Wave energy devices could be much more safer for seabirds than offshore wind farms, a new study suggests.
The paper from University of Plymouth PhD student James Grecian in IBIS, the International Journal of Avian Science, investigated the impact on marine birds of installing wave-powered marine renewable energy installations (MREIs).
Such devices will soon be linked to the Wave Hub device off the north coast of Cornwall.
He found that while there is disruption to habitats during the constriction process, and some danger to diving birds from underwater cables, they are much safer than wind turbines and in some cases can improve the habitat for avian species.
Much research has been done on wind turbine effects on bird species but little has been done on newer forms of power generated at sea.
“Wave-powered MREIs are likely to cause some disturbance during construction, maintenance and decommissioning. However, impacts related to construction activities are likely to be minimised in wave-powered MREIs, which do not require the pile-driving associated with current wind technologies,” Mr Grecian’s report states.
“MREIs also have the potential to change environmental processes indirectly around the devices, which in turn may alter habitat assemblages. Disturbance can have deleterious impacts on foraging efficiency, however… the reverse may be true, as birds could profit from an increase in food availability.”
The paper also suggests wave-power schemes could also “provide roosting sites that could help marine birds to exploit an aggregated and protected resource”.
It adds: “We must also consider that renewable energy generation displaces traditional forms of energy production, leading to a positive environmental benefit through a reduction in fossil fuel use. Any negative impact should therefore be put in the wider context of continued reliance on fossil fuel-powered energy production.”
The paper was supported by the Peninsula Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy (PRIMaRE).
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