The purpose of this report is to identify research needed to determine the impacts and benefits of large-scale marine renewable energy projects, and to allow NERC to develop detailed plans for research activities in the 2009 Theme Action Plans. The overarching research challenge is to demonstrate the benefits of including environmental thinking in energy technology development, and to raise the profile of environmentally focused, as opposed to technologically driven, science in the energy arena. Our review therefore focuses on: (i) identification of the key science challenges and research opportunities and (ii) indications of where NERC science can contribute most and institutions which should be involved.
Environmental research in relation to marine renewable energy is progressing against a background of a complex funding and research landscape with a wide diversity of organisations involved, with research being undertaken on behalf of regulatory bodies, policy makers and developers. The main focus to date has been the DECC / COWRIE Research Programme overseen by a multi-agency Research Advisory Group. This group has prioritised and commissioned research to support deployment and licensing of arrays of wind turbines, and is now focussing mainly on the needs of the wave and tidal energy sector. All Oceans 2025 partners have been involved in delivering some of this research, which has included development of appropriate methods and novel technologies for studying organisms in hostile environments, studies focused on individual species and communities and their interactions with renewable energy technologies, as well as exploring the nature of potential ecosystem and economic benefits.