Pile-driving for N. Sea wind farms has no negative effects on porpoise population

german-porpoises-wind-farm-reportAn expert study of offshore wind farms in the German N. Sea has confirmed that they have had no adverse effects on porpoises during pile-driving construction work.

Indeed, despite constantly increasing foundation work, the porpoise population remained constant, and two subzones even saw an increase in the population throughout the course of the project, even though noise mitigation measures were just beginning to be developed and implemented during the study period.

The German Offshore Wind Energy Foundation commissioned three research companies and institutes to study the effects of pile-driving noise on harbor porpoises in the German exclusive economic zone of the North Sea.

A number of wind farm operators and developers, who built eight offshore wind farms with a total of 400 foundations in the German Bight between 2009 and 2013 and/or are currently planning wind farms, provided details from studies conducted for the construction of the wind farms. The researchers also looked at porpoise counts for seven other projects being planned at the time.

For the first time, a large amount of data from individual wind farm projects in the German Bight was collated in one joint database. This comprehensive dataset, the only of its kind in the world, was analysed over the course of the two-year project period and summarised in a comprehensive study.

The results show that while pile driving occurs, the animals tend to avoid the area for a short time, with a clear distance-based gradient. This reaction was observed for all pile driving work with and without noise mitigation starting at 143 decibels for a distance of up to 17 kilometers.

When taking into account only pile driving with noise mitigation measures, the animals avoided only up to 14 kilometers around the area. Even in near areas with noise levels of more than 155 decibels, not all of the animals went elsewhere. Instances of porpoises becoming more or less sensitive as a result of increased pile driving in the studied time period were not observed or were observed only to a very small extent.

Among those companies which funded the study are Dong Energy, Iberdrola, RWE and Vattenfall.

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