Article

Scientists set to study impact of turbines on sea creatures

Researchers are to study the impact of tidal turbines on protected species like whales, basking sharks and dolphins in a bid to help tidal energy projects avoid the sort of controversies to have dogged some wind farm developments. The pioneering three-year joint venture between Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), will have "worldwide relevance", according to SNH.

Researchers are to study the impact of tidal turbines on protected species like whales, basking sharks and dolphins in a bid to help tidal energy projects avoid the sort of controversies to have dogged some wind farm developments.

The pioneering three-year joint venture between Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), will have "worldwide relevance", according to SNH. As tidal power is in its infancy, very little research exists on the impacts turbines might have on marine wildlife.

Developing Scotland's marine renewable energy capacity is a key part of the government's strategy to create jobs and bring down carbon dioxide emissions.

But concerns about the impact on protected wildlife have been the undoing of some wind power proposals. Plans for a large-scale wind farm on Lewis were bitterly opposed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds on the grounds that the project, in an area protected by European law, would harm protected species through collisions, disturbance and habitat damage. The Scottish Government finally rejected it last year, more than six years after it... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Researchers are to study the impact of tidal turbines on protected species like whales, basking sharks and dolphins in a bid to help tidal energy projects avoid the sort of controversies to have dogged some wind farm developments.

The pioneering three-year joint venture between Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), will have "worldwide relevance", according to SNH. As tidal power is in its infancy, very little research exists on the impacts turbines might have on marine wildlife.

Developing Scotland's marine renewable energy capacity is a key part of the government's strategy to create jobs and bring down carbon dioxide emissions.

But concerns about the impact on protected wildlife have been the undoing of some wind power proposals. Plans for a large-scale wind farm on Lewis were bitterly opposed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds on the grounds that the project, in an area protected by European law, would harm protected species through collisions, disturbance and habitat damage. The Scottish Government finally rejected it last year, more than six years after it had first been mooted.

Environment secretary Richard Lochhead said: "While developing our vast renewable energy potential we also need to increase our knowledge of the impacts of wave and tidal devices on marine wildlife and this project will make an important contribution."

George Lees, SNH's renewables research manager, said: "We recognise the need to develop Scotland's renewable energy sector, including marine, and the environmental gain this will provide. We are also conscious of the requirements of international legislation to protect particular marine species and habitats. What we have to do is find a way to meet the needs of both. To do this we need the very latest scientific findings."

He stressed that there may prove to be no adverse impacts from the turbines. "We don't know what the impacts will be, if any. It might prove that animals can swim around the turbines, which would be great, because then we would have a relatively benign renewable energy resource."

The research project will be conducted through a PhD studentship at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS UHI). It will look specifically at whether marine mammals can hear the turbines, allowing them to swim around them, avoiding potential collisions..

The researchers are focusing on cetaceans like whales and dolphins, basking sharks, and potentially some diving seabirds. As tidal turbines rotate very slowly, fish are expected to be deflected away from them.

Marine ecologist Dr Ben Wilson, who will supervise the project, said: "Understanding how these animals will perceive and behave around underwater turbines is a mystery but sound will undoubtedly be the most important sense for them, particularly at night and in murky water."

If the research shows the turbines do pose a risk, developers could be encouraged to site them away from areas where there are high concentrations of protected species or modify their design to reduce the risk of impact.


Source: http://www.theherald.co.uk/...

MAR 5 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/19355-scientists-set-to-study-impact-of-turbines-on-sea-creatures
back to top