The deployment of tidal turbines in coastal waters raises questions about the potential risk to marine animals from strike by rotating blades. Of particular concern are marine mammals that are already facing threats from other human activities as well as climate change. Regulators in the US who are charged with permitting the installation of tidal turbines have sought additional information to guide biological assessments of blade strike to marine mammals.
This study determined a “worst case” scenario for interaction between a marine mammal and a tidal turbine, focusing on the highly endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale in the U.S. and an open-centred tidal turbine (OpenHydro) proposed for deployment. The analysis combined a finite element modelling of the forces from the turbine blade with information on the biomechanical analysis of the marine mammal tissues, in order to estimate the potential results of a blade strike. Supported by ancillary data, this analysis is being used to inform permitting of a tidal energy project in Puget Sound, Washington, U.S. Analyses are underway to further develop this and related analyses to include three tidal turbine designs and three marine mammal species.