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Offshore Wind Industry Readies Self For Seaweed Revolution

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The offshore wind industry is opening up new opportunities for solar panels, wave energy harvesters, and green hydrogen to piggyback on the operation. Seaweed farming is also beginning to make an appearance in amongst the wind turbines. Considering the rising interest in using seaweed for everything from food and fuel to plastics and pharmaceuticals, this could be the tip of a very big iceberg.

Offshore Wind Meets Seaweed Farming

In the latest development, the Norwegian company Arctic Seaweed has just engaged in a partnership with the leading offshore wind developer Simply Blue Group of Ireland, to explore the potential for co-locating seaweed farms with wind turbines.

Arctic Seaweed aims to meet the growing demand for food-grade seaweed in Europe, with a focus on the species Alaria Esculanta, otherwise known as winged kelp, and Saccharina Lattissima, or sugar kelp. The company already has seagoing farms up and running in the area of Bergen, Ålesund and Greenland.

At first glance, seaweed farming seems much easier than ordinary agriculture. Seaweed crops can be grown without the need for fertilizer, irrigation, site preparation, or pest control. However, there are challenges to scaling up and bringing costs down.

Arctic Seaweed has developed a modular, automated approach that helps to resolve some of those issues. The missing link is ferrying the operation out to sea and maintaining it there, and that’s where Simply Blue comes in.

Simply Blue has already carved out a leadership position for itself in the offshore industry, and it has also begun scouting the idea of co-locating seaweed farms with offshore wind farms. The new partnership with Arctic Seaweed will enable Simply Blue to launch prototype seaweed farm, deploying offshore wind vessels to do the heavy lifting.

“The partnership will unlock technology from Arctic Seaweed which offers a state-of-the-art production line from direct seeding to harvesting and processing, which can be installed on offshore support vessels currently used within windfarms,” Simply Blue explained in a press release earlier this week.

Offshore Wind In The USA

Simply Blue cautions that scaling up the offshore wind-plus-seaweed venture from the prototype stage to an industrial-sized commercial operation will be a complex process. Still, if all goes according to plan, the partnership with Arctic Seaweed could kickstart the somewhat sleepy seaweed farming industry into high gear.

“In Europe, seaweed farming has not been developed to its full potential, due to the small scale of the enterprises, the limited number of seaweed species and traditional growing techniques,” pointed out Simply Blue  Co-Founder and Group CEO Sam Roch Perks.

The CEO of Arctic Seaweed, Kim Kristensen, is already looking ahead to global domination. “From the start, Arctic Seaweed has focused on building a technology platform with the aim to industrialize seaweed cultivation,” Kristensen said. “This strategy enables us to cater specifically for offshore wind and seaweed farm integration in various locations around the world.”

If one of those locations is the US, Arctic Seaweed may have to sit on its hands for a while. The US has been slow to lay claim to its vast offshore wind resources, with partisan politics at play along the Atlantic coast, technology challenges lurking in the deep waters of the Pacific, and less than optimal wind resources bedeviling the Gulf of Mexico.

Nevertheless, the logjam is beginning to break. The economic case for offshore wind in the Gulf of Mexico has attracted the interest of Louisiana, which launched a 5-gigawatt offshore plan last year. Texas may follow suit, as part of its plans for a green hydrogen network.

Barriers to Pacific coast offshore wind development are also beginning to fall, as new floating wind turbine technology enables wind farms to be located in deeper waters.

The delays along the Atlantic coast have been especially frustrating for wind fans. Outside of political interference the conditions are ripe for offshore wind development, with relatively shallow waters that enable conventional monopile wind turbine construction, ample seaport infrastructure, and a string of coastal cities thirsting for access to renewable energy.

Anti-wind opposition is still a force to be reckoned with, but signs of a breakthrough have finally appeared. On July 22, the 132-megawatt South Fork Wind project off the coast of New York State celebrated its inaugural “steel in the water” milestone when it installed the first foundation for one of 12 monopile wind turbines that will eventually inhabit the site.

Seaweed Farming In The USA

Keep an eye out for the seaweed-plus-wind idea to take hold here in the US as well. The concept has been circulating for a number of years, along with some discussion over the assessment of potential environmental impacts. One project, the Sea Farm 1 operation spearheaded by the UK-based Plymouth Marine Laboratory, has already laid claim to being the “world’s first co-located seaweed and offshore wind farm,” where researchers will assess the carbon-capturing potential of seaweed.

Image courtesy of Arctic Seaweed.

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Spoutible.


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