Globally and in particular in UK waters there is a huge development of renewable energy infrastructure mainly led by offshore wind. Whilst the provision of clean energy is vital the degree of offshore activity is leading to concerns about the cumulative impact of this infrastructure on marine systems including other goods and services.
We are investigating new approaches to monitor marine life and assess the socio-economic impacts of renewable energy structures and have used the high resolution model FVCOM to assess and forecast the impacts of these structures on scales from a single turbine to an entire shelf sea.
Using our model we have demonstrated that although the effects of a single turbine are small, cumulatively the impacts of multiple installations can disrupt the flow of water, potentially altering marine ecosystems, and possibly the heights of tides. This could disrupt the benefits we derive from a healthy marine environment where even small changes to the tides can have damaging consequences for coastal habitats and flooding risks, particularly in conjunction with the changes already seen as a result of climate change. Much more research is needed to assess if these impacts are significant or not.
In order to examine the wider costs, benefits and trade-offs of marine renewable energy, we have proposed and tested methods for holistic assessment of the impacts of tidal barrages and offshore wind farms on ecosystem services. Our environmental economists have also determined monetary values for the effects of these technologies on habitats, species and the seascape. We have further examined how the benefits of offshore wind farms could be maximised through co-location with commercial and recreational fishing activities. With the prospect of commercially viable tidal energy coming ever closer, we are examining public perceptions, the role of small scale and community-led initiatives, and the implications of tidal developments for regional economies.
PML Project pages
South West Energy Survey and Photo Elicitation project
Resources and LinksModelling at PML website
Cazenave, PW; Torres, R; Allen, JI; 2016. Unstructured grid modelling of offshore wind farm impacts on seasonally stratified shelf seas. Progress in Oceanography.
Hooper, T; Hattam, C; Edwards-Jones, A; Beaumont, N; 2020. Public perceptions of tidal energy: Can you predict social acceptability across coastal communities in England? Marine Policy.