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article imageImpact of renewable energy on oceans needs investigation

By Bob Ewing     Sep 19, 2009 in Environment
Universities of Exeter and Plymouth researchers have published a paper saying research is needed to asses the impact of renewable energy developments on marine life.
The study was conducted by PRIMaRE (the Peninsula Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy), a joint £15 million institute for research into harnessing the energy from the sea. PRIMaRE combines the technology and marine expertise of the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth.
The study is published in the Journal of Applied Ecology and the University of Exeter press release says it highlights potential environmental benefits and threats resulting from marine renewable energy, for example, off-shore wind farms and wave and tidal energy conversion devices.
Questions such as what is the capacity for marine renewable energy devices to boost local biodiversity and benefit the wider marine environment are explored.
It is possible that human-made structure could become artificial reefs and support a wide variety of fish, for example.
There is also the possibility of negative effects due to habitat loss, collision risks, noise and electromagnetic fields.
The release quotes corresponding author Dr Brendan Godley of the University of Exeter's School of Biosciences who 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 is also quoted, he 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."
More about Renewable energy, Oceans, Wind farms