OES-Environmental distributes metadata forms (questionnaires) to solicit information from developers involved in environmental monitoring around marine renewable energy project sites around the world. This page provides project descriptions, baseline assessment, post-installation monitoring, and links to available data and reports. Content is updated on an annual basis.

EMEC Shapinsay Sound Non Grid-Connected Nursery Tidal Test Site

Project Site OES-Environmental

Title: EMEC Shapinsay Sound Non Grid-Connected Nursery Tidal Test Site
Start Date:
September 01, 2011
Technology Type:
Info Updated:
April 03, 2019
EMEC Shapinsay Sound Non Grid-Connected Nursery Tidal Test Support Buoy
Project Status: 
Test site operational
Project Scale: 
Scale test site for non-grid connected prototype devices
Installed Capacity: 
Non-grid connected test site. A purpose-built Test Support Buoy moored on site acts as a power sink to allow load-dumping of any electricity generated as heat dissipated to air. A simulated grid can be made available to support device performance analysis

In addition to the grid connected tidal test site at the Fall of Warness, EMEC also has a tidal test site that is not connected to the grid and which provides less challenging conditions for scale prototypes and marine operations.  The site provides a more flexible sea space acting as a stepping stone between the test tank and real sea conditions. The 0.4 x 0.9km site is located in Shapinsay Sound, to the north-east of Kirkwall in water depths of 21-25m and experiences fairly benign current velocities with a peak tide of 1.5m/s.

At the site, EMEC offers developers the use of a bespoke test support buoy. If required, the device under test will be connected to the test support buoy via two umbilical cables: one for power transmission and the other for control and communications. These buoys can relay data by wireless technology allowing developers to monitor performance remotely, as well as dissipating electricity generated by the device. The buoys are also equipped to supply the marine energy devices on test with power and act as navigational aids.

Each test site comprises one berth with pre-laid foundation and attachment points, and an adjacent  test area. The pre-laid foundations comprise 5m x 5m x 2m gravity-base frames loaded with densecrete blocks for equipment moorings. An area of seabed is also available for rehearsal or deployment of other tools and techniques.

Export Cables:

As the site is not grid connected, no export cable is present.


Vessel Spread:


Vessel type




Used to install anchors and test support buoy

Exact vessel used unknown

Workboat or RIB

Used for maintenance and crew transfer

Exact vessel used unknown


The EMEC Shapinsay Sound scale tidal test site is situated adjacent to the Orkney Mainland to the north-east of Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. The two test berths on site range from 21-25m water depth.

Project Timeline: 

Site selection surveys and environmental studies were carried out in 2009-10. Construction of the EMEC Shapinsay Sound scale tidal test site was completed in 2011 and EMEC welcomed their first client on site shortly afterwards. The EMEC holds a valid consent for the installation of an additional set of foundations which gives the potential for two serviced berths to become available in future. The following is a list of EMEC clients who have deployed devices at the Shapinsay Sound site:

  • Flumill - Installed 2011, Decommissioned 2012
  • Nautricity - Installed 2014, Decommissioned 2014
  • ATIR Prototype, Magallanes - Installed November 2014, Decommissioned
  • East Coast Oil and Gas Engineering (EC-OG), Subsea Power Hub – Installed April 2017, Removed November 2017 to undergo detailed performance analysis

The site is also used as temporary anchorage location for full-scale developers accessing the Fall of Warness test site, to allow device maintenance or sheltered location whilst waiting for vessel or weather availability.

Licensing Information: 

EMEC holds an overarching site licence, simplifying the consent process within an agreed envelope of activity. Two consents are required for installation of marine energy converter devices at the scale test sites:


  • Marine Licence issued by the Regulator, Marine Scotland; and
  • Harbour Works Licence issued by Orkney Islands Council (OIC).


A developer wishing to deploy a device at the test site must provide an outline of the proposed project. Developers are also requested to provide a Project-specific Environmental Monitoring Programme or Project-specific Navigational Risk Assessment (addendum to site-wide NRA). These documents must also identify any potential device-specific environmental or navigational risks, as well as any proposed mitigation measures or risk controls. EMEC is also required to give OIC at least 21 days’ notice of each new developer wishing to install at its scale sites.

Key Environmental Issues: 

Although some seals have been recorded in the area of the site, SNH have commented that this area is not a site of concern for seals. There have been sporadic sightings of cetaceans within the observation area, in particular Harbour Porpoise and Risso’s Dolphin. The nearby Scapa Flow area is an important wintering ground for many species of marine bird. Shapinsay Sound is included as part of the North Orkney proposed Special Protected Area (pSPA) which seeks to protect the breeding Red-throated diver and the following non-breeding waterfowl: Common eider, European shag, Great northern diver, Long-tailed duck, Red-breasted merganser, Slavonian grebe, and Velvet scoter. Further information on the North Orkney pSPA can be accessed here.


In relation to these species at the sensitive periods, the key issues to be addressed within the developer’s environmental monitoring plan are:


  • Displacement due to noise (during installation, maintenance, operation and decommissioning of device)
  • Displacement due to physical presence of device
  • Physical harm caused by collision
  • Physical harm caused by entanglement in device moorings
  • Physical harm caused by noise


Environmental Webpage: http://www.emec.org.uk/facilities/scale-test-sites/


Mitigation Measures: Where appropriate developers are required to implement their own mitigation measures should activities overlap with sensitive times of the year for marine wildlife.


EMEC Shapinsay Sound Non Grid-Connected Nursery Tidal Test Site is located in United Kingdom.

Baseline Assessment: EMEC Shapinsay Sound Non Grid-Connected Nursery Tidal Test Site

General Description:

The following field surveys were undertaken (or commissioned by) the EMEC to inform baseline characterisation.

ReceptorStudy Description Design and Methods Results Status
  • Physical Environment

Initial site selection: Bathymetry commissioned by EMEC to Netsurvey Ltd.

Geophysical survey.

Water depths across the area compared well with the existing Admiralty Chart data, although the 20 m contour extends 140 m further west than previously thought to be the case.

  • Benthos

Initial site selection: determining biota and sediment particle size.

Grab sampling.

The type of sediment encountered reflects the degree of water movement that the site experiences, with little fines and a variety of rock and shell fragment size. Surficial sediments generally comprised maerl, maerl fragments, coarse sand, shell fragments, large shell fragments and stones.


A relatively diverse benthic assemblage was identified. The community is considered to be predominantly a surface feeding one, with suspension feeders such as polychaetes, Jasmineira caudata, and the surface detritus feeding Polycirrus norvegicus featuring strongly in numerical terms. The survey also reports the presence of maerl.

Reports and Papers

Post-Installation Monitoring: EMEC Shapinsay Sound Non Grid-Connected Nursery Tidal Test Site

General Description:

The following measures were outlined in the Environmental Description.

ReceptorMonitoring Program Description Design and Methods Results Status
  • Benthos

Benthic grab analysis.

Survey samples sieved and analyzed regarding species and  abundance.

Study undertaken to assist in setting up the scale site, no further work deemed necessary unless additional or different types of infrastructure are propose.

  • Birds
  • Marine Mammals

Wildlife observations

Observations of birds and mammals by EMEC wildlife observers

Raw data is publically available, however no report published as of yet.

Reports and Papers
  • Marinet
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