The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) was established in the Orkney Islands in 2002 to provide a facility for the testing of marine renewable energy devices. This comprised a Wave Energy Conversion (WEC) device test facility (the “Wave Test Site”) at Billia Croo and, in 2006, a tidal energy device test site in the Fall of Warness, (the “tidal test site”).
The Wave Test Site area is situated on the west coast of Mainland (the principal island of the Orkney Islands) and was chosen after an option study which compared a number of factors including its impact on navigation. Consultation with stakeholders was undertaken at the time in order to gauge the potential impact and the comments made were taken into account in the controls that were subsequently put in place. A Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA) process was undertaken in order to identify the potential risks from the devices and buoys that could be sited at the Wave Test Site and appropriate monitoring and procedural controls introduced as part of a Safety Management System for the Centre as a whole. These controls included Standard Operational and Emergency Response Procedures for control of work and responses to identified accident scenarios e.g. partial loss of device mooring or vessel collision.
In 2006, a requirement was raised for a shallow water test berth. As such devices generally required to be sited in depths less than 20m it was not possible to use the established test site where the charted depths are around 50m. Hence, a site closer inshore was required.
As the shallow water test area was to be outwith the current test site, an assessment of the navigational safety issues arising from the establishment of an Offshore Renewable Energy Installations (OREI) was conducted in 2008 in accordance with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s (MCA) guidance at the time - Marine General Notice MGN 275(M) - Proposed Offshore Renewable Energy Installations (OREI) – Guidance on Navigational Safety Issues. Since then, that guidance has been superseded by MGN 371 (M+F) Offshore Renewable Energy Installations (OREIs) – Guidance on UK Navigational Practice, Safety and Emergency Response Issues. The issues that require to be addressed remain unchanged.
The methodology for this assessment followed that for assessing the Marine Navigational Safety Risks of Offshore Wind Farms contained in the Dti/BERR publication - Guidance on the Assessment of the Impact of Offshore Wind Farms. The assessment also reviewed the navigational safety impact of the Wave Test Site as a whole.