Impact story

Porpoises and hearing damage due to construction of wind turbines

The wind turbines in the North Sea play a crucial role in making our energy system more sustainable and achieving climate objectives. However, the North Sea is also the habitat of porpoises. Wageningen Marine Research is investigating the effect of wind farms on the living conditions of this small whale species.

Porpoises have very sensitive hearing. The loud sounds close to a pile-driving site may even kill them.

Possible solutions during construction

A sound barrier of air bubbles around the pile-driving site can offer a solution n the long term, but this solution has not yet been developed far enough to be used on a large scale in the Netherlands. Wageningen Marine Research also investigates ways in which the harbour porpoises can be chased away about one kilometer from the pile-driving by means of other, less harmful noises. The animals do not suffer permanent hearing damage at this distance.

There are indications that harbour porpoises can fourage more easily within a wind farm than outside it.
Meike Scheidat, researcher at Wageningen Marine Research

Wind turbines in operation

About 300,000 porpoises live in the North Sea. Once the wind farms have been built, the potential problem of their hearing damage will largely be over. The sound of windmills in operation is not harmful to the harbour porpoise.

Also positive effects?

That is why it is important to also look at the potential positive effects of wind farms, Meike Scheidat of Wageningen Marine Research thinks. “There are indications that the harbour porpoise can fourage more easily within a wind farm than outside it. This is very important, because porpoises need a lot of food."

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