Webinar: Minimising negative environmental impacts
29 August 2017
11.30am (Brussels, Berlin, Paris)
10.30am (London, Dublin, Lisbon)
Presenters: François Batifoulier, Sabella
Caitlin Long, EMEC
The environmental impact of deploying ocean energy devices has to be considered during all stages of a project’s development and operation – from the drawing board, to the site selection and to the active management of the devices’ performance.
With little real data collected so far, it is difficult to make plans, strategies and adjustments to minimise possible environmental impacts. This can also create problems at the consenting stage, with public authorities uncertain as to what Environmental Impact Assessments should include and what monitoring should be mandated.
Tidal turbine manufacturer, Sabella, and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) have both recently conducted extended environmental monitoring around their deployed ocean energy devices. Representatives from both organisations shared their results and experience.
Participants in the webinar had the chance to discuss the findings and bring forward their own expertise. The webinar should help understand what environmental impacts ocean energy devices are likely to have and what steps can be taken to avoid or minimise them.
- Even with the results of the environmental monitoring carried out so far around ocean energy devices, knowledge gaps remain significant.
- Findings around single devices can be modelled to calculate cumulative effects of future arrays, but only to a point. However, the effect of numerous devices close to each other will create additional impacts. There is not enough data to date to accurately model up-scaling effects.
- It is not possible to determine a single priority area requiring more urgent attention when looking at environmental impacts. Impacts are site specific.
Moreover, environmental impacts are not limited to flora and fauna. The impact on navigational safety needs to be taken into account. This was a particularly highlighted by Caitlin Long.
- Both studies presented during the webinar seem to indicate little impact of ocean energy devices on fish. However, impacts on fish-predators are less clear.
Displacement of mammal populations around the sites monitored in Orkney seem to be linked to the entire deployment site (the sum of all berths) rather than the single devices.
- The biggest impact on displacement occurred during the construction phases due to increased vessel movements.
- Guidance is required in terms of where environmental focus needs to be. Clear methodologies for environmental monitoring and assessment need to be developed. These should be developed by academia and passed along to industry.
- Ocean energy developer should be encouraged to fit their devices with as many monitoring sensors as financially possible to increase data collection.