Annex IV distributes metadata forms (questionnaires) to solicit information from researchers around the world who are exploring the environmental effects of marine renewable energy. This page provides a description and contact information related to the research. Content is updated on an annual basis.

Streamlining of Ocean Wave Farms Impact Assessment (SOWFIA)

Research Study Annex IV

Title: Streamlining of Ocean Wave Farms Impact Assessment (SOWFIA)
Start Date:
October 01, 2010
Research End Date:
September 01, 2013
Technology Type:
Info Updated:
October 02, 2014
Study Status: 
Princple Investigator Contact Information: 

Name: Deborah Greaves (Project Coordinator)


Project Description: 

The project aims to achieve the sharing and consolidation of pan-European experience of consenting processes and environmental and socio-economic impact assessment (IA) best practices for offshore wave energy conversion developments. Studies of wave farm demonstration projects in each of the collaborating EU nations are contributing to the findings. The study sites comprise a wide range of device technologies, environmental settings and stakeholder interests. Through project workshops, meetings, ongoing communication and networking amongst project partners, ideas and experiences relating to IA and policy are being shared, and co-ordinated studies addressing key questions for wave energy development are being carried out. In this way, the development of the future, commercial phase of offshore wave energy installations will benefit from the lessons learned from existing smaller-scale developments.

Funding Source: 

European countries: United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Sweden.

Location of Research: 

European countries: United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Sweden

Project Aims: 
  1. The overall goal of the SOWFIA project is to provide recommendations for approval process streamlining and European-wide streamlining of IA processes, thereby helping to remove legal, environmental and socio-economic barriers to the development of offshore power generation from waves.
  2. By utilising the findings from technology-specific monitoring at multiple sites, SOWFIA will accelerate knowledge transfer and promote European-wide expertise on environmental and socio-economic impact assessments of wave energy projects.
  3. To develop a data management platform, addressing EIA monitoring in terms of key environmental factors, monitoring standards and data sharing.
Project Progress: 

The project is now complete. Through a series of workshops and conferences, the SOWFIA project was able to achieve all deliverables of the project, available at The primary lessons learnt through the completion of this research programme were:

  • Sea trials at established test centres should be subject to less rigorous consenting requirements. But these initial less rigorous consenting requirements should be compensated for by a more exhaustive monitoring of the test sites. Established test centres can facilitate this by taking a more proactive approach to relevant environmental studies.
  • Concerns raised by stakeholders predominantly involve issues relating to the creation of non-navigation and non-fishing areas affecting the shipping and fishing industry, concerns over maritime safety and effects on marine mammals. Different approaches were employed by developers to address and mitigate these concerns.
  • Existing legislation is fit for purpose but more appropriate for larger wave energy developments. Environmental impacts vary according to size and location of the development and should be taken into account in the consenting process. There is a clear need for a pragmatic and calculated-risk approach to operate now. Such an approach encapsulates the principles of adaptive management, with the aim of reducing that uncertainty over time through system monitoring.
Key Findings: 
  • Catalogue of wave energy test sites and projects available online at, containing information on the wave energy activities in Europe. The Catalogue also provides information on environmental data available at each test centre and how monitoring has been carried out.
  • Organization of relevant Workshops with key stakeholders. The Workshops aimed at discussing the implementation of EU Directives and how they affect wave energy development in the different countries.
  • Identification of Stakeholders’ sensitivities and their role in the approval process of wave energy projects. Stakeholders have been actively sought and invited to collaborate in SOWFIA Workshops
  • Catalogue of environmental impact studies and review of monitoring methodology. The report D3.3 presents in-depth information on the main environmental parameters investigated at test centres and sites around Europe.
  • Analysis of barriers, accelerators and lessons learnt from wave energy development experiences in consultation with wave energy and tidal energy developers. This information has been analyzed to understand key issues hindering technology development and its commercialization.
Related Publications: 

For a full list of publications and conference presentations see

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