The Strategic Environmental Assessment of Wave energy technologies project is the latest project to focus on the environmental response to the installation of wave energy converters.
Funded by the European Commission European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (€765, 410), and led by the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, Scotland, the project aims to address the long term environmental concerns regarding the development of wave energy.
SEA Wave builds on the Horizon 2020 Clean Energy From Ocean Waves (CEFOW) project with Wello Oy, and incorporates future environmental monitoring campaigns around the CorPower Ocean, Ocean Energy and Laminaria wave energy converters (WECs) scheduled for EMEC deployment between 2019 and 2021.
The team at the University of Plymouth will be working alongside the University of Exeter to conduct annual monitoring off the coast of Orkney, where we have been monitoring Wello Oy’s Penguin WEC for the past two years. Targeted research effort across multiple devices, for the first time, will address the lack of understanding about the direction and magnitude of environmental response. The project will also produce guidance regarding achievable monitoring and mitigation measures that industry, academia and regulators alike can agree are appropriate and proportionate. The findings should provide the evidence-base required for regulatory bodies to adopt a risk-based consenting process and support developers secure future multi-device consents.
Working off the coast of Orkney requires the use of some specialist monitoring equipment, since we will be working in water depths between 50 and 80 metres. To monitor the sessile benthic species assemblages, the towed flying video array will be used, since it is well proven in such settings. Mobile species will be monitored at the seabed using baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS), while other camera systems will be employed close to the surface to evaluate fish aggregations near the wave energy converters . The University of Exeter will be using marine acoustic sensors to assess fish distribution and abundance near the devices and gain further understanding of fish attraction to infrastructure. Acoustic sensors will also be used to characterise the ambient soundscape at EMEC’s wave test site. Finally, the opportunity will be taken to mount monitoring equipment on the WECs providing wildlife observations to support the other monitoring techniques.
The data collected will be analysed and used within ecological models to provide deeper insight into the response of host environments to the presence of this emergent technology. The data collected will be disseminated by Aquatera and HIDROMOD through established European networks of stakeholders and end users engaged in better understanding the potential impacts of wave energy developments and refining the consenting process.