Sept. 22, 2010— -- A slew of non-native marine species have made their home on the Alpha Ventus wind turbines off the German coast in the North Sea. Scientists say the oysters and crabs, among others, have not affected the structures.
"Alpha Ventus," the first German wind park in the North Sea, has become home to a new biotope. On the foundations of the turbines, which began operating this spring, scientists have found oysters, crabs, sea anemones, and mussels.
"We have found animals there, that are not at all native to a sea area with fine sand," said Kristin Blasche, of the federal office for maritime navigation and hydography in Hamburg. "It is like an artificial reef, and has luckily not affected the structures at all."
The wind park, which is capable of providing 50,000 households with electricity, has been criticized by conservationists who fear its effects on migratory birds and sea mammals. The pile driving done for the foundations of the wind park created a lot of noise, which frightened away dolphins.
Blasche, an environmental scientist who coordinated the ecological research, said that once construction was completed, the dolphins returned to the area, which is about 45 kilometers (28 miles) north of the island of Borkum.
There are 12 turbines in the four-square-kilometer (1.5 miles) park. Earlier this summer, the park ran into trouble when shoddy building materials caused two turbines to overheat and fail. Four more turbines had to be replaced.
The Alpha Ventus park is Germany's first foray into offshore wind farms, and the German wind energy industry believes a quarter of Germany's energy demands can be met with wind power by the end of the decade. They plan to install approximately 1,600 wind turbines off of the German coast, more than any other European country.