Blue mussels, seaweed and offshore wind energy in Germany

If aquaculture works here, it will work everywhere!

  • Eva Strothotte 

"Aquaculture in wind farms is often thought to be a challenge for operations, whereas we believe it is a great opportunity to be seized. And UNITED is our chance to test it and prove it"

KEY FACTS

It is equipped with an airfield for helicopters, three generators for power self-supply and containers for measuring devices, energy, tank, workshop, storage and pilot stay

FINO3 is located about 80 kilometers west of Sylt on the edge of the potential aptitude for wind turbines off the Schleswig-Holstein North Sea coast and in the near vicinity of the operating offshore wind farms Butendiek, DanTysk and Sandbank

Research carried out at the platform so far has helped wind energy operators and manufacturers in the planning, building and future operations of offshore wind farms.

The challenge

Imagine to be in the North Sea, 80 km away from the coast, on a harsh winter day. Imagine the wind blowing over 100 km/hour, the strong waves reaching up to 14 meters. And then imagine someone coming up and saying: “Hey, we’ve got a wind farm up here! Why don’t we also grow blue mussels and seaweed?”

The site

And this is actually the case with FINO 3 pilot site in Germany,  operated by the R & D Centre Kiel University of Applied Sciences (FuE-Zentrum FH Kiel GmbH). FINO 3 is a research platform built in 2009 in an area potentially suitable for wind farms – which now hosts 3 wind farms – and it is open to all institutions and firms wanting to do research. It was constructed and designed to investigate wind farming conditions in the North Sea, and regular recordings of wind, weather and water conditions have been developed over the last 10 years. A live data stream on external conditions in the site can be easily accessed on the platform’s website.

Moreover, research activities on FINO 3 are also aimed at enhancing the safety of operations for people working in offshore platforms. And if you are wondering whether people actually live in such extreme conditions, the answer is yes: the platform offers very good structures on site, including transport and accommodation, and staff and researchers usually live on the platform for a few months in a row. 

UNITED goals

Thus, here we are talking about people who love challenges – and activities in UNITED will bring the challenge up to another level: they will test in reality the potential for blue mussels and seaweed cultivation in combination with wind energy production, something that has never been done before. If aquaculture proves to be feasible in such extreme conditions, it means that it is feasible almost anywhere, opening new opportunities for several Blue economy actors. The site is particularly fit for this scope, because it hosts standard wind turbines – thus ensuring the transferability of results to many other sites. 

And, in turn, UNITED pilot is particularly fit for this site, because it gives researchers an opportunity to relate to similar sites in Belgium and the Netherlands, compare results, discuss and find solutions to shared challenges. The development of automated monitoring systems, for example, could spare researchers quite a few trips to the platform: this would maybe make their lives a bit less adventurous, but would definitely increase the economic viability of offshore operations.