Expert project set to transform marine renewable energy sector



A new research project is set transform the marine renewable energy sector by reducing the impact of biofouling.

The International Centre of Island Technology (ICIT)  in Orkney and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) have joined forces, in a year-long project to research practical strategies to minimise the impacts of biofouling.

Biofouling, the settlement and growth of organisms on submerged structures –is a major issue for the industry.

It can decrease the efficiency of energy and lead to corrosion, reducing the survivability of technologies.

Funded by NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship, the 'Biofouling in Renewable Energy Environments – Marine' (BioFREE) project will focus on developing a knowledge network of biofouling experts to work closely with marine energy test sites and technology developers to gather data, share experiences, and formulate expertise on addressing biofouling impacts.

The aim of BioFREE is to increase energy efficiency and device reliability within the industry by identifying, assessing and managing fouling organisms located in varying habitats with contrasting organisms and seasons.

The project will also identify and promote the positive impacts that the renewable energy sector can have on the marine environment by exploring mooring systems designed to enhance habitats for certain species.

The field research will be carried out at EMEC's wave and tidal energy test sites in partnership with other test centres in North and South America, Asia, and Europe, where various arrays of panels populated with anti-fouling coatings will be deployed to develop a standard operating procedure for MRE biofouling monitoring.

And the Marine Energy Research and Innovation Centre (MERIC) in Chile and The Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Centre in Oregon are among the research centres that are involved.

Joanne Porter, Associate Professor Marine Biology, ICIT, said: “The location of our campus in Orkney and our close working relationship with EMEC will provide maximum opportunities for our scientists to work closely together with developers to improve the knowledge regarding settlement of target fouling organisms.

“This knowledge will help develop enhanced antifouling solutions for the sector.

“ICIT and EMEC are keen to build the BioFREE network of partners, and urge interested parties to get in touch.”

Neil Kermode, Managing Director at EMEC said: “EMEC's partnership with Heriot Watt University combines industrial need with academic excellence. We are particularly pleased to see the inclusion of a task to look at the positive impacts our industry may play in local ecology.”