The WESE project aimed to develop environmental monitoring around wave energy converters (WECs) operating at sea; to develop efficient guidance for planning and consenting procedures in Spain and Portugal for wave energy projects to better inform decision-makers and managers on environmental real risks and reduce environmental consenting uncertainty; to develop and implement innovative maritime spatial planning (MSP) Decision Support Tools (DSTs) for Portugal and Spain for site selection of WE projects; and to develop a Data Sharing Platform that will serve data providers, developers and regulators.
The WESE project conducts environmental monitoring around deployments in Portugal and Spain. Associated project sites include:
Portugal (Bald & Apolónia, 2020):
The Directorate-General of Natural Resources, Safety and Maritime Services (DGNRSMS) is the entity responsible for several aspects regarding the private use of the National Maritime Space (NMS). The Directorate-General of Energy and Geology (DGEG) is the entity responsible for the licensing process of electric projects including marine renewable energy (MRE).
For projects with a power capacity up to 10 MW, DGEG is the authority in charge of licensing electricity production linking with other authorities for specific permits: the DGNRSMS for the Title for the Private Spatial Use for the NMS (TPSU), Commission of Coordination and Regional Development (CCRD) or Environmental Portuguese Agency (EPA) for the environmental license, and local city hall for onshore facilities.
The consenting process for MRE projects in Portugal follows 4 components:
- Private use of marine space,
- Energy production,
- Accessory facilities onshore and
- Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
A developer can apply for all licenses at the same time, however, the procedure to obtain each of these licenses is sequential and there are legally prescribed time frames for each step of the procedure.
In summary (from WESE D4.2 – Bald & Apolónia, 2020):
Relevant applicable laws
Name of document
Private use marine space
DL 38/2015 (amended by DL 139/2015) – transposes Directive 2014/89/EU and develops Act 17/2014 which sets forth the LBOGEM
Water Resources Use
DL 226-A/2007 (amended by Act 44/2012)
DL 108/2010 (amended by DL 136/2013)
DL 172/2006 (6th amendment through DL 215-B/2012 and 11th amendment through DL 76/2019)
Ordinance 243/2013 (amended by Ordinance 133/2015)
DGEG – power capacity up to 10 MW
Secretary of State of Energy – power capacity higher than 10 MW
License on power production and grid connection
Accessory facilities onshore
DL 555/99 (amended by DL 136/2014) - RJUE
Local planning authority
DL 151-B/2013 (amended by DL 152-B/2017) – transposes Directive 2014/52/EU
EPA – location in sensitive area
DGEG – project not located in sensitive area)
CCDR – EA
Spain (Bald & Apolónia, 2020):
The distribution of competences between the State and the Autonomous Communities arises, in essence, from the Spanish Constitution (specifically from articles 148 and 149) and the Statutes of Autonomy of the latter. Thus, the specific distribution of powers in the Spanish electricity sector has been specified by Law 54/1997, of 27 November, on the Electricity Sector.
As established in article 113 of RD 1955/2000, the competences over electricity production, transmission and distribution facilities are held by the General State Administration and shall be exercised by the Directorate General for Energy Policy and Mines (DGEPM) of the current Ministry for the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (METDC), without prejudice to those expressly attributed to the Council of Ministers.
The processing of the authorisation, specifically the declaration of public utility and approval of the project for the execution of electrical installations will be carried out by the areas or, where appropriate, the Industry and Energy Departments of the Government Delegations or Sub-delegations of the provinces where the installation is located.
In addition to the competences set out in RD 1955/2000, in relation to electricity generation facilities, and in accordance with the provisions of article 3 of RD 1028/2007, it is the responsibility of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (METDC), through the Directorate General for Energy Policy and Mines (DGEPM), as the substantive body, to grant administrative authorisation for the construction, extension, modification and closure of facilities.
On the other hand, it is the responsibility of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (METDC), through the Directorate General for Sustainability of the Coast and the Sea (DGSCS), to grant the authorizations and concessions for the occupation of the maritime-terrestrial public domain (MTPD) required for the installation of a marine electricity generation park. In addition, the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (METDC), through the Directorate General for Environmental Quality and Assessment (DGEQA), will act as the environmental body in the environmental assessments carried out in application of RD 1028/2007.
