In addition to their natural beauty, coral reefs have an important role to play in the natural world. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, about a quarter of the ocean’s fish rely on healthy coral reefs.
Reinhard Dirscherl | Image of Ullstein | Getty Images
Danish energy company Orsted will test coral growing on the foundations of offshore wind turbines in an attempt to find out if the method could be implemented on a larger scale in the years to come.
Working together with Taiwanese partners, the concept will be tested in the “tropical waters of Taiwan”. This week’s news represents the latest step in the company’s ReCoral initiative, which it began work on in 2018.
Last year, people involved with ReCoral were able to grow juvenile corals at a site along the quay. These were grown on what Orsted said were “subsea steel and concrete substrates”.
Proof of concept trials in June 2022 will involve an attempt to settle larvae and then grow coral at the Greater Changhua 1 offshore wind farm, a major facility in waters 35 to 60 kilometers off the coast of Taiwan. The project will use 1 square meter areas on four foundations.
In a statement Wednesday, Orsted said the project’s goals were “to determine whether corals can be successfully grown on offshore wind turbine foundations and to assess the potential positive biodiversity impact of the initiative’s increase.”
In addition to their vivid beauty, coral reefs have an important role to play in the natural world.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, about a quarter of the ocean’s fish rely on healthy coral reefs. “Fish and other organisms shelter, find food, breed and raise their young in the many nooks and crannies formed by the corals,” he adds.
In addition to being a source of food and what it calls “new medicine,” NOAA says coral reefs offer coastal protection from erosion and storms, as well as provide jobs for local communities.
Despite their importance, the planet’s coral reefs face a number of challenges, including coral bleaching. In March, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which manages the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, confirmed a fourth mass bleaching event since 2016.
According to a 2017 factsheet from the GBRMPAbleaching is what happens when corals are stressed, get rid of very small photosynthetic algae, known as zooxanthellae, and start starving.
“When the zooxanthellae leave the corals, the corals become lighter and more transparent,” he says.
The authority’s factsheet cites the most common reason for bleaching as “sustained heat stress, which occurs more frequently as our climate changes and oceans get warmer.”
While corals can recover from bleaching if conditions change, they can die if things don’t improve.
For his part, Orsted says water temperatures in wind farms located farther from the coast can provide greater stability, with “extreme temperature rises” prevented by what he describes as “vertical mixing in the water column.”
The general idea of the ReCoral project is that this stability of the water temperature will limit the bleaching possibilities of the corals, allowing the healthy growth of the corals on the foundations of the turbines.
Whether offshore or onshore, the interaction of wind turbines with the natural world, including marine or bird life, is likely to be an area of great debate and discussion in the future.
In April, the United States Department of Justice announced that a company called ESI Energy Inc he had “pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the MBTA” or Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
More broadly, the US Energy Information Administration has said that some wind and turbine projects can lead to the deaths of bats and birds.
“These deaths may contribute to the decline in the population of species affected by other human-related impacts as well,” he says.