The bottom of the sea has been degrading for years. Now we have an unexpected solution: wind turbines

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Europe wants more wind power. Much more. The Brussels roadmap contemplates that in a matter of three decades, by 2050, it will account for half of its electricity. How? Well, its plans are to increase that generated on land from the current 173 GW to 1,000 GW and shoot that of marine origin so that it goes from 16 to 300 GW. The United Kingdom, in a similar vein, is also proposing a growth spurt in offshore supply all your homes at the end of this same decade. If the forecasts are met, by 2030 there could be worldwide 30,000 offshore wind turbines.

The question that a group of scientists have just asked themselves is… What if, while we increase the number of turbines in the oceans we contribute to biodiversity? His conclusion – that they just broke down in The Conversation— is that it can. Not only that. Thanks to them we could also mitigate an effect of climate change that threatens to impoverish the seas.

An extra source of turbulence

The idea they have come up with is that the turbines can create a “new artificial source of turbulence” in the oceans. At first it may sound like something negative, a drawback of the activity of wind generators; but in reality those fluctuations are a blessing for the “stratified” seasthose that can be divided into several layers and in which the flow of water between them is essential for marine life and biodiversity to thrive.

Under normal conditions, the seas manage perfectly without us and this “mixer” task is assumed by the tides, waves and winds. However, climate change has caused an imbalance that —the researchers maintain— we could palliate thanks to the turbines.

Let’s go by parts.

Thousands of wind turbines are approaching the end of their useful life, the big question is what we will do with their blades after

During their research, the scientists looked at the UK waters into which the turbines are proposed to expand. His attention was focused in a special way on those deep areas and that “stratify” with the passing of the seasons, which means that layers with different characteristics can be identified over the months. In winter the water mixes, but in spring it separates into “strata”: on top of the cold layer another layer forms, more superficial and heated by the sun. It may seem like a minor detail, but that division is crucial for life.

In the words of the researchers themselvesfavors a “massive explosion of marine life”. Phytoplankton flourish in the warmer upper waters, laying the foundation for a complex chain that also includes many other creatures, such as fish and birds. When the richness of the warm layer is exhausted, it is the turn of the deeper waters.

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For this dynamic to work, however, a key factor is needed: the “exchange” of water, turbulence generated by the tides, the wind or the waves themselves. Its role is also important so that oxygen descends to the deeper layers and help decomposition.

Problem? That changes in climate have upset this delicate balance, advancing the process and flowering of plankton and limiting the role of tides, waves and winds to remove the nutrients found in the depths. This is where wind turbines installed in the deepest waters can play a key role, helping turbulence and the generation of wakes that mix the coldest and warmest layers and, with them, nutrients and oxygen.

“Something similar is already happening around submarine banks, which is why very productive fisheries are often found in places like Dogger Bankin the North Sea, or the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, shallow points where different layers of the ocean have mixed”, the researchers collect in The Conversation. With these data on the table, they encourage us to think about How can they favor ecosystems?.

The UK's commitment to offshore wind power is brutal: all British homes will depend on it by 2030

The effect of turbulence in certain seas adds a piece to the complex debate on how to expand wind power while respecting the environment. A year ago SEO/BirdLife He proposed to the authorities and the sector that the expansion of offshore generators be done with respect for the environment and without repeating the “imbalances” that, they point out, have occurred with the plants created on land. Among other issues, they point out the importance of updating the zoning, respecting the protected areas, drawing up a staggered implementation and addressing its impact on birds.

Some researchers have gone further and They even warn of the damage that can be caused by the installations in ecosystems, such as the risk of collision with birds, turtles and mammals, noise pollution problems and heavy metals that cause or, directly, serious damage that can cause in the seabed and the destruction of habitats.

Pictures | Nicholas Doherty (Unsplash) and Solar Jumanji (Flickr)

Europe wants more wind power. Much more. The Brussels roadmap contemplates that in a matter of three decades, by 2050,…

Europe wants more wind power. Much more. The Brussels roadmap contemplates that in a matter of three decades, by 2050,…

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