When the activities required to carry out electricity generation installations in the territorial sea affect maritime safety, navigation and human life at sea, the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, through the Directorate General of the Merchant Navy (DGMN), will be responsible for authorising such activities.
In the case of occupation of the public port domain, the competent Port Authority (PA) will grant the corresponding authorisation or concession, in accordance with the provisions of the applicable sectorial legislation.
Regional governments can participate in the process depending on their competences. In particular, regional governments (there are 17 in Spain) are the decision-making bodies when the site is in internal waters (i.e. sea areas lying between two capes).
Started: November 2018
Concluded: October 2021
Key Environmental Issues
The project included a work package dedicated to the monitoring of 3 key parameters: electromagnetic fields (EMFs), underwater noise, and seafloor integrity, and a work package dedicated to environmental modelling: electromagnetic fields, underwater noise, and marine dynamics. No significant impacts were found.
Papers, Reports, Research Studies
- D2.1 (EMF, underwater noise and seafloor integrity monitoring plans to be implemented in further tasks): Deliverable 2.1 Monitoring plans for Noise, Electromagnetic Fields and Seabed Integrity
- D2.2 (EMFs monitoring)
- D2.3 (underwater noise monitoring)
- D2.4 (seafloor integrity monitoring)
- D3.1 (EMFs modelling)
- D3.2 (acoustics modelling)
- D3.3 (marine dynamics modelling)
- Project Summary of Outcomes and Results of Wave Energy in Southern Europe (WESE) Project
Baseline Assessment: WESE – Wave Energy in Southern Europe
|Receptor||Study Description||Design and Methods||Results||Status|
|Marine Mammals||WaveRoller: First underwater acoustic monitoring activities at the WaveRoller test site in 2010 under the SURGE Project. ||Two campaigns of one day were carried out to assess the background noise, without the presence of the WaveRoller device. ||The main results are presented in Cruz et al., 2015 ||Completed|
|Marine Mammals||BiMEP: Environmental monitoring program (EMP) developed by AZTI (www.azti.es) in 2012 before the installation of any WEC or structure. ||Sonobuoy was moored at 40 m depth for 5 months. ||The sonobuoy was able to detect and classify automatically all the acoustic events above the ambient noise (presence of cetaceans and noise) and store the information. |
The presence of marine mammals and underwater ambient noise was monitored and later analysed for 1/3 octave bands 63 Hz and 125 Hz as recommended by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD, 2008). The mean value recorded during the sampling period for the 1/3 octave bands of 63 Hz and 125 Hz was about 90 dB and 85 dB respectively.
|Desk-based assessment in WESE project D2.1||To estimate the electric fields generated by the wave motion, one must compute the water particles velocity. For very shallow waters the expressions are u ̂_x=(w.a)/(k.d) for the horizontal component and u ̂_z=w.a(1+z/d) for the vertical component, where =2π(1⁄T) is the angular frequency, d is the water depth, z is the depth of interest (negative number), k=2π/λ is the wave number and a=H_s⁄2 is the wave amplitude. Reciprocally, the varying electric fields induce a magnetic field as predicted by the Ampere-Maxwell law. However, these are extremely week (bellow Nano unit for our scenario). Thus, these are not considered. Considering the following equation P = √3 〖.V〗_LL.I.pf, where P is the power capacity of each device, V_LL is the line to line voltage of the 3-phase transmission system, I is the phase current (variable of interest) and pf is the power factor, it is possible to compute the phase current. Assuming the devices are producing at the rated power and the power factor is equal to one, the phase currents expected at each site are shown in b) on the right. For this desk-based assessment, the E and B normalized curves from Slater et al. (2010) was used. These were computed using a generic 3-phase subsea power cable with a typical cross-section layout. Although not totally accurate (e.g., cable dimensions are not the same), this approach allows for a quick assessment of the order of magnitude of the EMFs expected from both subsea cables ||See D2.2 (EMFs monitoring)||Completed|
|Invertebrates, Physical Environment||WaveRoller: Within the SURGE project, a baseline survey of the habitats and benthic communities in the WaveRoller area was undertaken in 2013. ||Grab sampling and video imaging with a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV). ||During the four years of SURGE project, the WaveRoller device was deployed twice totalling six weeks at sea. The short deployment period made difficult to assess the impacts of the WaveRoller device on the bottom habitats and benthic communities but allowed to improve the understanding of those seabed attributes in the WaveRoller area.The abiotic factors such as temperature and wave dynamics were likely to be the most important factors affecting the composition and distribution of benthic assemblages, which registered low biodiversity and similar distributions across the sampling stations and over time. |
The ROV survey showed similar results as the grab sampling and additionally found rocky outcrops with higher biodiversity and biomass than the surrounding sandy substrate, densely covered by epibenthic fauna and dominated by Sabellaria alveolata biogenic reef (EUNIS habitat A5.61: Sublittoral polychaete worm reefs on sediment) (https://eunis.eea.europa.eu/). No critical factors were found that could affect the deployment of the WaveRoller device.
