Over the last two decades, developers of marine renewable energy (MRE) technologies have designed and tested new devices that harness wave and tidal energy. However, few full-scale devices have been deployed or connected to the grid. A delaying factor is perceived lengthy permitting processes with substantial environmental monitoring requirements. The Triton Initiative and OES-Environmental lead complementary projects that may accelerate the permitting process and reduce temporal and financial efforts required from developers.
Regulators are mainly concerned by six environmental stressors: collision risk for marine animals with a device’s moving parts; increase in underwater noise that could injure animals or lead to behavior modifications; cables and other equipment emitting electromagnetic fields, with various effects on sensitive species; changes to the physical environment; changes of benthic and pelagic habitats and communities; and displacement of marine organisms from the area of MRE installations.
While the characterization and monitoring of these stressors and their effects on marine ecosystems are often addressed at MRE development sites, the methodologies and sensors used vary greatly, hampering the useful comparison of data and results from site to site. Without consistency in the baseline and monitoring data collected, it is difficult for regulators to transfer the conclusions taken for one site to another, even if similar environmental conditions and potential risks exist at both sites.
Triton Field Trials’ goals are to propose a common set of monitoring methodologies and sensors to assess the targeted stressors by identifying commonalities; testing and comparing methods in various environments and sea states; reviewing models and data needs; and synthesizing methods to consolidate data collection consistency practices. This approach will eventually enable data transferability among MRE projects and sites and assist regulators in their decision-making.