Impact Of Renewable Energy On Our Oceans Must Be Investigated, Say Scientists

ScienceDaily — Scientists from the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth are calling for urgent research to understand the impact of renewable energy developments on marine life. The study, now published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, highlights potential environmental benefits and threats resulting from marine renewable energy, such as off-shore wind farms and wave and tidal energy conversion devices.

The research highlights the capacity for marine renewable energy devices to boost local biodiversity and benefit the wider marine environment. Man-made structures on the sea bed attract many marine organisms and sometimes become 'artifical reefs', for example, supporting a wide variety of fish. The study also points out that such devices could have negative environmental impacts, resulting from habitat loss, collision risks, noise and electromagnetic fields.

The study highlights the gaps in our understanding of the effects of marine renewable energy devices on the health of our oceans. The team calls for more research to improve our understanding of these threats and opportunities. The researchers also stress the importance of considering the impact on marine life when selecting locations for the installation of marine energy devices.

Corresponding author Dr Brendan Godley of the University of Exeter said: "Marine renewable energy is hugely exciting and it is vital that we explore the potential for it to provide a clean and sustainable energy source. However, to date research into the impact of marine renewable energy on sea life has been very limited. . Our study highlights the urgent need for more research into the impacts of marine renewable energy on marine life. This will involve biologists, engineers and policy-makers working together to ensure we really understand the risks and opportunities for marine life."

Professor Martin Attrill, Director of the University of Plymouth Marine Institute said: "Our paper highlights the need to take a fresh look at the effect marine renewable energy generation has on the environment if we are to deliver a higher proportion of energy from renewable sources and start to combat climate change. We need to have the industry working directly with conservation bodies to plan the next phase of development. We suggest further research could demonstrate the potential of security zones around, for example, wave farms to act as Marine Protected Areas. Therefore, if all stakeholders can work together in a coordinated way we can possibly address two key issues - combating climate change and creating a network of MPAs. We need the research on environmental impact to help move the whole field forward."

This study was carried out by PRIMaRE (the Peninsula Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy), a joint £15 million institute for research into harnessing the energy from the sea bringing together the technology and marine expertise of the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090917111511.htm


  1. We would be remiss if we did not look into the impact of the reduction of wind and tidal energy on its role in controlling the surface hydrodynamics of the air/water interface within any given local marine region.

    Yes, the amount of electrical energy we are able to "take" using offshore wind and tidal rigs will be but a small percentage of the energy budget of, for example, the entire North Atlantic.

    But the energy absorbing devices will likely be placed in large clusters within a fairly narrow zone around the continental margins; their aggregate effects on surface hydrodynamics will be cumulatively higher within that local region.

    Removal of a lot of megawatts from a natural system WILL have an impact. It is up to us to find out just how small or large that impact is, singly and in combination, and not discard the issue out of hand.

    And by extension the greater marine energy environment.

    Removal of a lot of megawatts from a natural system

  2. whoops...bad editing at the end. Sorry!