Jul 25 2011

Wind Turbines as Oyster Farms?

Published by under Student blog entries

I spent most of yesterday wondering what I could post about, and ended up getting nothing done. However, the universe is a funny thing, and has a way of making things work out. This morning, when I managed to drag myself out of bed, I went immediately to the sunday comics and found a pleasant surprise in one of my favorite comics. 

The comic, while goofy, did make me think about the idea of mussels using the foundations of offshore wind turbines as their homes. Then, through an extremely long and admittedly slightly hair-brained chain of thought, I came up with what I think is a pretty novel idea. What if we used offshore energy generating devices as beds for the farming of oysters and other edible shellfish? Humans have developed quite an appetite for both energy and seafood, so if the possibility exists to use offshore energy generating devices to farm shellfish, why wouldn’t we? Remember, I warned you it was a strange idea. Here is my logic as far as the ecological and economic reasons this idea is good:

Ecological:

The foundations of offshore wind energy devices have been noted to have potential as artificial reefs (Langhamer and Wilhelmsson). All that an oyster farm is is an artifical reef that is designed to be as hospitable to oysters as possible (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution). It stands to reason that if the foundations of wind turbines are made to be as oyster-friendly as possible, and were in the correct location, oysters could be very successful there.

Economic:

This is perhaps the biggest strech as far as my idea goes, but it does make sense. I think that energy companies that are building offshore wind turbines could devise a way to lease the foundations of their turbines to oyster farmers. These leases could increase the potential profitability of offshore wind farms. If energy companies could make more money, they would be more inclined to build offshore wind installations. Oyster farming is already practiced widely throughout the United States, including Massachusetts, future home of the Cape Wind offshore wind energy project. 

Even if it is not feasible for oyster farming, I think the logic of this idea is sound. If wind turbines can be made more profitable above and below the surface, everyone will benefit.

One response so far




One Response to “Wind Turbines as Oyster Farms?”

  1.   sjacon 25 Jul 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Nolan, I think this is a great idea. The artificial reef affect was a hot topic in class and it seems to be a viable type of farming as well. The following article by Grossman and others (http://www.montana.edu/~wwwbi/staff/mcmahon/Grossman-reefs.pdf) concludes that building an artificial reef is expensive and “logistically difficult,” but proposing to use a wind farm as an artificial reef means that the structures can serve two purposes. In analyzing this idea, I came up with one pro and two cons, both listed below.

    Pro: Allowing farmers to harvest oysters from the bed of a wind farm could create public appreciation for the wind farm. Aside from aesthetics, many people worry that a wind farm could potentially hurt the fishing economy in an area (http://www.nypa.gov/NYPAwindpower/ProjectTechnologySheets/Fishing.pdf). Leasing a wind farm to oyster harvesters could possibly negate this worry and make the turbines twice as productive as previously intended.

    Cons: If the farming idea really did take off, there would be greatly increased boat traffic around the wind turbines. This could lead to two issues; one, there is an inherently increased risk for collisions when you allow or increase any boat traffic through the maze of a large offshore wind farm. Secondly, the increased boat traffic could add to the underwater noise pollution and harm other animals that have gathered at the bases of the turbines due to the artificial reef affect. A second problem rises from the idea to lease the bottom structure of the turbines to farmers. Because the artificial reef affect, by definition, is a man-made object that can create a reef that provides for varying species (http://www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/pub/seascience/artreef.html), how do you plan on allowing oyster farmers to farm from the reef and stop other fishermen, from wanting to fish there too?