The Strategic Environmental Assessment of Wave energy technologies (SEAWave) project aims to address long term environmental concerns around the development of the marine renewable industry’s emerging technology, through targeted environmental monitoring campaigns before and after wave energy deployments and through strategic stakeholder consultation and engagement.
The potential environmental impacts that can be associated with the marine energy sector are generally site specific making it difficult to draw conclusions about a specific receptor or impact pathway. SEA Wave will undertake a gap analysis to address the lack of knowledge regarding the potential environmental impacts associated with deploying wave and tidal energy convertors in the marine environment.
Building on the bespoke environmental research campaigns undertaken on Wello Oy’s Penguin WEC, SEA Wave will incorporate future environmental monitoring campaigns on. This will be one of the first targeted, multi-WEC ecological sampling campaigns adopting a rigorous experimental approach to address some of the remaining uncertainties that exist for WECs in offshore environments.
Monitoring campaigns will be developed through a gap analysis approach but are expected to involve the use of non-destructive towed underwater video systems (TUVS) and baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS) to analyse habitat composition and species assemblages around the deployment locations. Marine acoustic sensors will be used to assess fish distribution and abundance near the devices and gain an understanding of fish attraction to infrastructure.
The data collected will be analysed and disseminated through established European networks of stakeholders and end users engaged in better understanding the potential impacts of wave energy developments and refining the burdensome consenting process.
The Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) has been set-up by the European Commission to manage on its behalf several EU programmes in the fields of SME support and innovation, environment, climate action, energy and maritime affairs. EASME provides funding for the fishing industry and coastal communities through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
This project is co-funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) of the European Union.
Location of Research
UK, Ireland, Portugal, Finland, Belgium, and Sweden.
The primary aim of SEA Wave is to undertake one of the first targeted multi-WEC ecological sampling campaigns adopting a rigorous experimental approach to address some of the remaining uncertainties that exist for WECs in offshore environments. This will be achieved through the following objectives:
- Review and gap analysis of existing data to develop targeted data collection campaigns with distinct research questions
- Innovative research programme using emerging sensors and modelling techniques
- Prototype systematic environmental monitoring process transferring learning from previous deployments to emerging technologies
- Strategic development of good practice on consenting procedures including mitigation and management measures, data transferability and risk retirement
- Project outcomes fed into streamlined, risk based planning and consenting procedures
These objectives are further structured into the following work packages:
- WP1: Project Management
- WP2: Gap analysis and monitoring plan
- WP3: Data collection and analysis
- WP4: Modelling and validation
- WP5: Strategic recommendations
- WP6: Communication and dissemination
The findings will provide the evidence-base required for regulatory bodies to adopt a risk-based consenting process and support developers secure future multi-device consents. The overall outcome will address a number of challenges set out in the EU Ocean Energy Forum Roadmap and help the European Commission deliver policies to support sustainable ocean energy developments across Europe.
The SEA Wave consortium came together in December 2018 for the project launch.
The SEA Wave data collection campaign is underway and is being led by the Universities of Plymouth and Exeter. The work builds from previous project work carried out at EMEC, and uses a series of approaches: underwater noise characterisation, towed HD camera array, baited and unbaited camera surveillance, echosounder surveys, and device mounted observations.
In March 2020, the online platform MARENDATA was launched in collaboration by the SEA Wave and WESE (Wave Energy in Southern Europe) projects to disseminate environmental monitoring data collected within the marine energy industry. MARENDATA will host a range of compiled data collected from marine energy test sites, including EMEC, BiMEP in the Basque Country, and Peniche in Portugal. Data acquired from the former SOWFIA (Streamlining of Ocean Wave Farm Impacts Assessment) project has been amalgamated with the data collected through SEA Wave and WESE and will also be uploaded to MARENDATA.
The SEA Wave project remains ongoing and will disseminate project outputs throughout the lifetime of the project. A brief description of key outputs and links are provided in the sections below.
During the development of the environmental assessment programmes and the project’s overarching environmental demonstration strategy (EDS), led by Aquatera, it was necessary to undertake an all-inclusive review of the current understanding regarding the potential environmental impacts, uncertainties and consenting risks currently facing the sector. This review included a gap analysis to assess where research effort should be focused to address the knowledge gaps providing a framework for overcoming uncertainties. In addition, a critical review of mitigation and monitoring methodologies used to date has been completed in order to inform the EDS and reduce the risk of duplicating unsuccessful techniques and methods.
Deliverable D2.1 Knowledge gaps and consenting risks for wave & tidal energy built on the work of the Offshore Renewables Joint Industry Programme (ORJIP) Ocean Energy Critical Evidence Needs and Forward Look (available from the ORJIP website), and OES-Environmental’s 2020 State of the Science Report. Using criteria to identify key knowledge gaps, a total of 25 issues were identified as ‘key strategic consenting issues currently facing the wave and tidal current industries.
Deliverable D2.2 Critical analysis of mitigation and monitoring strategies built on the OES-Environmental Management Measures Tool for Marine Renewable Energy. Through targeted stakeholder consultation the study concluded that there was a requirement for further monitoring and testing of many of these environmental management measures to reduce uncertainty around their efficacy. The reason for this is the relatively low number of deployments in the sector to date, leading to limited opportunities to utilise these management measures, collect data on their efficacy and to better understand the advantages and challenges associated with their implementation, particularly within the context of pre-commercial and commercial projects.
Drawing from the priority work streams identified in deliverables D2.1 and 2.2, the Environmental Demonstration Strategy (EDS; deliverable D2.3) was developed in October 2019, and which sets out the 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 utilised and details of how the findings will be reported and disseminated. Based on the gap analysis and critical evidence gap analysis, the following objectives were defined for the EDS:
- Underwater noise: Gather critical data from operational devices in order to fill the evidence in terms of both acoustic signature and marine ecosystem effects. This will include developing best practice approaches for EIA/HRA.
- Electromagnetic effects: Explore possibility of gathering data to reduce the uncertainty around variability in EMF from cables associated with WECs.
- General ecological concerns: develop best practice, standardised approaches for use in EIA and HRA in terms of baseline data collection for assessing impact on marine ecosystem. Improve the sector’s understanding for the effects of device presence on seabed species structure, diversity and abundance. Develop approaches to understand the consequences of upscaling to array.
- Commercial fisheries: Standardised approaches/ recommendations for EIAs to assess the availability of alternative fishing grounds and their ability to sustain displaced fishing levels.
Through April 2021, the SEA Wave project ran a series of sector-specific focus groups to raise awareness of online consenting resources and tools for use by regulators, developers, advisory bodies and consultants and technical experts. This work aimed to help ensure the best available scientific evidence and tools are used during the consenting process for wave and tidal energy developments, and to identify where existing resources can be improved and/or further developed. Deliverable D5.2 Recommendations for the use and development of tools and resources for marine energy consenting can be accessed with other deliverables in the publications link below.
The project outcomes and results will be disseminated and communicated throughout the lifetime of the project. Reports and scientific papers can be accessed from the following link: https://www.emec.org.uk/projects/ocean-energy-projects/environmental-mo…