Orkney experts seek solution to bio-fouling at European Marine Energy Centre

subsea cabling EMECBiofouling – the settlement and growth of organisms on submerged structures – poses a major concern to companies and consortia working in the marine environment.

The hydrodynamic and mechanical consequences of biofouling organisms on marine energy converters are of particular concern as they may decrease efficiency of energy generation, and accelerate corrosion of marine metals affecting the survivability of the technology.

Initial field research was carried out at wave and tidal energy test sites to identify common fouling organisms found in Orkney waters.

The initial stages of a project looking at biofouling solutions for marine renewables have now been completed by the Orkney-based International Centre of Island Technology (ICIT), in collaboration with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) and Heriot-Watt University’s Energy Academy.

The project was focused on the development of a knowledge network enabling biofouling experts to work closely with marine energy test site personnel and technology developers to gather data, share knowledge and to formulate expertise on the specific aspects of biofouling that are relevant to the marine renewables industry.

Using its knowledge network, ICIT is looking to build on this initial study to identify innovative solutions to mitigate these issues. The ICIT is Heriot Watt University’s Orkney Campus, and is recognised as a world leader in research, training and consultancy, with particular expertise in renewable energy, marine science and environmental resources.

Joanne Porter, Associate Professor Marine Biology at ICIT, said: “Further work is needed to understand how the timing of settlement of these types of organisms could impact the fouling of artificial structure deployment and maintenance schedules.

“Biofouling is a ubiquitous problem for any industry putting structures or vessels into the marine environment and there are specific issues regarding biofouling for the marine renewable energy industry.

“By sharing data with other test centres we can build up a clearer picture to fill any knowledge gaps and help marine energy developers using these facilities drive down the cost of energy from their technology”.

Matthew Finn, Senior Business Development Manager at EMEC, added: “Ideally we’d like to develop a map of biofouling in key strategic areas for the marine industries around Orkney, and then expand it to include other key marine renewables sites around the world.

“Now that the initial collaborations have been made, and a network of interested parties is being built, we are looking to build these initial studies into larger research projects and identify the funding mechanisms which we can use to fill these key knowledge gaps”.

A report has been published summarising the review of the studies conducted during this project, identifying important knowledge gaps, and suggestions for future work.

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