Wave energy is an emerging sector, within the pre-commercial stage of development, whereby deployments generally consist of single devices or small arrays. As such, key evidence gaps and uncertainty about the potential environmental effects of wave energy devices can lead to a precautionary approach to impact assessment and project consenting. This can place resourcing and financial pressures on wave technology development companies to carry out extensive environmental monitoring, to provide reassurance to regulators and their advisors within Member States by addressing uncertainty around the potential environmental effects of devices. When added to the other complex areas in which wave technology developers face challenges and pressures (engineering, securing private investment and revenue support), this additional burden can have a significant effect on technology and even company viability.
The SEA Wave project aims to address long-term environmental uncertainty around the development of the wave energy sector and develop cost effective but statistically robust approaches to monitoring and data gathering. It will develop good practice in data gathering methodologies and take a strategic approach to investigate the possible environmental effects of wave energy devices, with the aim of reducing uncertainty about key potential effects to de-risk and streamline consenting. This will be achieved by carrying out coordinated, strategic monitoring, based around identified key evidence gaps for wave energy technologies. This Environmental Demonstration Strategy (EDS) sets out this proposed strategic monitoring activity, including the rationale for its focus (i.e. the key evidence gaps on which it will focus), the strategic objectives of the monitoring activity, the methodologies to be utilized and details of how the findings will be reported and disseminated.
SEA Wave has four wave energy partners with different technology types to ensure that the project outcomes will be representative of the sector. The environmental demonstration strategy currently involves four pan-European wave energy developers, as follows:
- CorPower Ocean
- Ocean Energy
It is recognised that the potential environmental impacts of wave energy are likely to be both site- and technology-specific. Technology-specific impacts may vary depending on, for example, mooring method, installation procedure and Power Take-Off (PTO) system. By encompassing a range of wave energy technology types, the SEA Wave project will identify synergies and commonalities across technologies. The ability to monitor four different technology types at different deployment sites, utilising different PTO systems, mooring methods, installation procedures, etc., will enable a number of these technology-specific environmental issues to potentially be addressed within this project. In addition, the design and deliver of an integrated monitoring programme across four wave technologies at different deployment sites provides a valuable opportunity to improve the statistical power of the resulting data to determine any site-specific effects, which can otherwise be challenging to address for single deployments. This will help to build an understanding for those potential environmental effects that will have an element of site-specificity.
The development of models within the SEA Wave project, validated by environmental monitoring and field measurements will enable consideration of how device specific environmental effects and responses might upscale from single devices to arrays.
Wave energy devices and their associated infrastructure have the potential to positively affect the environment and enrich the ecosystem, for example through the creation of additional habitat and fishery exclusion zones. These possible benefits of wave energy devices will be investigated as part of the SEA Wave project EDS.
The SEA Wave project will carry out coordinated environmental monitoring campaigns around technology deployments planned within the timeline of the project. Monitoring will be delivered by project partners University of Exeter, University of Plymouth and EMEC with guidance from Aquatera and EMEC, the lead partner. The team will work closely with the four developers to carry out the strategic environmental monitoring campaigns set out in this EDS.
In addition to the strategic monitoring activity detailed in this EDS, an individual environmental monitoring strategy will be produced for each technology to be deployed within the SEA Wave project timeline. These environmental monitoring strategies will be aligned with and draw on, this overarching EDS to ensure a cohesive, strategic approach which meets the needs of the technology developers (e.g. discharge of licence conditions by contributing to Project Environmental Monitoring Plans) as well as the strategic objectives of the SEA Wave project. The environmental monitoring strategies will sit beneath the EDS, as supplementary Annexes that will be developed in partnership with the technology developers, as project schedules and licensing requirements are confirmed. The environmental monitoring strategies will be reviewed by project partners and (where resources allow) the independent Steering Group to ensure that they meet technology or site-specific monitoring requirements (including discharge of consent conditions), and the needs of the SEA Wave project.
This EDS report provides an overview of the key environmental evidence gaps on the potential effects of wave energy deployments on which the SEA Wave project will focus. It describes how the project will reduce uncertainty in these areas to help streamline consenting.