Fish Thriving Amid Offshore Turbines, Danes Say

A just-completed Danish study of the effects of offshore wind farms on fish populations finds fish thriving amid increased diversity in rock-loving species.

The study by DTU Aqua-National Institute of Aquatic Resources in Denmark, entitled “Effect of the Horns Rev 1 Offshore Wind Farm on Fish Communities Follow-up Seven Years after Construction” [PDF], was conducted over many years at Denmark’s largest ocean wind farm, Horns Rev 1, an 80-turbine installation off Denmark’s coast, and was funded by Denmark’s electricity ratepayers.

Horns-Rev-1-Danish-study-fish-offshore-wind

image via DTU Aqua—National Institute of Aquatic Resources in Denmark

Because these are typical site conditions for offshore wind farms in development, the study is widely applicable to future offshore wind development, which is fortunate, because Europe has 141 more offshore wind projects in the pipeline.

The wind farm is sited in relatively shallow water — under 20 meters deep — the sort of area normally teeming with fish.

The study has been ongoing since before the wind farm was built, when researchers from the National Institute of Aquatic Resources in Denmark sailed out to conduct a survey of the diverse teeming fish life in the area, to have a baseline from which to assess the effects.

The turbines at Horns Rev 1 are sunk deep into the seabed and surrounded by a rim of large piles of stones to prevent the sea currents from eroding deep trenches in the sand around the turbines.

These stone structures appear to act as artificial reefs, providing enhanced conditions for rock-loving fish, with an abundant supply of food and shelter from the current.

The multitude of species that were there to begin with, like the sand eel, one of the most important fish for the Danish fishing industry, were unaffected by the artificial reef, the study found.

horns rev

image via DONG Energy

But the manmade rocky habitats have enticed a number of new species into the area as well, without affecting the species that were there to begin with, a finding that replicates the results of a previous Dutch study of offshore wind effects on fish.

“Species such as the goldsinny-wrasse, eelpout and lumpfish which like reef environments have established themselves on the new reefs in the area — the closer we came to each turbine foundation, the more species we found,” says Claus Stenberg.

According to this extremely comprehensive long term study, Danish fish seem to be just loving renewable energy, unlike the desert tortoise of California.

Or perhaps there have been no actual empirical studies on the effects of solar on tortoises, other than Google-friendly fear-mongering news stories about the potential effects from the Heartland Institute, the well known fossil-funded denier group, whose “concern” for the tortoise masks its real concern: fossil energy competition.

“In just a couple of years the federal government has given a few solar power companies access to 21 million acres of the public’s lands—more than it has allowed for oil and gas exploration in the past decade”.

Poor oil and gas. And why would anyone develop solar anyway? Fossil power is better for the environment, and sooo cheap:

“And all for power that is less reliable, much more expensive, and has a significantly greater environmental impact than conventional alternatives”.

That claim takes balls.

Or perhaps Danish fish know something that the Heartland Institute and the gullible conservation groups that side with them don’t: That in order to protect both fish, tortoises and the entire eco system that our civilization depends on, humans need to switch to clean energy, because dirty energy causes climate change globally that threatens to wipe out hundreds of thousands of species.

Susan Kraemer enjoys writing to publicize the many great solutions for climate change that we can find if we just put our minds to it. She covers renewable policy and clean energy for CleanTechnica and GreenProphet and green building at HomeDesignFind. She recently moved home to Waiheke Island where her writing is now powered by the 80% renewable electricity that powers New Zealand.