Harnessing the power of waves, tides and currents could reveal the secrets to achieving greater energy security with minimal impact on the environment. According to some estimates, the United States has enough marine energy resources to meet an incredible 57 percent of the nation’s energy needs – supporting the future of clean energy and creating new jobs. But how to use that power in an environmentally responsible way?
Reaping the full benefits of marine energy begins with understanding how the devices used to capture the power of the ocean affect marine creatures and habitats they call home. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) Triton Initiative research improves the way the marine energy industry conducts environmental monitoring of offshore energy devices. Through Triton Field Trials, researchers have evaluated monitoring technologies and methods to address the lack of industry standards for monitoring environmental environmental common problems and to provide recommendations that the maritime energy industry can use to chart a path to low-impact solutions.
The Journal of Marine Science and Engineering recently dedicated an entire special edition to presenting the latest research from the Triton Initiative. PNNL benthic ecologist Lenaig Hemery and Earth scientist Joseph Haxel organized ten publications in the issue to address a number of areas of interest in monitoring the environment of marine energy devices, including underwater noise, electromagnetic fields, collision risk, habitat change and more.
“Together, these articles tell a comprehensive story about the future of marine energy,” Hemery explained.
Of the possible environmental impacts that may result from the introduction of marine energy devices in coastal areas, sound is the main thing. Many marine animals use sound to understand and navigate their underwater world. Marine energy devices can contribute to that sonic landscape, but is it enough noise to affect marine life in the area? The answer to this question is crucial for the development and implementation of low-impact marine energy technologies in the right locations.
In a special edition, PNNL researchers and associates at the University of New Hampshire and the University of Washington used a hydrophone to measure tidal turbine noise in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. They found that the noise associated with the turbine in this port, which is full of crowds, was less than the noise in the surrounding port, and concluded that the noise of this turbine was not likely to disturb local wildlife.
Only this discovery is positive news from the ocean management perspective, but their work has also shown the efficiency of using a standard hydrophone to monitor noise from marine energy devices.
“Demonstrating the effectiveness of readily available, low-cost monitoring options such as this hydrophone, together with existing international guidelines on acoustic characterization of marine energy converters, opens the door to more opportunities to collect critical, portable data on acoustic emissions from marine energy devices. in the United States, ”said Haxel, lead author of the study.
Lights, camera, action on marine energy
The lack of industry standards for collecting environmental data around offshore energy installations makes it difficult to generalize environmental impacts from one device installation to another. Addressing this issue, the unifying theme of the special edition is the importance of portable and consistent environmental monitoring methods that will support the development and installation of low-impact offshore energy devices. A special issue of the publications shares the valuable results of field trials conducted by the Triton Initiative, reporting on new approaches to monitoring and summarizing broader impacts related to the presence of energy devices in marine environments.
- “See” with sound: Researchers have found that acoustic cameras – often used where visual tracking is impossible due to turbid water – are best for tracking potential collisions between larger marine animals and energy devices.
- Superb panoramic image: Researchers have identified the best configuration to successfully use a 360-degree camera to monitor fish aggregation around offshore energy installations – an approach that will allow monitoring in locations where strong waves or currents make other options impractical.
- Measurement of invisible electromagnetic fields: The researchers tested instruments used to measure underwater electromagnetic fields – emitted by cables carrying energy from marine devices to the coast – and monitored ambient electromagnetic fields in Sequim Bay, Washington, to establish an important basis for future monitoring.
- And more: Other special edition publications cover approaches to modeling the impact of marine energy devices on the environment, tools for assessing habitat change, communication and reach strategies, the impact of light from marine energy devices, and considering life cycle sustainability.
It passes through the world of marine energy
Raising the visibility of the latest research on marine energy will have a strong impact in the world of scientific practice and management. The publications in this special edition provide a valuable, multiple look at environmental monitoring techniques and approaches that will inform about the development of future energy technologies, policies and regulations at sea.
“One of the main obstacles to using marine energy right now is that there simply weren’t enough devices put into the water and tested,” Haxel said. “Our mission with Triton is to help fill the knowledge gaps that regulators have so we can come up with a set of standardized techniques and equipment that promote portability.”
Finally, by ensuring that regulators, policy makers and the scientific community understand the long – term impacts of offshore energy devices, they are moving the needle of progress on our 21st.st century of energy transition.
All articles are now available in a special issue, “Technology and Methods for Environmental Monitoring of Marine Renewable Energy”. The Triton initiative is supported by the Office of the US Department of Energy and Water Technology.
Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, PNNL.
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