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.
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
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.
The EMEC Shapinsay Sound 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.
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).
EMEC has worked closely with Marine Scotland’s Licencing Operations Team (MS-LOT) and its key statutory consultees to establish a consenting process for its scale sites which is inclusive, proportionate, and timeous while still satisfying all relevant legislation. Each new technology to be installed at the scale sites requires a marine licence. EMEC supports clients in developing their marine licence application to MS-LOT and conduct regular engagement with MS-LOT to ensure timeous determination post submission. Applications must be accompanied by supporting documentation from the client, outlining the proposed project and identifying any potential project-specific environmental and navigational risks, together with any proposed mitigation and a decommissioning programme. MS-LOT typically requires 14 weeks from receipt of valid application to determination and issuing a licence.
Similarly, EMEC has worked closely with OIC to establish a process whereby a generic harbour works licence for the purpose of installing technology for testing has been granted to EMEC. This is a requirement as the scale test sites are located within the statutory harbour authority area. Under the terms of this licence, EMEC is required to give OIC at least 21 days’ notice of each new developer wishing to install at its scale sites.
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. 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
- CoRMaT 500kW, 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.
Key Environmental Issues
While some seals have been recorded in the area of the site, NatureScot 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 Special Protected Area (SPA) which designates the following species as qualifying interests: great northern diver, Slavonian grebe, red-throated diver, and velvet scoter. Further information on the North Orkney SPA can be accessed here.
In relation to these species during sensitive periods, the key issues to be addressed within the developer’s environmental monitoring plans 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
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.
Environmental Webpage: http://www.emec.org.uk/services/consents/
As the site is not grid connected, no export cable is present.
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
Papers, Reports, Research Studies
- Shapinsay Sound Scale Tidal Site Navigational Risk Assessment 2019
- EMEC Scale Site Consenting Process: Guidance for Developers 2012
- Shapinsay Sound Scale Site: Environmental Description 2011
EMEC has carried out or has been involved with a number of research projects. These include national, international and site-specific projects. More information about these can be found at the following locations: http://www.emec.org.uk/research/ and http://www.emec.org.uk/projects/ocean-energy-projects/. Selected projects relevant to environmental impacts, assessment and monitoring are listed below:
- Acoustic Monitoring Programme (2011-2012): aimed to develop a methodology and procure equipment for characterising the acoustic output of devices, and establish an acoustic baseline. Outputs
- Wildlife Observations Programme and Wildlife Analysis Project (2011-2013): aimed to collect data which can inform on whether or not displacement, or other alteration to behaviour and distribution, occurs in the resident wildlife due to the presence and/or operation of marine energy devices. Outputs:
- Underwater Acoustic Monitoring at Wave and Tidal Energy Sites: Guidance Notes for Regulators (2014)
- A review of the potential impacts of wave and tidal energy development on Scotland’s marine environment (2014)
- FLOWBEC (Flow, Water Column and Benthic Ecology 4D) 2012 – 2016: aimed to improve the understanding of how the physical behaviour of the water such as currents, waves and turbulence at tide and wave energy sites influences the behaviour of marine wildlife, and how tide and wave energy devices might alter the behaviour of such wildlife. Development of an autonomous seabed platform with integrated monitoring technologies.
- Understanding how marine renewable device operations influence fine-scale habitat use and behavior of marine vertebrates (RESPONSE) 2011 – 2015
- Offshore Renewable Joint Industry Programme (ORJIP): as part of EMEC’s remit, a short summary of the opportunities, issues and challenges associated with sharing environmental monitoring data was published in 2020, which is available here.
- FORWARD2030 (Fast-tracking Offshore Renewable energy With Advanced Research to Deploy 2030MW of tidal energy before 2030) 2021 - 2025: part of the project will see the development of environmental monitoring to support the consenting of future large-scale floating tidal arrays.
- SEA Wave (Strategic Environmental Assessment of Wave energy technologies): involved environmental research at Billia Croo, undertaking a gap analysis to address the lack of knowledge regarding the potential environmental impacts associated with deploying wave and tidal energy converters in the marine environment and provide strategic recommendations for consenting. Project deliverables are available here.
- CEFOW (Clean Energy From Ocean Waves): device-specific research was conducted to investigate responses of species receptor groups to the deployment of single and multiple wave energy converters at EMEC.
- MaRINET and MaRINET2 (Marine Renewables Infrastructure Network): provided marine energy development companies, entrepreneurs, start-ups and researchers with funded access to marine energy experts and the world’s leading wave, tidal and offshore-wind test facilities. A short course on “Methods and environmental data collection in Marine Renewable Energy sites” was delivered in 2021 and is available here.
- FloTEC (Floating Tidal Energy Commercialisation) 2016 – 2021: EMEC carried out resource and environmental assessments around Orbital Marine Power’s floating tidal technology, with a final webinar on lessons learnt presented in September 2021.
- EquiMar: Equitable Testing and Evaluation of Marine Energy Extraction Devices in terms of Performance, Cost and Environmental Impact
- RESOURCECODE (Resource Characterisation to Reduce the Cost of Energy through Coordinated Data Enterprise): aimed to support investment and growth in the wave and tidal energy sector through the creation of an integrated marine data toolbox. The open source toolbox (available here) was launched in March 2022, using 27 years of model data to create the highest resolution wave model in North West Europe.
Baseline Assessment: EMEC Shapinsay Sound Scale Tidal Test Site
|Receptor||Study Description||Design and Methods||Results||Status|
|Invertebrates||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.
|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.||Completed (2010)|
|Physical Environment||Characterization of ambient noise.||Surveys were carried out autumn and winter 2011-2012 using the existing EMEC ‘Drifting Ears’ hydrophone equipment but later surveys used an upgraded system, the Drifting Acoustic Recorder and Tracker system developed by Chickerell BioAcoustics and EMEC.||Data collected show that ambient noise levels were in line with that which could be expected for this type of shallow water site, with anthropogenic noise (from shipping and a ‘seal scarer’) being the major contributors to the ambient noise field. Other significant contributions to the noise field include noise from aircraft, chains, rain, wind, and waves. No sources of noise associated with strong tidal flow across bathymetric features were identified, and no geographical variation in noise level was observed. |
Shipping noise is a significant contributor to the ambient noise field with levels up to 100 dB re 1uPa in a 1Hz bandwidth recorded from passing small boats. A ‘seal scarer’ contributes levels up to 90 dB re 1uPa in a 1 Hz bandwidth
Post-Installation Monitoring: EMEC Shapinsay Sound Scale Tidal Test Site
|Stressor||Receptor||Study Description||Design and Methods||Results||Status|
|Habitat Change||Invertebrates||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.||Completed (2010)|
|Attraction, Avoidance||Marine Mammals||Marine mammal observations.||Observations of mammals by EMEC wildlife observers.||Raw data is publicly available, however no report published as of yet.||Completed (2013)|
|Attraction, Avoidance||Birds||Bird observations.||Observations of birds by EMEC wildlife observers.||Raw data is publicly available, however no report published as of yet.||Completed (2013)|