Belgium

Belgium

Could seaweed farming provide a lucrative sideline for offshore wind farms?

A Belgian-Dutch consortium is set to create the world’s first large-scale seaweed farming operation between the turbines of the 370MW Norther offshore wind project in the North Sea. The seaweed could be used to produce biofuel, further helping decarbonisation.

Offshore wind farms could provide opportunities for large scale seaweed farming, which is currently limited to small sites in the North Sea (pic: Seaweed Harvest Holland)
Offshore wind farms could provide opportunities for large scale seaweed farming, which is currently limited to small sites in the North Sea (pic: Seaweed Harvest Holland)

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Wier & Wind hopes that its demonstration project at the 370MW Norther Norther (370MW) Offshoreoff Zeebrugge, Belgium, Europe Click to see full details wind farm 23km off Zeebrugge in Belgium, will highlight the “multi-use” benefits of energy projects tied to nature and food services.

The seaweed consortium is made up of Seaweed Harvest Nordsea, Murre Technologies, AtSeaNova and GEOxyz. It hopes to have its brown seaweed seeded at the end of the year with a harvest set for next May. In theory, the project could yield between 100-140 tonnes of wet biomass per hectare, which will be used in the biorefinery process.

WPM understands that because it is a demonstration project only, revenues have not been factored into the seaweed farm. The project is backed by the European Union's Interreg programme, which funds sustainable energy and environmental research. 

The biofuel industry is exploring the use of seaweed — a marine algae that sequesters carbon dioxide — as a potential energy feedstock. Other applications include as a thickening agent in the food and beauty industry in the form of agar, and aimed at health-conscious consumers as one of the so-called superfoods packed with proteins, minerals and vitamins.

Although many small seaweed growers exist there are too few suitable places along the North Sea coast to be able to scale up the sector, according to the Belgian-Dutch consortium.

Offshore wind farms could offer a suitable alternative, where large and empty areas between wind turbines can be used for sustainable food production. The seaweed would also also be protected from ships that might otherwise run over the floating algal farms by accident, the group said.

The executive director of Norther, Thierry Aelens, believes that seaweed farms could contribute to a carbon-neutral future. 

“We therefore consider it important to support this initiative and are also very curious about the commercial success rates of offshore seaweed farms because they complement our offshore activities,” he said.

Wier & Wind hopes that in the future, harvesting or turbine maintenance checks could be carried out at the same time, lowering costs.

In 2018, a consortium led by offshore contractor Van Oord led a demonstration project to plant oyster beds around two turbines to prove the project’s compatibility with wind.

 

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