Offshore Marine Renewable Energy Devices
With global commitments for net-zero emissions and requirements for energy security becoming increasingly critical, the renewable energy sector is expanding rapidly. Unfortunately, the full effects of offshore Marine Renewable Energy Devices (MREDs) on the marine environment are not yet entirely understood. Better insight into their environmental impacts will allow for appropriate planning and mitigation to ensure the sector progresses sustainably and in line with stakeholder concerns, for example those of the fishing industry.
Eyemouth Marine Innovation Centre
Given the importance of the marine environment and the significance of these issues, the University of Edinburgh signed a 5-year Collaboration Agreement with the St Abbs Marine Station in 2020 to allow University researchers and students to work on projects relating both to marine ecology and sustainable development. The collaboration takes the knowledge from the Marine Station with the expertise from across the University into the new Marine Innovation Centre in Eyemouth. Here, specialisms include vertebrate and invertebrate biology, ecophysiology and behaviour, and the Centre’s strong links to local fisheries, the Berwickshire Marine Reserve and the local community allow it to draw on a wide range of perspectives and experiences.
Professor Murray Roberts is the Chair of the St Abbs Marine Station & University Working Group, which brings together industry, academia and communities working together to create a shared clean future. The Working Group does this by building local capacity and skills, creating a nationally and internationally recognised training hub for understanding the impacts of renewable energy to local communities and environments, and creating a route to wider impact and engagement on all of these aspects.
Electromagnetic Field Emissions
The Marine Innovation Centre has created unique field test facilities to enable better understanding of how electromagnetic field (EMF), noise and vibration emissions will impact marine species, ecosystem functions and fisheries. Anthropogenic EMFs are generated from offshore MRED subsea electrical cables, which are used for a variety of purposes such as inter-turbine cables, cables to power storage banks, and export cables from deployment sites to shore. The east coast of Scotland is a unique natural laboratory to assess EMFs in addition to quantifying how future installations might help restore ecosystem functions and even enhance fisheries.
The Marine Innovation Centre is a leading expert in EMF research, with purpose-built facilities, equipment, and in-house expertise. All electrical wiring throughout the building has been screened to prevent EMF interference to enable testing of clients’ EMF levels.
The addition of complex structures such as scour protection, jackets, mattresses, interconnectors etc. into the marine environment has been shown to increase overall biodiversity, but there is currently a lack of information on how this benefits the fishing industry. With recent advances in artificial habitat creation around scour protection zones there is potential to increase numbers of targeted species, resulting in a spillover effect of commercially important species to adjacent fished areas.
The impacts associated with renewable energy (sound, vibration, EMF) are poorly understood and thus the benefit of habitat creation within these areas requires further investigation. Relocation of fishing grounds due to increased infrastructure at sea is an age-old problem, however, the creation of refuges and environmental enhancement programs within renewable energy deployments are being considered to counteract loss of productive fishing areas. Currently there is an increase in the co-location of aquaculture around renewable energy devices, however, this is still to be widely adopted. These are some of the research interests of the Marine Innovation Centre.
Facilities and more information
The Marine Innovation Centre also provides a field test facility for subsea power cables, a flow through aquarium facility, and SME incubation space for offshore energy service companies, marine research, aquaculture and environmental consultancies.
Contact Andrew Aveyard to find out how you can work with the University of Edinburgh’s world-class offshore renewable energy expertise and state of the art facilities that will provide the solution to your research questions.