Offshore wind farm (OWF) construction in the UK is progressing rapidly alongside increasing spatial pressures on marine ecosystems and social and economic activities. A need for increased protection of habitats, species and ecological processes that support environmental and economic benefits is being met by designation of marine protected areas (MPAs). Mitigation and spatial planning solutions are required to enable protection of vital ecological habitats, features and processes and support sustainable economic development. A potential solution is to co-locate OWFs and MPAs. This study uses a multi-disciplinary approach to examine if evidence on the environmental effects of existing OWFs and associated effects on fishing activity (as an existing resource use) benefits MPA goals. Through a systematic review and meta-analyses of existing data, knowledge of OWF effects on species abundance and economic effects on fishing were identified as key evidence gaps. The ecological evidence need was approached through a case study of ecological effects of North Hoyle OWF, North Wales, UK, using existing pre and post-construction monitoring data, as well as primary baited remote underwater video data, collected 5 years later (8 years post-construction). Results suggested habitat and species recovered to a stable state that showed some community differences to pre-construction conditions. The presence of OWF monopiles is likely to have increased existing heterogeneity of substratum and increased opportunities for scavenging species. Species benefitting and disadvantaged by habitat provided within the OWF reflected meta-analyses trends. Extended baseline monitoring to provide confident identification of natural levels of variation in sediment and fauna was lacking. Analysis of fishing activity and landings before and after OWF construction in three UK case study regions approached effects on resource users. Fishing activity in the three case study areas showed broad scale similarity to national trends. Small-scale activity patterns indicated greater reductions in mobile (towed) fishing gear effort near to operating OWFs than in static gear activity (using pots or static nets). Semi-structured interviews conducted with fishermen in each region revealed loss of ground and disruption as negative effects from OWFs, in addition to existing pressures. Benefits including habitat creation and species augmentation, as well as reduction of cumulative lost ground, were identified by fishermen from co-location of MPAs and OWFs. Ecological effects of OWFs suggested benefits from habitat creation, species augmentation and potential for protection of sandbank habitats between monopiles. Mitigation requirements were identified to maximise these potential benefits to an MPA network.
Coastal and Offshore Energy
The wave energy resource is usually characterized by a significant variability throughout the year. In estimating the power performance of a Wave Energy Converter (WEC) it is fundamental to take into account this variability; indeed, an estimate based on mean annual values may well result in a wrong decision making. In this work, a novel decision-aid tool, iWEDGE (intra-annual Wave Energy Diagram GEnerator) is developed and implemented to a coastal region of interest, the Death Coast (Spain), one of the regions in Europe with the largest wave resource. Following a comprehensive procedure, and based on deep water wave data and high-resolution numerical modelling, this tool provides the monthly high-resolution characterization matrices (or energy diagrams) for any location of interest. In other words, the information required for the accurate computation of the intra-annual performance of any WEC at any location within the region covered is made available. Finally, an application of iWEDGE to the site of a proposed wave farm is presented. The results obtained highlight the importance of the decision-aid tool herein provided for wave energy exploitation.
Wave power devices offer great prospects for the marine renewable energy sector. But in comparison to wind energy, wave power is still in its infancy, mainly prototype-based, with technological gaps akin to those experienced in the wind sector some 15 years ago. Several aspects that did not seem significant at a first glance in the design phase, such as the interaction with the marine environment, turned out to be important when the first prototypes were put in the water. In fact, these devices have to face great challenges once at sea and several prototypes have not survived. Firstly, ocean waves are not such an innocuous, predictable flow of water and secondly, life thrives in the ocean. Wave power devices are perfect artificial reefs suitable for algal growth and colonization by many species. And they will have to sustain harsh conditions for over two decades while producing energy. For obvious reasons, there is a lack of existing literature on the subject. In this short review we address a simple question: how tough will the life of wave power devices at sea be? The answer is based on available evidence. We provide as well some ideas to take up the challenge.
Operation and maintenance can jeopardise the financial viability of an offshore wind energy project due to the cost of downtime, repairs and, above all, the inevitable uncertainties. The variability of wave climate can impede or hinder emergency repairs when a failure occurs, and the resulting delays imply additional costs which ultimately reduce the competitiveness of offshore wind energy as an alternative to fossil fuels. Co-located wind turbines and Wave Energy Converters (WECs) are proposed in this paper as a novel solution: the reduction of the significant wave height brought about by the WECs along the periphery of the wind farm results in a milder wave climate within the farm. This reduction, also called shadow effect, enlarges weather windows for Operation & Maintenance (O&M). The objective of this paper is to investigate the increase in the accessibility time to the turbines and to optimise the layout for the co-located wind-wave farm in order to maximise this time. The investigation is carried out through a case study: Alpha Ventus, an operating offshore wind farm. To maximise the reduction of wave height in the turbine area no fewer than 15 layouts are tested using high-resolution numerical modelling, and a sensitivity analysis is conducted. The results show that, thanks to the wave energy extraction by the WECs, weather windows (access time) can increase very significantly – over 80%. This substantial effect, together with other benefits from the combination of wave and offshore wind power in a co-located farm (common electrical infrastructures, shared O&M equipment and crews, etc.) will enhance the economic viability of these marine renewables, and hence their potential to reduce our carbon footprint on the planet.