|Invertebrates, Physical Environment||BiMEP: There are several studies carried out before the installation of the MARMOK-A-5 in the BiMEP area, including ROV surveys in June 2012 and December 2013, and grab samples in October 2012 and May 2014. ||Grab sampling and video imaging with a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV). ||Several benthic EUNIS habitats (https://eunis.eea.europa.eu/) were identified: |
A3: Infralittoral rock and other hard substrata;
A4: Circalittoral rock and other hard substrata;
A5.14: Circalittoral coarse sediment - A5.142: Mediomastus fragilis, Lumbrineris spp. and venerid bivalves in circalittoral coarse sand or gravel; A5.145: Branchiostoma lanceolatum in circalittoral coarse sand with shell gravel.;
A5.45: Deep circalittoral mixed sediments - A5.451: Polychaete-rich deep Venus community in offshore mixed sediments.
Most of the study area is probably populated by the A5.451 community, with a mosaic of rocky outcrops and coarse sediment beds that accommodate the remainder of the abovementioned assemblages. The characterization undertaken highlighted the high biological value of the communities associated to the abovementioned outcrops, which should be avoided when installing the moorings.
Post-Installation Monitoring: WESE – Wave Energy in Southern Europe
|Stressor||Receptor||Study Description||Design and Methods||Results||Status|
|Noise||Birds, Fish, Marine Mammals, Reptiles||WaveRoller: In September of 2014, monitoring was carried out during 24 h to characterize the sound emitted by the WaveRoller. |
More recently, project WESE monitored noise during WaveRoller decommissioning in October 2020
|Methods unknown.||Results unpublished, but the noise from the device could be detected before the decommissioning took place. During the decommissioning, noise was registered mainly from the vessels, with minor contribution from mooring chains and sediments movement. (WESE D2.6- Vinagre et al., 2021) ||Completed|
|Noise||Birds, Fish, Marine Mammals, Reptiles||BiMEP: Environmental monitoring program developed in 2013 during the installation of submarine cables |
Project WESE monitored MARMOK-A-5 during operation.
|Two sampling campaigns (14 sampling stations each time) were undertaken. One, before the installation of cables to evaluate the sound background levels and one during the installation operations. Later, a measurement of sound propagation was undertaken during the cable installation.||(WESE D2.3 – Felis et al., 2020; WESE D2.6 – Vinagre et al., 2021) For Marmok-A-5, evidence of some noise generation in both low and intermediate frequencies was found, due to turbine operation and mooring chains clashing, respectively. In particular, the frequencies in the band from 40 to 120 Hz are most energetically relevant, showing a maximum increase in sound pressure levels (SPLs) (with respect to non-working regime of the device) for the [0,1] m wave height range of about 14±12 dB re 1 μPa, at a radial distance of less than 100 meters from the device. In the higher frequency range, an increase of 3.2±11 dB re 1 μPa is found and attributed to the mooring chains, well below under uncertainty values.||Completed|
|Noise||Birds, Fish, Marine Mammals, Reptiles||Mutriku: Environmental monitoring program developed in 2016. On the 5th of June 2018 a permanent acoustic underwater monitoring station cabled to the Mutriku OWC Plant was installed allowing a continuous real-time data monitoring of the underwater noise generated by the plant ||Two sampling campaigns were undertaken in 13 sampling stations during summer and winter 2016. In each sampling station, a 10 minutes sound was recorded and was later processed and analysed for 1/3 octave bands as recommended by the MSFD (MSFD, 2008). |
The permanent acoustic underwater monitoring station will allow monitoring trends in the ambient noise level within the 1/3 octave bands 63 Hz and 125 Hz as recommended by the MSFD (MSFD, 2008).
