off the island of Texel. Steel cables anchored and buoyed in place hold nets measuring 10 meters by 10 meters a few feet under the sea. Seaweed plants “of species that occur naturally in the North Sea” are attached to the nets.

“The trial will test if the module is ‘North Sea proof,’ the survival and growth rate of the plants, and the ecological effects,” Ecofys said. “When the trial succeeds, Ecofys will have reached a global milestone: offshore cultivation of biomass (bio-offshore).”

The site where the test is taking place is not amid offshore wind turbines—instead, it’s a “disused sand extraction area,” Ecofys said. But the company believes that areas around turbines could be ideal for growing seaweed.

“A wind farm is closed for shipping and commercial fishing,” Anouk Florentinus, project manager at Ecofys, said in a statement. “This makes it a kind of marine conservation area. Fish will be attracted to the seaweed fields and use them for shelter and even as a nursery.”

Florentinus said the company expects to have “the first kilos” of harvested seaweed in hand early this summer.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • WinstonC

    very interesting- I wonder if there are any promotions available for these duel generation type systems. I am going to check out http://www.energygridiq.com to see if anything crops up. Otherwise, it would be in interesting point to push. 

  • What an interesting concept…I never would have thought that wind farms would be a good place to grow seaweed and that we could use seaweed in our biofuels. I’m especially interested in the fact that offshore wind farms can provide new habitats for various species. I hope that’s the case. That way, the wind farms would have duel benefits – give us alternative energy and literally benefit the environment! Just wait, we’re about to see a whole lot of wind farms being implemented in the U.S. I just read this article — http://www.everblue.edu/blog/wind-turbines-key-us-energy-plan — that talked about how President Obama wants to invest in offshore wind farms all along the United States coast. So I guess we’re going to see if this seaweed plot works out!!

  • Lynne Weaver

    Choices…burn, pollute, destroy our Earth or heal it.