World’s First Co-Located Seaweed and Offshore Wind Farm
Scientists at Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) are investigating the potential climate change mitigation benefits of farming seaweed alongside offshore wind arrays.
Seaweed is known to absorb large quantities of CO2, but the extent of its viability for carbon removal at industrial scale is yet to be determined. For “blue carbon” ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrasses or salt marshes, carbon is sequestered into mud or sediment in the immediate environment: As the plants grow and die, their decomposing matter is absorbed into the ground below. Seaweed, by contrast, grows in rocky and exposed areas, making the carbon sequestration process much more difficult to track as the seaweed detritus is constantly released into the ocean, sequestering at sites on the seafloor and at unknown locations in the deep ocean.
As part of an innovative €1.5 million project, funded through Amazon’s Right Now Climate Fund, a team of scientists from PML is seeking to establish the role offshore seaweed farming could play in capturing and storing carbon in the future. Delivered alongside North Sea Farmers (NSF), an international nonprofit seaweed farming membership organization, North Sea Farm 1 is a first-of-its-kind seaweed farm located among offshore wind turbines.
The goal is to enable a far greater understanding of the natural processes involved in the seaweed carbon cycle and the ability to track detritus and locate where carbon may be stored for the long term, in the deep ocean and seafloor. Ultimately, North Sea Farm 1 could provide a blueprint for how such farms, coupled with seafloor conservation measures, could be used for larger-scale capture carbon.
During its first year of operation, Sea Farm 1 will focus on testing and improving the farm’s production performance. The farm will make the most of the space between wind turbines. If successful, this could be scaled across the North Sea, which has an estimated 1 million hectares of space available within existing wind farms.