A research programme aimed at protecting sea mammals during the construction phase of offshore wind farms has been launched in Germany.

Eight companies active in the development and operation of offshore wind farms in German waters have signed an agreement to collaborate on finding ways of reducing noise during construction.

The group of companies – which includes Bard Engineering, RWE Innogy, Vattenfall Europe and DONG Energy – say that porpoises in particular need better protection in German waters.

The €3.9 million project will involve testing five different noise reduction methods at an offshore pile in the Baltic Sea, near Travemünde. The results of the field trials will be shared by the eight project partners as well as with other companies active in the German offshore wind industry, says RWE.

Other partners taking part in the project include EnBW, E.On, EWE Energie and Stadtwerke München. The field trial could take place as early as August 2011.

So far in Germany nearly 30 offshore wind farms have been approved. Many of these are quite a long way from the coast and require the use of steel piles to anchor the wind turbines to the sea bed. The noise generated in the construction process can be harmful to porpoise populations.