Marine renewable energy (MRE) harnesses energy from the ocean and provides a low-carbon sustainable energy source for national grids and remote uses. The international MRE industry is in the early stages of development, focused largely on tidal and riverine turbines, and wave energy converters (WECs), to harness energy from tides, rivers, and waves, respectively. Although MRE supports climate change mitigation, there are concerns that MRE devices and systems could affect portions of the marine and river environments. The greatest concern for tidal and river turbines is the potential for animals to be injured or killed by collision with rotating blades. Other risks associated with MRE device operation include the potential for turbines and WECs to cause disruption from underwater noise emissions, generation of electromagnetic fields, changes in benthic and pelagic habitats, changes in oceanographic processes, and entanglement of large marine animals. The accumulated knowledge of interactions of MRE devices with animals and habitats to date is summarized here, along with a discussion of preferred management methods for encouraging MRE development in an environmentally responsible manner. As there are few devices in the water, understanding is gained largely from examining one to three MRE devices. This information indicates that there will be no significant effects on marine animals and habitats due to underwater noise from MRE devices or emissions of electromagnetic fields from cables, nor changes in benthic and pelagic habitats, or oceanographic systems. Ongoing research to understand potential collision risk of animals with turbine blades still shows significant uncertainty. There has been no significant field research undertaken on entanglement of large animals with mooring lines and cables associated with MRE devices.
This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Interactions of Marine Renewable Energy Installations.