Danish offshore wind giant Ørsted is planning what it says is a world-first attempt to support coral reefs by growing corals on offshore wind turbine foundations. Together with Taiwanese partners, the company will test the concept in the tropical waters of Taiwan this summer.
Through its ReCoral project, Ørsted said it is exploring new ways to protect and enhance biodiversity. The project aims to implement a non-invasive approach for collecting surplus indigenous coral spawn as it washes ashore and for growing healthy coral colonies on the foundations of nearby offshore wind turbines.
The innovative idea behind ReCoral is that the relatively stable water temperatures at offshore wind farm locations will limit the risk of coral bleaching and allow healthy corals to grow on wind turbine foundations. The corals will be grown close to the water’s surface to ensure sufficient sunlight, the developer explained.
In 2020, biologists and marine specialists in Ørsted teamed up with private and academic coral experts to mature and test the concept. In 2021, the ReCoral team successfully grew juvenile corals on underwater steel and concrete substrates at a quayside test facility for the first time. In June this year, the offshore proof-of-concept trial will begin at the Greater Changhua offshore wind farms in Taiwan to test the concept in open waters on four separate wind turbine foundations.
If the proof-of-concept trial is successful, Ørsted said it would explore opportunities for scaling up the initiative, with the ultimate aim of using additional coral larvae generated at offshore wind farm locations to restore and enhance threatened near-shore reef systems.
Ørsted noted that the ReCoral concept could be applied to offshore foundations of any kind in tropical waters around the world and it will share learnings and the techniques the ReCoral team develops with the broader coral conservation community, and with other wind farm developers.
According to the UN Environment Programme, coral reefs provide habitat for an estimated 32% of all marine species and benefit 1bn people worldwide, directly or indirectly.