Groundbreaking underwater active sonar technology has been deployed on the Magallanes Renovables ATIR tidal energy converter as part of Menter Môn’s Marine Characterisation Research Project (MCRP).

The MCRP is an innovative research and development project designed to support the safe implementation of tidal energy converters in the Morlais Demonstration Zone (MDZ), off the coast of Holy Island, Anglesey.

Using technical solutions being developed by the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews, the active sonar has been mounted beneath the hull on the Magallanes ATIR tidal energy converter, currently deployed at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney.

This first phase will collect sonar data for up to a month, with a second phase being planned for later this year. The technology emits a high-frequency acoustic signal or pulse of sound into the water; if an object is in the path of the sound pulse, the sound bounces off the object and returns an “echo” to the sonar transducer.

This study will allow researchers to detect and identify marine mammals (seals, dolphins, and porpoises) within the vicinity of the tidal energy converter, whilst establishing important baseline background characteristics at a field site with little existing data. Findings from this study are expected to provide important insights into the interactions and behaviour of marine mammals around tidal energy converters.

The sonar technology and its derived results will play a significant role in ensuring a safe, phased deployment of tidal energy converters at the Morlais site, through an Environmental Monitoring and Mitigation Plan, designed to safeguard marine wildlife. Magallanes are expected to be the first developer to deploy a tidal energy converter array during 2026, having been awarded 5.6MW of capacity through the UK Government’s Contracts for Difference in 2022.

The project is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government, and The Crown Estate as part of their commitment to gathering and sharing data and evidence to support the tidal stream sector and sustainable growth of renewable energy.

As part of the funding requirements, all research and findings from the MCRP will be made available to other renewable energy projects via The Crown Estate’s Marine Data Exchange, a world-leading collection of offshore marine industry data. This will support future commercial scale deployments of tidal energy converters, giving them a valuable head start by helping them make informed, evidence-based decisions.

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