‘We are very happy with this collaboration. We do a lot of research and now we have the opportunity to test the latest techniques and designs close to the coast. Once proven, we can use them later in offshore wind farms. It’s a wonderful step to have our own test site at sea,’ says Erwin Coolen, program director of The Rich North Sea.
North Sea Farmers’ Offshore Test Site will be used for research into seaweed cultivation, renewable energy generation and sustainable mussel farming. The Rich North Sea is the first party to use a plot for research into the development of underwater nature and the return of oyster beds. The conditions on the bottom of the North Sea are harsh, so it is important to know in advance whether the designs can withstand the currents, wave action, and dynamics of the bottom.
Close to the coast
This close to the coast, it is easier to conduct research than in the wind farms themselves. The research site can be reached by small ships in relatively little time. Diving is also allowed, for example, to monitor species. In wind farms, the requirements for ships are strict and diving is not allowed, making expeditions very costly.
This week the first oyster cages and artificial reefs were installed. Both constructions are important for building natural reefs. With the oyster cages, the researchers are looking specifically at the design: do they not sink into the sand and are they stable enough. We placed two types of oyster cages: a design by Bureau Waardenburg and one by NIOZ. As for the reefs, the hope is that they will attract crabs, sea anemones, and fish and that mussels will attach themselves. The researchers also hope that squids will use the reefs to deposit their eggs. The British company ARC Marine designed the reef. They won the 2019 Offshore Wind Innovation Challenge with it.
The Rich North Sea
The Rich North Sea does its work based on the conviction that wind farms are the future hotspots for nature in the North Sea. Because fishing is not allowed in the parks, nature is given the chance to develop and flourish once again. In close cooperation with the wind and hydraulic engineering sector, science, and government, the organization wants to develop a blueprint for wind parks in the Netherlands and eventually worldwide. Thanks to a contribution from the Droomfonds (dream fund) of the Dutch Postcode Lottery, the Rich North Sea can realize this ambition.