Optimising Array Form for Energy Extraction and Environmental Benefit (EBAO)

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: Biology


Achievement of ambitious national targets for marine renewable deployment will require that the resources can be developed effectively, economically and quickly, whilst ensuring that the natural environment is, at the very least, protected from unacceptable change and where approriate that it can actually benefit from marine energy developments. This project will establish and evaluate a desing feedback process which can protect and perhaps enhance the natural environment, which allowing energy extraction to be maximised.
Engineers will work with project and device developers to establish approriate development scenarios which will then be considered using state of the art modelling techniques to assess the levels of ecological impact across a range of key ecological parameters. This modelling will establish the levels of impact and the sensitivity of key impacts to changes in array and device design parameters. Stakeholders will be involved in assessing the acceptablity of predicted ecological changes and the prospects of ecological benefit being enhanced.
The process loop will be completed by feeding the impact analysis findings back into the array design process to start a further iteration of the desing, impact and acceptability assessment process.
It is anticipated that typically three iterations will be needed for the development scanarios to establish and refine the process to the benefit of the broader marine energy sector.
This project crosses borders from research led-engineering design, offshore engineering and marine operations to ecological science, measurement and physical modelling expertise within the consortium. The parallels between wind and wet renewable will be utilised to link from early development shallow water wind and tidal streams to floating wave and wind in deeper water. The consortium will engage with Marine Scotland and MMO from the start of the project and at key intervals through the project
The project will proceed by interactive collaboration between: system designers; physical modellers and ecologists; regulators and project developers.
Appropriate response models will be established based upon direct involvement and interaction with cutting edge research being conducted within NERC, EPSRC; ETI and CEC funded research programmes.
A clear imperative for the first stage is to refine the choice of criterion from which to judge environmental benefit, particularly when upscaling, e.g. fisheries enhancement, acoustics, animal movement corridors.
These will then be used by the physical and ecological modellers to produce a series of configuration scenarios.
The engineering specialists in the project will identify portfolios of appropriate case studies of array developments and state of the art array modelling tools.
Case studies will be developed and interpreted using the techniques established above . The engagement of developers, trade associations, EMEC and Wave Hub is fundamental for specialist input and dissemination and the results will be interpreted in association with these broader stakeholder communities. This will be through workshops arranged to coordinate structured debate and cross consortium feedback.
This process will be, fundamentally an iterative procedure, with effective closure of the design, ecological assessment and constraint quantification process loop requiring multiple circuits prior to acceptable compromises being reached.
Management Plan
A steering committee drawn from the investigators and incorporating representatives from wind, wave and tidal developers and invited representatives from the regulators will assess and guide progress.

Planned Impact

This project will which support a radical form of proactive resource assessment, in which energy production and ecological benefits can be maximised will provide enhanced input to th eplanning processes necessary of the UK's ambitious marine renewable energy ambitions are to be realised. Planners will have access to procedures through which marine projects can be evaluated in an optimised form rather than simply as a predefined concept, in which ecological perturbations would be assessed a posteriori. The new procedures would not replace such assessment, indeed the processes will be capable of being refined once large scale array developments, with measurable ecological perturbations, become part of the UK generating mix. However, taking advantage of state of the art modelling and assessment procedures to inform the design processes will minimise the risk associated with large scale developments, especially where the scale is beyond that of previous developments.

This will benefit:
Regulators responsible for ecological protection, who will have robust ecological assessments developed during the project desgn processes themselves;
Project developers, who will have access to procedures designed to maximise the acceptable extraction of energy for a chosen development site; the broader marine stakeholder community, who will have input into establishing the acceptability criteria for development;
UK energy planning, including that by the devolved authorities, which will be able to draw more robust estimates of the prospective acceptable marine energy resources, based upon the application of the newly established EBAO protocols;

The EBAO principles, although established using UK case studies, will be applicable internationally, so that all of the UK related benefits will be applicable across a much wider domain. This will allow the marine sector to make significant impact on world CO2 emissions by robustly informing the design and planning processes across those regions where marine energy has a potential input to the energy mix. However, it is anticipated that the UK will have particular benefits resulting from the large resource in UK waters and the UK's leadership in the development of its resource, exemplified by the European Marine Energy Centre and Wavehub. This is particularly important given the size of the broader energy industry to the UK economy and the expected reductions in petroleum production in forthcoming decades.

The EBAO development cycles will commence within the first six months of the project and from that stage will be able to contribute to the marine energy development process in the UK. Bythe completion of the EBAO funding, the principles will be able to be inform any marine development worldwide, although, of course, the principles will be available to anyone in the sector throughout the project allowing early application by any developer/regulator wishing to use them in their processess. The experiences of anyone outside th eproject team applying EBAO principles will, of course, be assimilated in the evolution of the protocols. It is anticipated that the EBAO protocols will be available in time to contribute to the first large scale wave and tidal current developments, which are anticipated during the funding period of the EBAo project.