|(WESE D2.3 – Felis et al., 2020)||Completed|
|EMF||Fish, Invertebrates, Sea Turtles||Project WESE: While achieving the main goal, this task produced an open-source EMF modelling tool based on Python code and FEMM software. On the validation side, for a number of reasons described in (D2.2; Paulo Chainho, 2020), it was not possible to gather quality EMF data, thus a comparison study was made with the outcomes of similar modelling studies, that proved high correlation ||Modelling using Python and WavEC’s EMF modelling tool (https://github.com/WavEC-Offshore-Renewables/EMF_modeling_tool)||EMFs are proportional to the cables current, hence, both the instant power production from the WEC and the cable transmission voltage have significant impact over the EMF radiated from the cable. EMFs show exponential decay with distance from subsea cables, with the computed amplitudes being reduced by at least one order of magnitude when distanced 1 m from the source. ||Completed|
|Habitat Change||Invertebrates, Physical Environment||BiMEP: The anchoring of MARMOK-A-5 was carried out in June 2016.||Surveys in 2020 using ROV and Side Scan sonar||In June 2016, there is not any evidence of recent movements of the anchors causing physical disturbance in the area. However, in a bathymetric survey carried out in September 2017, footprints apparently caused by the anchors could be seen. The footprints caused by the anchoring of anchors B1 and B2, which are close to the outcrops, are nearly 8 m in radius, whereas the footprints caused by F1 and F2 are roughly 12 m., what may indicate that the disturbance caused in the process was still visible one year after. On the contrary, three years after the anchoring, the video recordings do not show such an alteration of the seafloor even with the energy convertor in operation. |
Considering that the total area occupied by the device (polygon bounded by the four anchors and the connector) is approximately 290.000 m2, the affection area estimated relative to the total occupied area is 0.1%.
The anchors were working as fish and invertebrate attractors as shoals of poutings (Trisopterus luscus) have been recorded swimming around them. European congers (Conger conger) were also recorded hidden by the anchor. Finally, an European lobster (Homarus gammarus) seeking for protection by the B2 anchor was also captured by the videos.
Considering the chains of the four mooring lines and the cable from the convertor to the connector, it can be estimated that the area affected by the sections that are moving over the sediment could add up to roughly 250-300 m2.
|Habitat Change||Invertebrates, Physical Environment||WaveRoller: Habitat/seafloor integrity surveys||Surveys in 2020 using ROV.||Turbulence was frequent near to the seafloor (greatest depth surveyed was 15.0 m) and increased closer to the WaveRoller foundation. |
During all transects the seafloor was mostly made of sandy substrate. Smaller areas with rocky substrate covered by sand and few sections with rocky outcrops, “canyons” and biogenic reefs were identified.
Along the transects several organisms were found, such as fishes, sea urchins, starfishes, anemones, red algae, and kelp, as well, as other organisms which were not possible to identify. Also, a massive biogenic Sabellaria reef was found in the vicinity of WaveRoller.
All of the artificial structures were colonized by organisms, especially by algae and anemones, the foundation was greatly colonized by acorn barnacles, calcareous tubeworms and, in a much lesser extent, by mussels. Also, several fishes (about 25 individuals) were registered near to the WaveRoller foundation/flap.
As far as the videos could capture, the WaveRoller unit seems not be impactful to the seafloor integrity. Also, the mooring and electrical cables were completely lying on the seafloor, the only exception being a small portion of a steel mooring that was found on a rocky substrate uncovered by sand owed to the great turbulence.
|Changes in Flow||Physical Environment, Human Dimensions||WESE project marine dynamics task (D3.3 – De Santiago et al., 2021): The objective of the study was to model the effects of wave energy arrays on the nearshore wave climate and the consequences on the shoreline. ||BiMEP (MARMOK-A-5) and Peniche (WaveRoller): The impact of WEC farms in nearshore morphodynamics is evaluated in two distinct case studies. In the first case the hydrodynamics and beach shoreline evolution is studied by means of a probabilistic approach; and in the second case wave and morphodynamics evolution is analysed using a dynamic downscaling methodology. |
Details in De Santiago et al., 2021.
