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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/J010065/1
Title: Large scale interactive coupled modelling of environmental impacts of marine renewable energy farms
Principal Investigator: Elsasser, Dr B
Other Investigators:
Allison, Professor PA Savidge, Dr G Piggott, Professor MD
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr J Hill Dr L Kregting
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Natural and Built Environment
Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 October 2012 Ends: 31 March 2016 Value (£): 1,020,067
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Energy - Marine & Hydropower
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
24 Nov 2011 SUPERGEN Marine Challenge - Accelerating the Deployment of Marine Energy (Wave and Tidal) Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
For the UK to fulfil its energy demand and renewable commitments by 2020, it is recognised by the Government that it will be necessary to have a significant input from marine renewable resources, both wave and tidal. This will require the deployment of arrays of large numbers (>50) to provide electrical energy on a commercially viable basis. Such arrays would potentially extend along many kilometres of UK coastlines. While limited work has been carried out into the potential environmental impact of single devices, the impact that arrays may have on the flow-field together with possible resulting effects on marine ecosystem processes is unknown. Forecasting the hydrodynamic changes resulting from array installation is difficult but is a core requirement of the industry; considerable effort is being put in to this field by commercial and academic research groups. Ecological surveys and studies to investigate ecological effects are time consuming and costly and are generally reactive; a more efficient approach is to develop 2 and 3D linked hydrodynamic-ecological modelling which has the potential to be reactive and to allow forecasting of the effects of array installation.

Arising from this background, the overall aim of the project is to demonstrate the ability to numerically model the change in ambient hydrodynamics resulting from the installation of wave and tidal device arrays and to couple the model output to associated ecological models to allow prediction of associated changes in benthic habitats and dynamics, plankton growth and fish communities.

To achieve this aim the proposal incorporates a series of objectives based on the exploitation of different modelling approaches using both 2 and 3D modelling. The software to be used will include (i) MIKE, a family of modelling tools developed by DHI which is widely used by the majority of marine consultants in the UK. The package includes the associated Ecolab ecological processes model which is widely used in Australasia for a range of environmental assessments especially in the coastal zone. (ii) Other high resolution hydrodynamic models such as Fluidity-ICOM and GOTM and (iii) the ERSEM ecological model which will be linked to output from the hydrodynamical models in (ii). Models in (ii) and (iii) are all widely recognised within the research community. A major novelty of the project is that it will thus make use of a range of readily available commercial and open source software. This approach will allow two main goals to be achieved: (i) Demonstration that output and results are not model specific and (ii) the development of open source tools will have the potential for the research approach to be enjoyed by the wider community.

The proposal fully recognises the complexity of ecological processes. An initial objective of the project will therefore be to parameterise the relevant biological processes, especially relating to benthic detrital dynamics, plankton growth and fish population dynamics, in order to effectively run a coupled hydrodynamic-ecological model. These parameterisations will then be tested to give realistic results with respect to inter- and intra-annual variation of tidal and wave climate conditions without the presence of any Marine Energy Converters (MECs) before application to situations involving array deployments. Special focus will be given to the potential positive effects of array deployments arising from the changes in the hydrodynamics and establishment of no-fishing zones.

The importance of the work will be the value of this ground-breaking R & D for end-users, spanning the commercial developers of marine energy devices, environmental consultants and the regulatory authorities. The project has been designed specifically for use by all sectors of the industry in order to accelerate the development of marine renewable devices by allowing forecasting of the environmental consequences of array deployments.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Organisation Website: http://www.qub.ac.uk