The European Commission’s competitive Horizon 2020 programme has awarded €1.4 million to fund the Risk-based Consenting of Offshore Renewable Energy (RiCORE) project. Comprised of a team of experts from Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France and Scotland, the eighteen month project will examine ways to accelerate and streamline the environmental requirements associated with consents for offshore wind, wave, and tidal projects.
Issues surrounding consenting and evaluating potential environmental impacts are considered critical barriers to the deployment of offshore energy. “Offshore energy projects have the potential to make a significant contribution to our energy security. However, they are not being brought on stream as quickly as hoped,” Professor David Gray, RiCORE project coordinator from Robert Gordon University.
According to Gray, a major barrier to development of marine renewable energy projects centres on the timelines and financial resources pertaining to environmental approvals. Conducting full environmental impact assessments, and collecting data over a number of years can be prohibitive, particularly for low risk or time-limited deployments. Dr. Teresa Simas, a researcher with WavEC in Portugal, explained the data collection efforts are dependent on factors such as project size and location. For example, smaller-scale projects sited in less vulnerable marine zones will require less data collection compared with larger projects. “The key,” Simas asserts, “is to be able to identify schemes [projects] that are relatively low risk.”
The RiCORE project will develop site-scale risk profiles by considering a combination of environmental and technical attributes such as the underlying environmental conditions, size of the project, the type of device, and technology used for development, explains Dr. Ian Davies of Marine Scotland, the centralised regulatory authority for marine energy devices in Scotland.
In addition to pre-deployment consenting, RiCORE will also examine ways to standardise environmental monitoring once a project is in the water. Dr. Anne Marie O’Hagan from University College Cork, Ireland explains that comparing environmental data collected across different projects is challenging due the diversity of methods used for examining potential impacts of marine renewable projects throughout Europe. Standardization of data collection, says Dr. O’Hagan, will assist policymakers in understanding the environmental effects of various marine renewable energy devices.
Details on the RiCORE project can be accessed at: http://ricore-project.eu/