More details of this workshop are available here.
The purpose of Annex IV is to provide a collaborative project under the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Ocean Energy Systems Implementing Agreement (OES-IA) that will identify ongoing research and bring together data on the environmental effects of marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) energy development, analyze those data to understand effects, identify potential monitoring and mitigation strategies to address those effects, and share those results and data broadly. The U.S. has the lead for Annex IV; and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is the overall Operating Agent, also partnering with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The DOE Water Power Program has also tasked one of the U.S. national research laboratories, Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL), to carry out a significant amount of the Annex IV work. The database created to support Annex IV data will be built as an adjunct to the Knowledge Management System (Tethys) created for a similar PNNL project on environmental effects of MHK development. One of the first steps in implementing the Annex was to convene an experts’ workshop in Dublin Ireland September 27th – 28th 2010. PNNL was responsible for organizing the content of the workshop, overseeing the contractors (Irish Marine Institute) hosting the event, presenting material on Annex IV and materials applicable to the workshop intent. PNNL is also overseeing a contractor (Wave Energy Center/University of Plymouth – WEC/UP) in the collection and analysis of the Annex IV data.
Fifty-eight experts from 8 countries attended the workshop by invitation, spending two days discussing the needs of Annex IV. Ahead of the workshop, each participant received an extensive matrix created by the Wave Energy Center/University of Plymouth (WEC/UP), identifying known or likely MHK environmental effects for wave and tidal energy, monitoring and mitigation methodologies, and references. Additional pertinent reports and literature were made available to participants on the workshop website ahead of the workshop as well. Presentations by DOE (background on Annex IV), PNNL (process for developing Annex IV; presentation of the draft database for PNNL project, plans for incorporating Annex IV data), WEC/UP on the environmental effect matrix, and four MHK developers (two from the UK, one from Ireland and one from Sweden; each discussing their own projects and lessons learned for measuring and mitigating environmental effects, as well as interactions with consenting [permitting] processes) helped provide background. The purposes of the workshop were to:
- Refine and prioritize the list of environmental issues of concern
- Identify MHK projects or other research where specific environmental impacts of concern are being monitored and data are being collected
- Identify gaps where information on environmental impacts of concern is lacking or will be difficult to collect in the near future
- Identify analogous sources of data from other industries that operate in the ocean environment
- Identify case studies for further analysis where extensive monitoring or mitigation of impacts was successful
- Review the database which will house all information collected on environmental monitoring and impacts and gather suggestions for improvements
- Propose methods for data collection and submission to the database and identify responsible parties for data collection
An additional underlying purpose of the workshop was to engage the interest of a diverse group of experts to begin to create an international body of scientists to interact and promote scientific inquiry into environmental effects of MHK development. The workshop participants worked part of the time in the large group and most of the time in four smaller breakout groups. Participants engaged in the process and provided a wealth of examples of MHK environmental work, particularly in the European nations. They provided practical and actionable advice on the following:
- Developing the Annex IV database, with specific uses and audiences
- Strong consensus that we should collect detailed metadata on available data sets, rather than attempting to draw in copious datasets. The participants felt there would then be an opportunity to ask for specific sets of data as needed, with specific uses and ownership of the data specified at that time. This is especially important as many data collected, particularly in Europe but also in Canada, are proprietary; developers were not comfortable with the idea of handing over all their environmental effects data, but all said they would entertain the request if they specifics were clear.
- Collecting metadata via an online interactive form, taking no more than one hour to complete.
- Although the idea of cases representing the “best practices” was recognized as useful, the participants pointed out that there are currently so few MHK projects in the water that any and all projects were appropriate to highlight as “cases”. There was also discomfort at the implication that “best practices” implied “lesser practices”; this being unhelpful to a new and emerging industry.
- Workshop participants were asked if they were willing to continue to engage in the Annex IV process; all expressed willingness.
The workshop was successful in adequately addressing its objectives through participation and interaction in the breakout sessions around the various topics. The workshop clarified the Annex IV goal to ensure that existing information and data on environmental monitoring (and, to the extent possible, practices for environmental mitigation) are more widely accessible to those in industry, national, state, and regional governments, and the public. The workshop discussions also clarified the relationship of Annex IV to the U.S.-based Tethys database, in which the Annex IV data will be housed.
As a result of the workshop, many delegates are now better informed and have a greater understanding of the potential environmental effects of MHK devices on the marine environment. There is now a greater sense of understanding of the issues involved and consensus by those regulators, developers and scientists who attended the workshop. A strong network has also been built over the two days between European and US/Canadian technical experts in wave and tidal energy.
The progress made during the workshop has provided the U.S. operating agents and member nations, with the information needed to refine the database design and format for data collection. The database design and format for data collection will be finalized. Then the member nations will be asked to collect and submit information on environmental monitoring in the standard format. Through this process the Annex IV database will be populated and made available through an interface to the Tethys database system. Additional analyses of high priority information gaps and lessons learned from the monitoring experiences will be carried out in future steps, leading to development of a final report.