SMRU Consulting are delighted to announce that the final Annex IV 2016 “State of the Science Report: Environmental Effects of Marine Renewable Energy Development Around the World” has been released today!

This report provides a comprehensive review of scientific research on the potential environmental impacts of offshore renewable energy developments. It can help inform regulatory and research work on the potential risks to marine wildlife and can aid developers to minimise the risk and effect of encounters with marine animals.

SMRU Consulting wrote the marine mammal section of the chapter on collision risk. The risk of collisions between animals and moving parts of the device is one of the primary concerns for the licensing of tidal developments worldwide. In the report, SMRU Consulting provide a summary of the current scientific evidence in this area as well as providing recommendations for filling critical knowledge gaps.

We also describe our recent work with the UK’s leading tidal energy developers and highlight how we are moving forward an understanding of collision risk by developing novel and innovative approaches to finding out more about the behaviour of marine mammals around operating tidal energy devices.

This includes our work with Tidal Energy Ltd’s DeltaStream device in Ramsey Sound, Pembrokeshire, Wales, which was successfully installed in December last year. Working with TEL we designed and implemented a bespoke marine mammal monitoring solution for the DeltaStream device that allowed operation of the device without mitigation within tough licence requirements. This project has provided the world’s first data on the occurrence and behaviour of cetaceans around an operating tidal turbine. These data are currently being analysed by SMRU Consulting so follow us on twitter for further updates.

See more information about TEL’s monitoring system here.

The report also highlights our recent and current work with the Sea Mammal Research Unit, the Scottish Government and MeyGen, with whom we are developing near field marine mammal monitoring at the world’s first tidal array project in the Inner Sound, Pentland Firth as part of the Scottish Government’s Demonstration Strategy Project. Highlights of this work to date include the development of the capability to track seals in 3D using multibeam sonar and the development of automatic detection algorithms. Our final report on Phase One of this project (development and testing of monitoring systems) is due to be published in June 2016.

Dr Carol Sparling, SMRU Consulting Europe’s Technical Director, who led on the collision risk chapter said:

SMRU Consulting were delighted to be involved in putting together this report, which brings together a large amount of information from a range of diverse sources to provide a definitive source for the current state of scientific understanding of the critical issues faced by the tidal energy industry today. It is vital that we continue to develop our understanding of the potential for interactions between tidal energy and marine wildlife, to enable the development of a long term, commercially and environmentally sustainable industry.

Martin Murphy, Managing Director of Tidal Energy Ltd (TEL) said:

“TEL is very pleased to be contributing to marine-based science with our work in Ramsey Sound. It is Wales’ first tidal energy test site and the first to receive precautionary ‘deploy and monitor’ environmental consent in a designated Marine Special Area of Conservation, using acoustic systems to track marine mammals.”

As well as covering collision risk in detail, the report also looked at the potential for underwater noise generated by the installation or operation of equipment to harm marine mammals and other wildlife.

The report notes other potential impacts have been studied extensively and have been found to pose no or very little risk in areas where a single marine renewable energy device has been deployed, such as electromagnetic fields created by equipment and cables, changes to flow or benthic habitats as a result of operating devices and effects on diving birds.

Andrea Copping, PNNL – lead author for the report said: 

“This report shows a great deal is already known about the environment and marine energy, leading us to determine some of the environmental monitoring that’s currently underway may no longer be needed for the safe deployment of marine renewable energy devices.

“Retiring no- and low-risk areas can enable technology developers and government regulators to focus their efforts on areas that truly need attention.”

“Better understanding areas of actual risk can help minimize environmental effects and bring us closer to taking advantage of the vast amounts of renewable energy that’s available in the Earth’s oceans.”

The full report can be viewed here.

See Carol talk about the marine mammal collision risk issues here (21:16 in the video).