The great offshore windmill reef

Renewable energy and marine biodiversity in one tidy package

By Andrew Leonard
Published January 20, 2010 1:42AM (EST)

Is there some kind of law mandating that science dissertations be named as boringly as possible? I'd like to blame the stultifying sledgehammer title of Dan Wilhemsson's "Aspects of offshore renewable energy and the alterations of marine habitats" on a bad translation from the original Swedish, but somehow, I expect that the original sounds just as dull.

Which is too bad, because as Susan Kraemer explains at CleanTechnica (found via a tweet from Steve Silberman) Wilhemsson's research is the definition of neato.

A Swedish scientist at the Stockholm University's Zoology Department studying the effects of off-shore wind turbines discovered that marine life has become more abundant and diverse near the foundations. Dan Wilhelmsson found that offshore wind turbines constitute habitats for fish, crabs, mussels, lobsters and plants.

With some extra tweaks, such as drilling additional holes in the foundation to create inviting environments for crabs and other marine life forms, we may be able to create thriving underwater ecologies.

So even as ocean acidification driven by increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere kills off coral reefs, we will build new artificial reefs around fields of off-shore wind turbines. Presumably, one could then nurture a thriving tourism business around the operations -- imagine scuba diving in a sea of windmills!. Win-win-win.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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