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Daniel Reinhardt / EPA

EU - To harness the North Sea winds, we must understand its complicated seabed geology

For any country blessed with easy access to the shallow and windy North Sea, offshore wind will be key to meeting net zero targets.

For any country blessed with easy access to the shallow and windy North Sea, offshore wind will be key to meeting net zero targets. Developing these wind farms is partly a challenge for engineers, but it but also depends on the geology beneath the seabed – and that’s where geoscientists like us come in. As the industry collects more data, the seabed geology is proving to be far more complicated, and revealing, than previously envisaged.

Over the past few million years of on-off ice ages, large ice sheets advanced and retreated over northern Europe many times. This altered the landscape and drove changes in the sea level. The UK’s current coastlines provide a snapshot of this changing landscape, but submerged under the sea is a far more complete archive of recent Earth history.

For instance, the Dogger Bank, a shallow region of the central North Sea with lots of potential for wind power, was dry land until just 8,000 or so years ago. Fishing vessels occasionally drag up prehistoric tools and artefacts from the people who lived there. We now know much more about these cycles of ice advance and retreat thanks to huge areas of the North Sea being surveyed for offshore windfarm development.

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