The skills and principles established within EBAO, although directed towards the marine sector, should be applicable in any sector dependent upon optimising development subject to ecological constraints. This includes all energy industries, not just the renewables.


10 25 50
Description A method for assessing cumulative sound exposure from construction and operations of marine wind farms has been developed and tested using data collected under a collaborative project funded by DECC. This method is being developed into a simulation tool based on real marine mammal behaviour data and planned development programmes to assess and minimise the negative impacts of manmade sound from marine renewable arrays.
A simple method for assessing cumulative collision risk for seals in tidal turbine arrays has been developed in collaboration with a Scottish Government funded project in the Pentland Firth. Using raw telemetry track data and relevant local population survey data generated as part of our NERC core laboratory project we have calculated collision risks for comparison with standard Collision Risk Model estimates.
Exploitation Route The results of a programme of telemetry work funded by DECC in collaboration with this project mean that the data to test the methods are now available. Three papers looking at the effects of large wind farm arrays are now published. These papers deal with avoidance of pile driving activity during construction of wind farms, ciummulative exposure to sound from pile driving activities and use of operational wind farms as foraguiing sites These will be used to generate a simulation method/tool to predict sound exposure levels from planned turbine arrays using real seal track data.
Sectors Energy,Environment

Description As part of the EBAO project we undertook a series of analyses of data from DECC funded telemetry deployment on harbour seals in vicinity of a large operational wind farm and wind farm construction sites. These published results are described in Key Findings. The results have a direct impact on the assessment of potential for both harmful (hearing damage) and beneficial (exploitation of new foraging sites) effects associated with offshore wind farm developments. The observations of seals avoiding the potentially damaging pile driving sounds has direct implications for the currently emplyed mitigation measures. Seals are showing significant behavioural changes at 20km ranges from sound sources, whereas current mitigation measures only consider exposure to animals within 0.5km. These results are already being used in environmental impact assessments for future offshore wind farm developments.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Energy,Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description Stategic Environmental Assement
Amount £250,000 (GBP)
Organisation Department of Energy and Climate Change 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2012 
End 01/2014
Title cummulative sound exposure 
Description This options menu is purely medical and has no option appropriate to NERC's environmental portfolio. The project co-funded the development of a suit of modelling tools to allow estimation of cummulative sound exposure levels for free ranging tagged seals during pile driving activities at a wind farm construction site. The method is published and is directly applicable to any situation where movements of animals are recorded or can be predicted. A modified version of the method has been applied to assess the cummulative sound exposure due to commercoial shipping for harbour seals in the Moray Firth. 
Type Of Material Technology assay or reagent 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The methodology has been published and is freely availabel to other research groups. To data it has been used as part of a Scottish Government funded study to assess sound exposure levels for harbour seals in the Moaray Firth in an area of relatively light commercial shipping activity. This reseach is in press and will be reported fully in 2018. The paper again describes a specific use as an example to show its wide applicability. 
Description Invited presentation at International conference on the Wadden Sea in Wilhelmshaven, Germany 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Invited talk at a conference on Marine Mammals in the Wadden Sea: 25th anniversary of Wadden Sea Seals Agreement
UNESCO-Weltnaturerbe Wattenmeer Besucherzentrum Wilhelmshaven, Südstrand 110b.
title: How are the neighbours doing? harbour and grey seal populations in the UK.
authors: Dave Thompson, Callan Duck, Chris Morris,
A meeting held to present information on the marine ecology of the Wadden Sea. This presentation aimed to provide background of UK seal research relevant to the Wadden Sea seal management programme and presented information on the harbour seal windfarm interaction study carried out under the EBAO project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
Description Invited speaker at Challenges and Opportunities of Renewable Energy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact presentation of results of the NERC/Defra RESPONSE and EBAO projects in conjunction with results from DECC and Scottish Government funded studies of interactions between marine mammals and marine renewables developments. The talk focussed on the use of targetted specific applied studies to generate results and answers of direct relevance to the developers of marine renewable energy industries and the regulators responsible for their environmentally sensititve development. The results of these projects featured heavilly in the structured panel discussions and the subsequent breakout group discussions. There was a general concensus that such studies should be extended where possible.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Presentation at International Marine Conservation Congress, Glasgow 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Presentation of the preliminary results form an analysis of the sound exposure of telemetry tagged seals swimming in the southern North Sea. talk title: Gordon Hastie, Debbie Russell, Dave Thompson, Bernie McConnell, Vincent Janik (2014). Harbour seal movements during wind farm construction and operation. International Marine Conservation Congress, Glasgow 2014.
The talk stimulated significant discussion as it presents the first realistic assessment of cumulative sound exposure from activities associated with a wind farm array.

This was a presentation of preliminary analyses. The discussion stimulated by the presentation has improved the manuscript that is now submitted and currently under review.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
Description Talk to International conference: Biologging 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Presentation of the results of the analysis of seal movements relative to the operations of marine wind farm array.

significant interest in the talk and potential collaborations with an Australian research group working on similar topics with other marine mammal species.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2014