Development of novel low cost methods to understand environmental processes in highly energetic ORE sites

Development of novel low-cost methods to understand environmental processes in highly energetic ORE sites

Lilian Lieber, Alex Nimmo-Smith, Melissa Costagliola-Ray, Emma Whettall, Nicholas Horne, and others in the Bryden Centre Queen’s University Belfast, University of Plymouth, University of Highland and Islands, SAMS, Oban, Scotland, UK

With a rapid expansion in offshore renewable energy (ORE), a broader perspective on their ecological implications is timely to predict environmental change. Effects of ORE structures on the marine environment are highly complex and range from physical changes, such as altered flow patterns around structures, to the settlement of benthic organisms, all the way to top predator behavioural change. Understanding such interactions is imperative when planning ORE installations and will eventually help accelerate the consent and implementation of structures in order to play a key role in decarbonising global energy supply. The Atlantic-facing coastlines of the UK and Ireland have many geographic, economic and demographic characteristics that present a unique opportunity for the development of ORE technologies and could provide a distinctive competitive advantage in a global marketplace. This vision led to the recently founded Bryden Centre, a cross-border renewable energy research centre funded by the EU under the Interreg VA programme. Led by Queen’s University Belfast, the Bryden Centre covers institutes in the Northern Ireland, Western Scotland and Irish border regions, engaging in a broad range of challenge- and industry-led projects.Apart from advancing the application of marine- and bio-energy, the Bryden centre also serves a stewardship role through environmental research activities. Here, several novel methodologies are presented to give an overview of recent research approaches developed across the Bryden Centre that focus on tidally energetic environments. Due to their highly dynamic nature, tidal channels and inlets present a particular challenge to modelling high resolution flow patterns as well as the fine-scale distribution patterns of marine fauna. Also, to assess potential environmental interactions between marine fauna and man-made structures in these habitats, a more thorough understanding of underlying hydrodynamics is required. Therefore, the presentation will draw from recent, low-cost methodological approaches developed to understand

1) tidal flow processes

2) marine faunasite usage and,

3) potential risks of animal collision with ORE structures.

To better understand fine-scale flow processes, a combination of approaches is being developed, including the use of drones to map coherent structures (e.g. vortices, convergence/divergence), as well as the use of georectified oblique photography, validated through GPS drifters and vessel-mounted ADCP transects. Further, in order to quantify the fine-scale distribution of seabirds around man-made and natural wake structures, drones are used to both track bird trajectories and to map distribution patterns to be compared to vantage point survey designs which are currently being optimised for tidal sites. Finally, to increase predictive power in animal collision risk with the moving parts of tidal energy technology, simulation models including 3D animations are being developed intechnology, simulation models including 3D animations are being developed in the game engine Blender.