Large-scale extraction of power from tidal streams within the Pentland Firth is expected to be underway in the near future. The Inner Sound of Stroma in particular has attracted significant commercial interest. To understand potential environmental impacts of the installation of a tidal turbine array a case study based upon the Inner Sound is considered. A numerical computational fluid dynamics model, Fluidity, is used to conduct a series of depth-averaged simulations to investigate velocity and bed shear stress changes due to the presence of idealised tidal turbine arrays. The number of turbines is increased from zero to 400. It is found that arrays in excess of 85 turbines have the potential to affect bed shear stress distributions in such a way that the most favourable sites for sediment accumulation migrate from the edges of the Inner Sound towards its centre. Deposits of fine gravel and coarse sand are indicated to occur within arrays of greater than 240 turbines with removal of existing deposits in the shallower channel margins also possible. The effects of the turbine array may be seen several kilometres from the site which has implications not only on sediment accumulation, but also on the benthic fauna.
This paper assesses operational impacts of large-scale ocean wave energy development in the US Pacific Northwest. High-resolution wave power production and forecasting data is synthesized for wave energy arrays spatially-distributed along the region's coast. Geographic diversification is found to limit the rate at which production variability scales with installed capacity, over timescales ranging from minutes to hours. The reduced variability makes it easier to forecast short-term wave generation accurately. When modeled within the operational structure of the region's primary balancing area authority, large-scale wave energy is found to provide a relatively high capacity value and costs less to integrate than equivalent amounts of wind energy.
This paper reports the methodology established in the application of a numerical wave model for hindcasting of wave conditions around the United Kingdom, in particular for Scottish waters, for the purpose of wave energy resource assessment at potential device development sites. The phase averaged MIKE 21 Spectral wave model has been adopted for this study and applied to the North Atlantic region bounded by latitudes 10° N–70° N and longitudes 10° E−75° W. Spatial and temporal wind speeds extracted from the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF) have been utilised to drive the wave model. A rigorous calibration and validation of the model has been carried out by comparing model results with buoy measurements for different time periods and locations around Scotland. Significant wave height, peak wave period and peak wave direction obtained from the model correlated very well with measurements. Spatially varying statistical mean and maximum values of the significant wave height and wave power obtained based on a one-year wave hindcasting are in good agreement with the UK Marine Atlas values. The wave model can be used with high level of confidence for wave hindcasting and even forecasting of various wave parameters and wave power at any desired point locations or for regions. The wave model could also be employed for generating boundary conditions to small scale regional wave and tidal flow models.
The adoption of UN Convention of the Law of the Sea in 1982 created optimism for indigenous peoples and marginalised coastal communities that they may (re)gain control of, or improve access to, marine resources. However concerns were also raised that opening the seas to industrial development might create threats for traditional users of the sea. Twenty-five years later the potential enclosure of large areas of coastal seas to marine renewable energy development is reigniting debates about marine governance, access and control over marine resources. Case studies in Scotland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia reveal a dynamic tension between: an economic development ‘blue growth’ agenda requiring the creation of private rights in the sea; and socio-political drivers which seek to address historic injustices and increase access to natural resources by indigenous and marginalised coastal communities. As yet there is little evidence of this tension being adequately addressed by emerging institutional frameworks for managing marine resources.
We present a Geographic Information System (GIS) tool, SeaMaST (Seabird Mapping and Sensitivity Tool), to provide evidence on the use of sea areas by seabirds and inshore waterbirds in English territorial waters, mapping their relative sensitivity to offshore wind farms. SeaMaST is a freely available evidence source for use by all connected to the offshore wind industry and will assist statutory agencies in assessing potential risks to seabird populations from planned developments. Data were compiled from offshore boat and aerial observer surveys spanning the period 1979–2012. The data were analysed using distance analysis and Density Surface Modelling to produce predicted bird densities across a grid covering English territorial waters at a resolution of 3 km×3 km. Coefficients of Variation were estimated for each grid cell density, as an indication of confidence in predictions. Offshore wind farm sensitivity scores were compiled for seabird species using English territorial waters. The comparative risks to each species of collision with turbines and displacement from operational turbines were reviewed and scored separately, and the scores were multiplied by the bird density estimates to produce relative sensitivity maps. The sensitivity maps reflected well the amassed distributions of the most sensitive species. SeaMaST is an important new tool for assessing potential impacts on seabird populations from offshore development at a time when multiple large areas of development are proposed which overlap with many seabird species’ ranges. It will inform marine spatial planning as well as identifying priority areas of sea usage by marine birds. Example SeaMaST outputs are presented.
The world׳s oceans are currently undergoing an unprecedented period of industrialisation, made possible by advances in technology and driven by our growing need for food, energy and resources. This is placing the oceans are under intense pressure, and the ability of existing marine governance frameworks to sustainably manage the marine environment is increasingly being called into question. Emerging industries are challenging all aspects of these frameworks, raising questions regarding ownership and rights of the sea and its resources, management of environmental impacts, and management of ocean space. This paper uses the emerging marine renewable energy (MRE) industry, particularly in the United Kingdom (UK), as a case study to introduce and explore some of the key challenges. The paper concludes that the challenges are likely to be extensive and argues for development of a comprehensive legal research agenda to advance both MRE technologies and marine governance frameworks.