The BENSO project will develop and implement methods and techniques for the improvement of biodiversity in offshore wind farms. The project focuses on scour protection: boulders that protect the seabed around wind turbine piles against erosion. Scour protection can be designed to benefit certain animal species, such as fish, crabs and lobsters.
As part of the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, the Dutch government is aiming to realize five 700 MW offshore wind farms by 2023 and an additional 1,000 MW between 2023 and 2030. The Dutch government has identified several challenges for the successful upscaling of offshore wind energy, including the ecological impact of offshore wind farms on the North Sea ecosystem, which can be negative (collisions with birds, disturbance) or positive (introduction of hard substrate into soft sediment ecosystem).
There is increasing international evidence for the ecological opportunities and positive effects of offshore wind farms on marine ecosystems. Scour protection works as a settlement substrate for marine organisms and as a habitat for fish, crabs and lobsters. This has motivated the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality to use the development of offshore wind farms to improve the status of policy-relevant species in the North Sea.
The project contributes to the integration of offshore wind energy into the environment (ecology and multi-use) and aims to create economic value by developing, testing and implementing smart ecological design for scour protection in offshore wind farms to increase biodiversity locally and improve the wider ecosystem and implement smart survey techniques during monitoring and maintenance activities.
The BENSO project will develop and implement methods and techniques for the improvement of biodiversity in offshore wind farms. The positive effects of soil protection on species and ecosystem scale will be quantified by desk studies, field experiments in offshore wind farms and modelling studies. Smart monitoring techniques will be implemented in experiments, regular monitoring and in maintenance work. A smart ecological design of scour protection will be developed and tested. The measured positive effects of new ecological soil protection on the broader North Sea ecosystem will be quantified in pilot studies. The smart ecological designs will be made available to the offshore wind farms through reports, workshops and a guide.