Underwater Noise from a Wave Energy Converter Is Unlikely to Affect Marine Mammals
Underwater noise was recorded from the Wavestar wave energy converter; a full-scale hydraulic point absorber, placed on a jack-up rig on the Danish North Sea coast. Noise was recorded 25 m from the converter with an autonomous recording unit (10 Hz to 20 kHz bandwidth). Median sound pressure levels (Leq) in third-octave bands during operation of the converter were 106–109 dB re. 1 μPa in the range 125–250 Hz, 1–2 dB above ambient noise levels (statistically significant). Outside the range 125–250 Hz the noise from the converter was undetectable above the ambient noise. During start and stop of the converter a more powerful tone at 150 Hz (sound pressure level (Leq) 121–125 dB re 1 μPa) was easily detectable. This tone likely originated from the hydraulic pump which was used to lower the absorbers into the water and lift them out of the water at shutdown. Noise levels from the operating wave converter were so low that they would barely be audible to marine mammals and the likelihood of negative impact from the noise appears minimal. A likely explanation for the low noise emissions is the construction of the converter where all moving parts, except for the absorbers themselves, are placed above water on a jack-up rig. The results may thus not be directly transferable to other wave converter designs but do demonstrate that it is possible to harness wave energy without noise pollution to the marine environment.