Offshore wind turbines become havens for corals
Ørsted is now planning the world’s first attempt to support coral reefs by growing corals on the foundations of offshore wind turbines. Together with Taiwanese partners, the company will test the concept in Taiwan’s tropical waters as early as this summer. The aim is to determine whether corals can be grown successfully on the foundations of offshore wind turbines and to evaluate the potential positive impact on biodiversity if the initiative is scaled up.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme , coral reefs are habitats for an estimated 32% of all marine species and benefit, directly or indirectly, 1 billion people worldwide. But global warming is increasing the temperature of the sea surface, which can create a bleaching effect that threatens the survival of the ecosystems that tropical coral reefs support. This, in turn, contributes to the global biodiversity crisis.
Climate change is becoming the biggest driver of biodiversity loss. At the same time, a significant expansion of offshore wind power is central to dealing with these interconnected crises. Governments around the world are planning a significant expansion of green energy infrastructure at sea. In order to do it right, Ørsted believes that the expansion of offshore wind power needed to combat climate change must also integrate solutions that support and improve biodiversity in the oceans. Therefore, Ørsted has set an industry-leading ambition to deliver a net positive impact on biodiversity in all of the company’s new energy projects by 2030.
In addition to working to make nature healthier than before, Ørsted, the global leader in offshore wind power, is also exploring innovative new ways to protect and improve biodiversity. Ørsteds nya projekt ReCoral är ett exempel på att företaget undersöker olika sätt på hur detta kan uppnås. The project aims to implement a non-invasive strategy of collecting the surplus of native corals when washed up on land and growing healthy coral colonies on the foundations of nearby offshore wind turbines.
The idea behind ReCoral
Increased surface temperatures in shallow water can lead to fading of corals. In offshore wind farms further out to sea, temperatures are more stable due to vertical mixing in the water column, which prevents extreme temperature increases.
The innovative idea behind ReCoral is that the relatively stable water temperatures in offshore wind farms will limit the risk of coral bleaching and allow healthy corals to grow on the foundations of the wind turbines. The corals will be grown near the water surface to ensure they get enough sunlight.
In 2020, biologists and marine specialists within Ørsted collaborated with coral experts from the business world and with academics to develop and test the concept. In 2021, the ReCoral team successfully grew young corals on underwater steel and concrete substrates at a quay testing facility for the first time.
In June this year, the trial will begin with sea-based concept tests in Greater Changhua – Ørsted’s offshore wind farms in Taiwan – to test the concept in open water on four separate wind turbine foundations.
Mads Nipper, President and CEO of Ørsted, said: “To stop climate change and create a sustainable future for the planet, its ecosystems and its population, we need to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Governments around the world are preparing a significant expansion of offshore wind, and I am confident that if done right, the deployment of offshore wind can support and improve ocean biodiversity.” He continues: “If we succeed with ReCoral and the concept proves to be scalable, this Ørsted innovation can create a significant positive impact on marine biodiversity.”
Working with coral experts
As part of the project, Ørsted collaborates with the Penghu Marine Biology Research Center in Taiwan. Together they have developed a non-invasive methodology for coral sowing, in vitro fertilization, transport and attachment of larvae to the foundations of wind turbines. Rather than taking anything from existing coral ecosystems, ReCoral’s non-invasive approach relies on the collection of the excess coral egg dumpling that washes up on beaches and that otherwise wouldn’t survive.
Hern-Yi Hsieh, Director of the Penghu Marine Biology Research Center, said: “We are delighted to be part of such an amazing initiative and to collaborate with the world’s most important player in offshore wind. Environmental protection and marine biodiversity will continue to be one of the most important issues in the world over the next decade. It’s great to see that in addition to his work to deliver clean energy, Ørsted is also launching its coral project here in Taiwan to promote biodiversity. We are honored to participate in the project and we look forward to more such initiatives in the future.”
If the pilot test is successful, Ørsted will explore the possibilities to scale up the initiative. The ultimate aim would be to use additional coral heritage generated in offshore wind farms to restore and enhance endangered near-shore reefs.
The ReCoral concept could be applied to offshore foundations of all kinds in tropical waters around the world. Ørsted will share the lessons learned and techniques that the ReCoral team is developing with scientists, companies and organizations working to protect coral reefs, as well as with other wind power developers. Ørsted förväntar sig att resultaten kommer att vara användbara oavsett om ReCoral-piloten lyckas.
To find out more about the ReCoral method and how it differs from other methods of coral restoration, visit: https://orsted.com/sustainability/our-priorities/nature/recoral
2018: Ørsted began developing the ReCoral project.
2019–20: The technical and ecological aspects of the concept were developed, including the larval procurement and associated methods.
2021 : The Penghu Marine Biology Research Center completed a pilot test with surplus native coral fry collected from the coast of the Penghu Islands. The coral fry were developed into larvae in one of their land-based laboratories and attached to steel and concrete substrates underwater at a quay test facility.
2022: In June, Ørsted will conduct a proof of concept and try to get larvae to settle and grow healthy corals at its Greater Changhua 1 offshore wind farm, located 35-60 kilometers off the coast of Taiwan. For the test, areas of 1m2 on four separate foundations will be used.
Net positive impact on biodiversity
Net positive biodiversity is Ørsted’s ambition for all renewable energy projects ordered by the company no later than 2030. Nettopositiv inverkan på den biologiska mångfalden innebär ett mätbart bidrag som förbättrar den biologiska mångfalden totalt sett och lämnar naturen som helhet i bättre form än tidigare. Unavoidable effects are minimized and mitigated, and in addition to this, active measures are taken to improve biodiversity and repair ecosystems that today are threatened by crises both in terms of climate and biodiversity.
Ørsted’s offshore wind farms do not damage naturally occurring coral reefs, and Ørsted’s biodiversity ambition does not depend on ReCoral to provide a net positive impact on biodiversity at the Greater Changua wind farms. However, the project will create important lessons on how Ørsted and others can find better ways to benefit biodiversity. Read more about Ørsted’s net positive ambition for biodiversity here.
The Greater Changhua 1 Offshore Wind Farm
As part of the 900 MW offshore wind farms, Greater Changhua 1 and 2a, Greater Changhua 1 has a total capacity of 605 MW and is jointly owned by Ørsted (50%) as well as Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and Cathay PE, which have a combined ownership stake of 50%.
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Ørsted Group Media Relations
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Ørsted’s vision is to create a world that is entirely powered by green energy. Ørsted develops, builds and operates offshore and onshore wind farms, solar farms, energy storage facilities, renewable hydrogen and green fuels facilities, and bioenergy plants. In addition, Ørsted provides energy products to its customers. Ørsted is the only energy company in the world with a science-based net zero emissions target validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Ørsted is also on the CDP Climate Change A List as a global leader for climate action, in addition to being ranked as the world’s most sustainable energy company in Corporate Knight’s index of the 100 most sustainable companies in the world in 2022. Ørsted is headquartered in Denmark and has 6,836 employees. Ørsted’s shares are listed on Nasdaq Copenhagen (Orsted). In 2021, the Group’s revenue amounted to DKK 77.7 billion (EUR 10.4 billion). [http://orsted .se /] Besökorsted.se or follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.