The Marine Characterisation Research Project story so far…
Where it began
Onshore and offshore consents were awarded by the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales, respectively, in December 2021 in order to progress the Morlais Tidal Demonstration Zone (MDZ). The Morlais Project has the potential to power 180,000 homes with low carbon, clean and reliable energy, and bring employment opportunities to the area.
The Marine Characterisation Research Project (MCRP) has been established by Menter Môn in order to work on and implement the Environmental Monitoring and Mitigation Plan (EMMP) so as to ensure a phased approach to deployment of turbines and the safeguarding of the environment throughout the life of the Morlais project.
What happened next
In March 2022 the MCRP secured £4.8M in funding from WEFO and £1.2M match funding from The Crown Estate. This funding will enable the MCRP to undertake environmental surveys and develop monitoring technology so that the questions within the EMMP can be answered and subsequently, the Marine Licence conditions be discharged ready for the first phase of deployment. The aim of the EMMP and the work undertaken through the MCRP is to protect marine species in the project area, by monitoring any potential impacts and developing methods to mitigate any impacts.
Several tidal stream energy turbine developers have proposed various types of technology. Therefore, the EMMP will ensure that monitoring and mitigation techniques will work with different technologies.
Meanwhile construction of land-based infrastructure began in March 2022 which will eventually provide the developers the means to connect turbines to a local substation and provide renewable energy generated by the tides to the electricity grid.
Marine Characterisation Research Project (MCRP)
Industry leading consultants MarineSpace and Juno Energy are working alongside Menter Môn to manage the MCRP and develop various work packages in order to answer the questions in the EMMP.
There are several environmental work packages that will be delivered by St Andrews, Bangor and Swansea Universities, Ocean Science Consulting, RSPB, HR Wallingford and Subacoustech.
The work packages focus on the potential effects on, and mitigations to marine mammals, and diving birds from the deployment and operation of turbines in the MDZ.
As part of the MCRP project, an Advisory Group has been formed of experts. The group provides a forum for discussion and source of advice to support the research packages to mitigate significant effects on marine mammals and diving birds within the MDZ. They will critically evaluate the monitoring and mitigation methods, best available science, an incident decision framework and the tidal technology to be deployed. They will also ensure the monitoring activities are aligned with Welsh Government and other strategic research in the marine renewables area. The results will feed into a detailed Environmental Monitoring and Mitigation Plan (dEMMP).
Once the dEMMP is agreed with the Advisory Group and NRW, and discharged along with other necessary marine licence conditions, the first phase of turbine deployments will go ahead and utilise the monitoring and mitigation technologies developed through the work packages.
Further phases of turbine deployments will go ahead once monitoring and mitigation effectiveness has been demonstrated and agreed with the EMMP Advisory Group and NRW. Reviews conducted of the dEMMP monitoring outputs by the Advisory Group will help form future iterations of the document.
Morlais is the first tidal stream energy development of this scale and research produced by the MCRP will help develop the tidal stream energy industry in Wales and further afield.