The June 7, 2022 PNNL report is making waves in new

By Alexandra Freibott and Shirah Theitje

Harnessing the power of waves, tides and currents could unlock the secrets to greater energy security with minimal environmental impact. By some estimates, there are enough marine energy resources in the United States to meet 57% of the nation’s energy needs, supporting a clean energy future and creating new jobs. But how do you harness this power in an environmentally friendly way?

To take full advantage of ocean energy, one must first understand how the devices used to harness the power of the ocean affect sea creatures and the habitats they inhabit. Research from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s (PNNL) Triton Initiative is advancing how the marine energy industry conducts environmental monitoring of marine energy devices. Through Triton’s field trials, researchers evaluated monitoring technologies and methods to address the lack of industry standards for environmental monitoring of common environmental concerns and provide recommendations that can be used by the fuel industry. marine energy to pave the way for low-impact solutions.

The Journal of Marine Science and Engineering recently dedicated an entire special issue to showcasing the latest research from the Triton Initiative. PNNL benthic ecologist Lenaig Hemery and geologist Joseph Haxel organized the issue’s ten posts to address several areas of interest in environmental monitoring of marine energy devices, including underwater noise, electromagnetic fields, risk of collision, change of habitat, etc.

“Together, these papers tell a complete story about the future of marine energy,” Hemery explained, “Each of them focuses on a slightly different research question, but because they are published in unison, together they weave a bigger picture.”

Cut the noise

Among the possible environmental impacts that may result from the introduction of marine energy devices in coastal areas, noise is a major consideration. Many marine animals use sound to understand and navigate their underwater world. Marine energy devices can add to this soundscape, but is it enough noise to impact marine life in the area? Answering this question is key to developing and implementing low-impact marine energy technologies in the right places.

In a publication of the special issue, PNNL researchers and collaborators from the University of New Hampshire and the University of Washington used a hydrophone to measure the noise generated by a tidal turbine in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. They found that the noise from the turbines in this busy harbor was lower than the ambient harbor sounds and concluded that the noise from this turbine was not likely to disturb local wildlife.

This discovery alone is positive news from an ocean management perspective, but their work has also demonstrated the effectiveness of using a standard hydrophone to monitor noise from ocean energy devices.

“Proving the effectiveness of readily available and inexpensive monitoring options like this hydrophone, coupled with existing international guidelines on the acoustic characterization of marine energy converters, opens the door to more opportunities to collect critical and transferable data. on acoustic emissions from marine energy devices. in the United States,” said Haxel, the study’s lead author.

Lights, camera, action on marine energies

The lack of industry standards for collecting environmental data around marine energy installations has made it difficult to generalize environmental effects from one device installation to another. Addressing this question, a unifying theme of the special issue is the importance of transferable and consistent environmental monitoring methods that will support the development and installation of low-impact marine energy devices. Publications in the special issue share valuable results from field trials conducted by the Triton Initiative, reporting on new monitoring approaches and summarizing the broader impacts associated with the presence of energetic devices in marine environments.

  • “See” with sound: Researchers have found that acoustic cameras, often used where visual surveillance is impossible due to murky water conditions, are best for monitoring potential collisions between large marine animals and energetic devices.
  • The ultimate panoramic photo: Researchers have identified the best setup for successfully using a 360-degree camera to monitor fish aggregation around marine power installations – an approach that will make monitoring possible in places where strong waves or currents make other options not possible.
  • Measurement of invisible electromagnetic fields: Researchers tested instruments used to measure underwater electromagnetic fields – which are emitted by cables that carry power from marine devices to shore – and monitored ambient electromagnetic fields in Sequim Bay, Washington, to establish an important baseline for future monitoring.
  • And more: Other publications in the special issue cover approaches to modeling the environmental effects of ocean energy devices, tools to assess habitat change, communication and outreach strategies, the impact of light from marine energy devices, marine energy and life cycle sustainability considerations.

Ripples across the world of marine energy

Increasing the visibility of the latest marine energy research will have a ripple effect in the world of scientific practice and management. The publications in this special issue offer a valuable and multifaceted look at environmental monitoring techniques and approaches that will inform the development of future marine energy technologies, policies and regulations.

“One of the biggest barriers to deploying marine power right now is that there just haven’t been enough devices launched and tested,” Haxel said. “Our mission with Triton is to help fill the knowledge gaps for regulators so that we can arrive at a standardized set of techniques and equipment that promotes transferability.”

Ultimately, ensuring that the long-term impacts of marine energy devices are understood by regulators, policymakers and the scientific community advances our 21st energy transition of the century.

All articles are now available in the special issue “Technology and Methods for Environmental Monitoring of Marine Renewable Energy”. The Triton initiative is supported by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Waterpower Technologies.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of press releases posted on EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.