- On 3rd September 2021
- In Ecology, General, Project Management, Research and Development
- By William
Last week we deployed our novel eco reef units in the River Crouch estuary in
proximity of the Gunfleet Sands Offshore Windfarm, off the coast of Essex. With
the help of Port flair, we deployed our custom made, mattress like frame, in the
subtidal Crouch estuary at a depth of around 5m.
This deployment will form part of a trial to study the effectiveness of our eco reef
units, made using our GeoBlock technology®, to encourage marine colonisation
and reduce sediment scour and water turbulence, with future use envisioned for
biologically enhanced scour protection units for the base of wind turbine monopiles
and cabling routes.
This project has been a year in the making and first involved designing and producing
our eco reef units, which consist of sphere and hexagon shaped morphologies.
Using our Greening the grey technology® we inset heterogenous surface textures
and crevices to encourage initial biofilm colonisation and sheltering of marine
organisms. With the hope that we will see a succession of trophic stages.
After production of the units, ¼ scale models were 3D printed and tested in
laboratory-based scour studies using the flume tank at the University of Southampton.
These laboratory studies found that our units reach an equilibrium within the
hydromorphological system over short time periods and reduce scour in the long term.
With these encouraging results we decided to test and verify these in-situ and
designed our physical trial, with our full-scale units.
As with conventional windfarm scour protection, our deployment methodology was
designed with ease of deployment and retrieval at its centre. This was achieved by
tying our units onto a custom-built oak frame. Alongside our units, we also attached
conventional rock used for scour protection as well as a multitude of different types
of plastic to provide a comparison how the different surfaces behave.
We expect that by testing a multitude of different materials clear differences in
colonisation and scour will be seen.
Over the next year we will collect a whole range of data, from multibeam bathymetry
to study the changes in sediment morphology and scour, benthic community analysis,
species richness and diversity studies as well as numerous chemical analyses.
This data will build upon the baseline data we collected during deployment and in
12 months’ time will help inform us of the effectiveness of our units in real life scenario.