Tidal Energy Converter (TEC) arrays are expected to reduce tidal current speeds locally, thus impacting sediment processes, even when positioned above bedrock, as well as having potential impacts to nearby offshore sand banks. Furthermore, the tidal dissipation at potential TEC sites can produce high suspended sediment concentrations (turbidity maxima) which are important for biological productivity. Yet few impact assessments of potential TEC sites have looked closely at sediment dynamics beyond local scouring issues. It is therefore important to understand to what extent exploitation of the tidal energy resource will affect sedimentary processes, and the scale of this impact is here assessed in relation to natural variability. At one such site in the Irish Sea that is highly attractive for the deployment of TEC arrays, we collect measurements of sediment type and bathymetry, apply a high resolution unstructured morphodynamic model, and a spectral wave model in order to quantify natural variability due to tidal and wave conditions. We then simulate the impacts of tidal-stream energy extraction using the morphodynamic model. Our results suggest that the sedimentary impacts of ‘first generation’ TEC arrays (i.e. less than 50 MW), at this site, are within the bounds of natural variability and are, therefore, not considered detrimental to the local environment. Yet we highlight potential environmental issues and demonstrate how impact assessments at other sites could be investigated.
Impact of Tidal-Stream Arrays in Relation to the Natural Variability of Sedimentary Processes
Title: Impact of Tidal-Stream Arrays in Relation to the Natural Variability of Sedimentary Processes
December 01, 2014
Journal: Renewable Energy
Robins, P.; Neill, S.; Lewis, M. (2014). Impact of Tidal-Stream Arrays in Relation to the Natural Variability of Sedimentary Processes. Renewable Energy, 72, 311-321.