Dataset: 2016 SoE Marine Chapter - Pressures - Renewable energy


Description

The Marine chapter of the 2016 State of the Environment (SoE) report incorporates multiple expert templates developed from streams of marine data. This metadata record describes the Expert Assessment "Pressures on the marine environment associated with marine renewable energy generation". The full Expert Assessment, including figures and tables (where provided), is attached to this record. Where available, the Data Stream(s) used to generate this Expert Assessment are accessible through the "On-line Resources" section of this record.


DESCRIPTION OF THE PRESSURE
Marine renewable energy generation is a fledgling industry in Australia. Presently, marine energy generator deployments are limited to two pre-commercial scale (small-scale, < 500kW) power stations, and a few experimental / prototype deployments. Any pressures on the marine environment associated with marine renewable energy generation are localised, and sparse.

The marine renewable energy industry is an emerging industry globally. Numerous ocean energy technologies and devices are being developed around the world, and understanding of the environmental effects of these devices are dispersed among technology developers and countries. The environmental impacts of marine renewable energy are poorly known, and further research and understanding of the issue constitutes a major work programme of the International Energy Agency’s working group on Ocean Energy Systems (IEA-OES Annex IV – Assessment of Environmental Effects of and Monitoring Efforts for Ocean Wave, Tidal and Current Energy Systems) (NOTE: Australia has lapsed membership of IEA-OES). This task has focused on three interactions between marine energy devices and the marine environment: 1) The physical interactions between animals and tidal turbines; 2) The acoustic impact of marine energy devices on marine animals; and 3) the effects of energy removal on the physical environment. This task has identified and documented a growing database on the environmental effects of marine energy development. However, the working group summarise their Stage 1 final report by stating that ‘there continues to be a dearth of quantitative environmental information from tidal and wave devices that have been deployed in coastal waters’. Furthermore, they conclude ‘there are inadequate research and modelling data to adequately characterise the potential effects of marine energy devices, particularly at the large commercial scale’.

The Australian marine renewable energy sector is predominantly focused on wave energy, with the focus being the large resource along the southern temperate coasts of Australia. There is a smaller tidal energy sector, where the predominant resource is located in tropical Northern waters (aside from localised areas adjacent to Bass Strait Islands). Through a number of commonwealth and industry funded activities, Australia is endeavouring to improve the knowledge base of the environmental effects of wave energy devices in these temperate environments. Whether these activities are applicable to large scale deployment (>100 MW capacity) is currently unclear.

DATA STREAM(S) USED IN EXPERT ASSESSMENT
Assessment of impacts of marine renewable energy is an emerging science. Few deployments are available in Australia, and assessment is largely derived from review of international scientific literature.


2016 SOE ASSESSMENT SUMMARY [see attached Expert Assessment for full details]

• 2016 •
Assessment grade: Very low
Assessment trend: Unclear
Confidence grade: Limited evidence or limited consensus
Confidence trend: Evidence and consensus too low to make an assessment
Comparability: Grade and trend are comparable to the 2011 assessment
• 2011 •
Assessment grade: Very low
Assessment trend: Unclear
Confidence grade: Limited evidence or limited consensus
Confidence trend: Evidence and consensus too low to make an assessment


CHANGES SINCE 2011 SOE ASSESSMENT
No change.

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