The production of electricity from the moving waters of the ocean has the potential to be a viable addition to the portfolio of renewable energy sources worldwide. The marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) industry faces many hurdles, including technology development, challenges of offshore deployments, and financing; however, the barrier most commonly identified by industry, regulators, and stakeholders is the uncertainty surrounding potential environmental effects of devices placed in the water and the permitting processes associated with real or potential impacts.
In order to accelerate the deployment of tidal and wave devices, there is a need to evaluate the extensive list of potential interactions that may cause harm to marine organisms and ecosystems, to set priorities for regulatory triggers, and to direct future research. Identifying the risk of MHK technology components on specific marine organisms and ecosystem components can separate perceived from real risk-relevant interactions. Scientists from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are developing an Environmental Risk Evaluation System (ERES) to assess environmental effects associated with MHK technologies and projects through a systematic analytical process, with specific input from key stakeholder groups.
The array of stakeholders interested in the development of MHK is broad, segmenting into those whose involvement is essential for the success of the MHK project, those who are influential, and those who are interested. PNNL and their partners have engaged these groups, gaining valuable information, gathering pertinent feedback on the efficacy of the process, and providing a level of ownership for the risk evaluation process that will encourage adoption of the outcome to inform future MHK siting and permitting decisions.
The ERES development process provides the scientific structure to support risk characterization, comparison of tradeoffs, and risk informed decision-making by project and technology developers, regulatory agencies, and other interested stakeholders. The PNNL team will determine the range and severity of environmental effects of MHK development, leading to the development of mitigation strategies where residual risk remains.