Standardising sensors to better understand the marine environment

Published 4 November 2014

Our Wave & Tidal Specialist Simon Cheeseman on the importance of a standardised suite of sensors to better understand our marine environment

For offshore wind, wave and tidal project developers planning and costing data collection to satisfy Environmental Impact Assessments can be challenging. Regulators in different regions require different types of data depending on the local wildlife populations. Often a clear finish line cannot be defined as the information required cannot always be specified in advance, leading to costly delays in consenting. For a budget-constrained developer working to tight schedules, such an unquantifiable cost risk is not easy to manage.

What is required is a standardised suite of sensors combined with recommended practice to accurately collect the range of environmental data needed for EIAs and to satisfy regulators. Once site installation is underway, monitoring sensors need to be deployed that easily integrate with existing site equipment and provide clear evidence of what is happening across the sites’ environmental landscape.

The Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult is working with the Natural Environmental Research Council, Marine Scotland, The Crown Estate, and the Scottish Association for Marine Science, UK regulators, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, academia, project developers and industry to develop a range of sensors and data collection methodologies to alleviate the technology risks and reduce the costs of environmental data collection.

Initial projects in the planning stage include:

  • A collision detection device for tidal turbines focusing on the last metre to a centimetre of an interaction between animals and turbines. This project aims to develop the capability to detect whether or not a collision has actually occurred.
  • Development of a predictive ‘biofouling map’ that will provide guidance for operators on device coating specification, potential drag effects, necessary maintenance intervals, and advance warning of potentially invasive species. This includes prototyping of an innovative sensor to measure biofouling accumulation in real-time. If successful it will allow operators to make key decisions which directly affect how much energy a device can extract and the reliability of that device over the medium to long-term.
  • Standardisation of power cables and connectors to enable the redeployment of sensor systems both within and between turbine arrays and (most importantly) between array operators.

If you are a sensor developer or data integrator and are interested in collaborating with ORE Catapult in this area, please contact us.