80 WEC devices located at 60-80 m water depth (4 km from the coast approx.).
Five hydrodynamic indicators (NI, NImax, MNI, RNI, IE) and two morphodynamic indicators (y, SI) are used to analyse the nearshore impact.
Array of 17 bottom-mount WaveRoller devices were analysed in terms of energy removed from the system by the devices and its impact on the nearshore morphological evolution. A dynamic downscaling methodology is used to provide full wave spectrum as boundary condition allowing the evaluation of the WEC array impact on nearshore wave spectrum.
For the wave propagation the SNL-SWAN was utilized (Chang et al., 2016). The model was specifically designed to evaluate the WEC farm effects on wave propagation. The model incorporates a WEC module that internally calculates the transmission coefficients based on the WEC power performance.
In order to propagate the deep waters wave climate of the Bay of Biscay to the BIMEP coastal region, the wave data collected from the Downscaling Ocean Waves (DOW) database (Camus et al., 2013) at deep waters was used. The transformation process (wave climate transference to coastal areas) was performed by combining dynamic and statistical downscaling as proposed by Camus et al., 2011.
Shoreline evolution modelling:
The model takes into the longshore sediment transport due to waves and the cross-shore sediment transport due to water level variations produced by waves, tides, and storm surges. The governing equation includes an alongshore transport one-line model that accounts for the influence of waves reaching the coast with a certain incident angle, and a cross-shore equilibrium shoreline model which accounts for the effect of the wave action and the presence of varying water levels. Details in De Santiago et al., 2021.
100 long-term synthetic multivariate hourly time series of significant wave height (Hs), wave peak period (Tp), wave peak direction (Dirw) and storm surge (ss) were generated. For that, a VAR (vector autoregression) model was fitted to the wave parameters (Hs, Tp, Dir) and storm surge along the coast to model the time dependence and the inter-dependence of the multi-spatial conditions. Details in De Santiago et al., 2021.
|BiMEP: The NI50 in terms of P and Hs vary in a range of -2000w/m - -4w/m and -0.06m – 0m, respectively and present maximum reduction values (NImax) of 41443w/m and 0.45m located in front of a cliff area. |
The changes associated with the RNI50 ranges from -8% - 0% and -5% - 0% for P and Hs, respectively. Reductions of P and Hs greater than 10% are only recorded during 40% and 4% of the time, respectively.
The impact extension (IE) is of 5.5 km for P and 3 km for Hs and only covers rocky cliff areas. The P and Hs reduction produced by the WEC farm is limited and with little effect at the coastline. This is attributed to the long distance at which the WEC farm is located from the coastal zone, which is far enough to significantly reduce the wave shadowing effect that occurs in the vicinity of the WEC farm.
The morphodynamic impact is quantified in the only beach of the study site (Bakio beach) where the hydrodynamic impact is limited (NImax of 7000w/m and 0.1m in terms of P and Hs, respectively).
The SI is low (less than 3m) and not homogeneous along the beach. While the western part of the beach undergoes a slight accretion (+2m), the central area is hardly modified, and it is only on the eastern contour of the beach where erosion (-1.5m) occurs. Since both accretion and erosion magnitudes are considerably low, it could be considered that the WEC farm does not provide any protective effect for the beach.
Peniche: Results show that the WEC array not only removes energy from the system but can also change the shape of the transmitted wave spectrum. It has been identified that due to the frequency dependence of the Relative Capture Width curve the effects of the array vary depending on the characteristics of the wave climate. For the typical Portuguese west coast wave climate, the array of WECs tend to work more efficiently during summer periods, where wave spectral energy is located at higher frequencies. Results also indicate that the WEC array offers little protection to extreme wave conditions due to the frequency operation limits of the WaveRoller.
The simulated initial sediment transport tendencies show that most of the changes occur in the orientation of rip channels, mostly in the cross-shore direction, which is expected due to the nature of the simulations. No significant sediment exchange between longshore areas have been observed. However, it is important to note that additional studies would be necessary to determine long term sediment transport patterns.