E&E Part 4: Offshore Wind Farms

Offshore wind farms are simply just wind farms that are located 20-35 kilometers away from land.[1] There are many advantages to having wind turbines offshore that make them viable energy sources. First, offshore wind farms produce much more energy than onshore due to the fact that wind is more constant offshore. In fact, winds are 40% more frequent offshore than they are onshore.[2] Second, they are very distant from human populations. This is desirable because many complaints from wind farms center on the noise they create as well as being visually displeasing. Offshore locations are barely visible and cannot be heard from land. Lastly, deaths from birds are severely diminished from that of onshore wind farms because offshore wind farms are situated in locations where birds do not frequently fly.[2] Although all of this sounds great, the cost of making an offshore wind farm is about 2.5 to 3.5 times higher than an onshore one.[2] Additionally, the effects of offshore wind farms on marine life has been unclear for a long time. However, a recent study has shown that despite the noise from wind turbines marine life thrives around offshore wind farms.

This idea that marine life benefits from these offshore wind farms has been believed to be true but now there is scientific evidence. The main theory is that the wind turbine acts as an artificial reef. This artificial reef then attracts barnacles and mussels which in turn attract species of fish.[4] The fish attract seals and before you know it there is a thriving ecosystem all centered around wind turbines. The main concern against this theory is that the noise from the wind turbines will actually repel marine life away from the wind turbines instead of attracting it. Just recently, an international team of researchers from the United States, United Kingdom, and Holland have solid evidence that marine life seems to thrive around these offshore wind farms.[4] The researchers tagged harbor and grey seals with GPS devices and monitored their movements in the North Sea. Out of these tagged seals, eleven harbor seals were shown to have visited two wind farms, one off the German coast and the other off the British coast. The study stated that the seals showed “striking grid-like patterns of movement as they concentrated their activity at individual turbines.”[4] This type of patterned movement is consistent with the movement of seals while foraging.[4] One seal in particular showed direct movements in between turbines and stopped occasionally almost “as if he was checking them out for potential prey and then stopping to forage at certain ones.” [4]

This research is great news for the future of offshore wind farms. This shows that not only are offshore wind farms viable sources of energy but they promote marine life at the same time. Offshore wind farms are a great opportunity for clean energy and more and more are being created in Europe and Asia.[4] In the United States, legislation is holding it back but organizations such as the National Wildlife Foundation are pushing more and more to get it passed.


Seals are awesome


  1. http://www.ewea.org/fileadmin/ewea_documents/documents/publications/statistics/EWEA_stats_offshore_2011_02.pdf
  2. http://relevansi.com/blog/offshore-onshore-debate-wind-energy/
  3. http://coastalenergyandenvironment.web.unc.edu/files/2011/05/vertical.jpg
  4. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/offshore-wind-farms-create-reef-effect-perfect-for-marine-wildlife–especially-seals-9619371.html

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Final Project: Energy and Ecology – Tying Everything Together | New Writing, Post-Human: CS 2367.04 at OSU

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