This report aims to compile the information gathered so far regarding environmental and socio-economic key issues for each test centre under analysis and integrate it with stakeholders opinions collected during Workshop B and the stakeholders’ survey for each test centre (Deliverable 4.3). For that purpose the environmental key issues for each test centre have been reviewed using the EIA reports available so far.
The comparison of EIA results for the six wave energy test centres reveals some commonalities on the environmental descriptors and impact evaluation. The same environmental descriptors have usually been identified for most but not all test sites (i.e. benthos, marine mammals, avifauna, coastal processes and water quality). Perhaps surprisingly, potential impacts on fish and elasmobranches have only been looked at for a minority of test centres. Even though the classification of impacts in the EIAs for the different test centres is different, the significance of an impact is generally linked to whether and how quickly the original site conditions can be restored and often linked to the magnitude of the habitat or species population potentially affected in comparison to the overall size of the habitat or species population. The significance of a potential impact is also determined by comparing the potential effects from the wave energy test centres with effects caused by naturally occurring phenomenon. The impacts identified are generally not significant, sometimes after mitigation. The most significant impacts are those which are associated with the installation phases for both the subsea cable and WECs, including foundations and moorings. The impacts associated with the operational phase of WECs are generally considered to be not significant even though it is recognised that potential impacts are largely unknown. Some differences in impacts evaluation occur often because of this uncertainty over impacts and sometimes due to site sensitivity. Given the low expected impacts of test centres on most of the environmental descriptors, mitigation measures are not overly onerous and often aim to be preventative. These mostly take the form of good practice during construction, good project management, contingency planning and avoiding certain construction operations at sensitive periods. To deal with the uncertainty of impacts evaluation, monitoring plans have been proposed but the exact nature of these (e.g. objectives, methodologies and duration) are not however specified.
The main socio-economic issues identified in the review were impacts on fishing, navigation and tourism. This is in agreement with the key socio-economic issues identified in the second SOWFIA workshop and the stakeholder survey. Consultation with stakeholders groups prior to the design of test centres layout has been identified in the EIA reports as an effective measure which the test centre developers undertook to mitigate stakeholders’ concerns. The potential for positive socio-economic impacts is also highlighted in some of the EIAs. These include the direct and indirect creation of employment, increased tourism and the potential for increased fish stocks due to the creation of no take zones. There was however an important warning that potential benefits from developments should not be oversold in order for stakeholders’ trust to be retained.
Guidance can be taken from this work regarding the environmental descriptors and socio-economic issues that may be assessed in commercial scale projects in the future even though these are likely to require assessment on a larger scale. Similarly, guidance can be taken on the types of mitigation measures that may be required from commercial scale projects although it is uncertain how these will scale up. Once more is known about the environmental and socio-economic impacts of wave energy developments, assessment requirements, mitigation measures and stakeholder opinions may change considerably. Indeed, in the stakeholder surveys, concerns were expressed that test centres were relatively small facilities and consulted stakeholders stressed that this should not be automatically taken as acceptance of commercial scale ocean energy sites.