Universities deliver unique workshop addressing tidal energy and the marine environment

Universities deliver unique workshop addressing tidal energy and the marine environment

A workshop addressing issues surrounding tidal energy and the marine environment hosted by the University of Aberdeen and The Robert Gordon University (RGU)Aberdeen will take place tomorrow [Thursday 8th March].

The workshop will begin with Alan Owen, Research Fellow at RGU's School of Engineering, who will give an overview of the aims of the workshop, and pose a range of technical questions which will be addressed during the day.

Robin Burnett, Tim Goucher and Jo Baker from Scottish and Southern Electric Ltd will explore relevant issues from SSE's perspective; David Ainsworth from Marine Current Turbines will discuss the environmental monitoring programme for Seagen in Strangford Lough; Jenny Norris from the European Marine Energy Centre will address their environmental programme to date and future considerations; and John Ruscoe from Herriot Watt's International Centre of Island Technology in Orkney will explore the effects of changes in tidal temperatures.

Zöe Cruickfield and Andrew Prior from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, the statutory adviser to Government on UK and international nature conservation, will explore the rules, regulations, and current and future programmes from their perspective; Peter Hayes from the Fisheries Research Services will discuss the Food and Environment Protection Act (FEPA) licensing process which governs certain construction or disposal activities at sea; and John Hartley from the DTI will talk about their perspective on these issues.

Professor Ian Boyd from the Sea Mammal Research Unit, based at the University of St Andrews, will examine the development of generic marine mammal monitoring and mitigation procedures; Ben Wilson from The Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors and Francis Daunt Centre for Ecology and Hydrology will discuss how fish and mammals perceive and then behaviourally respond to objects in the water, and how these capabilities are influenced by strong tidal flows; and Beth Scott from the University of Aberdeen will discuss the direct and indirect ecological effects of a change in tidal mixing energy.

In the afternoon there will be an open discussion on critical future issues for the interaction of tidal energy and the environment and how best to approach these in both short and longer term projects.

Alan Owen said, 'While very little data exists relating to the impact of energy extraction at this scale, it is suspected that a large turbine array will create blockage effects extending downstream for some distance. The extent of these effects is not yet understood, but will need to be part of a practical resource assessment.'

Beth Scott said, 'We hope this workshop will provide an excellent opportunity for a transfer of knowledge to the newly emerging marine energy industry, tidal device developers, environmental regulators and academics across these fields.   

'Scotland is poised to be a leader in marine renewable development within multiple arenas and by bringing such a wide range of interested groups together at a relatively early stage we hope to facilitate efficient and effective collaborative research initiatives.

'The sensitivity of the marine environment to changes in tidal mixing is poorly understood however there is evidence from across the globe to suggest that many larger marine predators, such as seabirds, seals and whales, forage in areas of high tidal mixing. Indeed in shallow and coastal seas tidal mixing is the main driver behind the entire complex food web. Therefore we must tackle questions that ask how much of an effect tidal energy devices will have on the properties of tidal mixing and how any changes to tidal mixing properties will affect the marine environment.   

'By bringing together engineers, regulators and marine ecologist we can design studies that quantify the range of tidal mixing properties including speeds and turbulence, while simultaneously comparing this to both individual animal behaviour and food web dynamics. We also envision that the design of these research projects can be fine tuned and exported as standard methodology for marine renewable development globally.'

The workshop will take place at the University of Aberdeen.

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