Ecofys establishes trial seaweed farm in the Netherlands

By Erin Voegele | March 14, 2012

International energy and climate consulting company Ecofys has begun a trial renewable energy project that includes the growth of seaweed for use in the production of biofuels, energy and animal feed. The project is located off the Netherlands island of Texel. According to Ecofys, it expects to complete the initial harvest of algae by June. The project is currently slated to end in June 2013.

The test module used in the project combines an offshore wind farm with the seaweed cultivation plot. According to information release by the company, the cultivation model will be located 10 miles west of Texel on the site of a disused sand extraction area.

In a release announcing the project, Ecofys specifies that the seaweed cultivation module measures 20 meters by 20 meters and consists of a set of steel cables that are held 2 meters under the surface by anchors and floating buoys. Horizontal nets measuring 10 meters by 10 meters are suspended between the cables. Locally sourced species of seaweed are attached to the nets.

According to Ecofys, the trial will test the ability of the module to be implemented in the North Sea. It will also assess the survival and growth rate of the plants, as well as the ecological effects of the farm. The company also notes the trial will show if the module is suitable for seaweed cultivation within offshore wind farms.

Existing wind farms are closed to shipping and commercial fishing, said Ecofys Project Manager Anouk Florentinus. If the model of co-locating seaweed farms within wind farms works, the set up could serve as a marine conservation area that serves as a nursery for natural fish populations while producing electrical power and biofuel feedstock.

According to Ecofys, it directed the development of the project with a consortium of other groups that include, ECN, BLIX, Van Beelen Netting, Pipelife, Ocean Harvest, VIRO and De Vries & Van de Wiel. The Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research facilitated the construction of the module with the assistance of local contractors. Funding for the project was provided by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Agriculture and Innovation. Florentinus notes that Ecofys intends to discuss the next steps of the project at an event celebrating the first seaweed harvest in June. He also specifies that further work on the project will be dependent upon the receipt of additional funding.