Reefy winner of Offshore Wind Innovation Challenge 2020

Dutch start-up company Reefy has won the 4th edition of the annual Offshore Wind Innovation Challenge. During a live stream on 4 March 2021, 3 finalists were given the opportunity to pitch their unique solution for one of this edition’s challenges ‘The Perfect Biodegradable Reef’ and ‘Efficient Biodiversity Monitoring’. Reefy’s modular, bio-degradable reef design convinced the jury.

The finals took place at the DOB Academy in Delft with a selected number of persons due to COVID-19 restrictions. The event was however attended by over 70 attendees via a live stream. The annual Offshore Wind Innovation Challenge is organised by the community of Offshore Wind Innovators from TKI Wind op Zee to facility a fast realisation for an innovative solution to an existing challenge faced by the offshore wind industry.

The challenges for the 2020-edition were provided by De Rijke Noordzee (rich North Sea) who were looking for ‘The Perfect Biodegradable Reef’ or ‘Efficient Biodiversity Monitoring’ to enhance nature in offshore wind farms. The solutions presented by Reefy and Reefsystems for the first challenge and by Belgian research centre ILVO Flanders for the second challenge were previously selected from 13 solutions submitted by national and international start-ups and organisations. Leading up to the finals, the contenders worked together with the partners De Rijke Noordzee, Eneco and Van Oord to improve their concepts.

Prior to the pitches, Marcelien Bos-de Koning, Olympic medal winning sailor and Mayor of Your North Sea, an initiative to create awareness for the changes at the North Sea and awareness between its different stakeholders, expressed her admiration for the finalists saying that they were already all winners in their own right by actually doing something to work towards enhancing nature. She stressed that with innovations, like in top sport, it is not just about winning but about trying to work towards the goal, improve yourself with each little step along the way, and, most importantly, enjoy each step.

Leon Haines and ajaime Ascencio of Reefy, a young Delft-based start-up company aimed at sparking a green revolution in the world of marine infrastructure, were the first to pitch their stable, hydrodynamically tested modular bio-degradable reef solution. The system of interlocking eco-blocks provides a habitat complexity from day one but evolves into a flourishing biogeny reef over the course of just a few years. The system can be adapted to the customer’s need and a bio-degradable apron allows for placement on existing scour protection or in between the sand of the monopiles.

ILVO Flanders
Sofy Derycke of ILVO Flanders presented next their zero-impact biodiversity monitoring in offshore wind farms solution. Offshore wind farms create additional habitats but current sampling techniques that are used to monitor biodiversity are quite destructive as they extract animals from their habitat. Their proposed method is environmental DNA (eDNA). Marine organisms release tiny molecules of DNA. These can be used to make fingerprints of all the species in a particular space. Their main goal is to develop an autonomous sampling device (like an unmanned service vehicle) that can collect samples in the wind farm area.

Max Dijkstra of ReefSystems pitched their concept of a bio-degradable shellfish reef. They designed a biodegradable block that can be placed on the seabed in offshore wind farms and create a shellfish reef where fish and reefs can safely grow and expand. They are experimenting with different kind of materials to make the blocks biodegradable such as calcium containing tabby concrete, solanyl, flax fibres, manilla rope and artificial seaweed scour protection. While the shellfish reef is growing, the object is slowly disappearing. When the reef is complete, the manmade object is completely vanished.

And the winner is…
After the pitches the jury, consisting of Renate Olie, Marine Biologist working on nature enhancement in offshore wind farms at De Rijke Noordzee, Marin van Regteren, environmental specialist and researcher Marine Life and Nature Enhancement at Eneco, and Remment ter Hofstede, Marine Ecologist and Engineering Specialist Marine and Coastal Ecology at Van Oord, gathered to discuss. The winner was then announced by Renate Olie. Admitting all three contenders showed a strong pitch, in the end, Reefy convinced the jury with their multifunctional design, the pre-seeded oyster bed and the fact that they already tested the materials at Deltares and had a good team work with Wageningen University and Research.

Leon Haines of Reefy received the prize: “The innovation challenge was a spark for us to actually do innovation. Before we had our breakwater system and were asked how to make this bio-degradable. So we did a lot of research. The next step is how to get our blocks in the water as soon as possible and research all the materials and methods. Olie confirmed that they will look to find a project where the solution can be introduced and get in touch with Reefy, adding that they might also do this with the other contenders.

Interviews with both the winner and other 2 finalists will be included in the June edition of Wind Energy Magazine. Request a free copy here.

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