Bardsey Island up for study in support of tidal energy plans

Researchers from Swansea University are teaming up with local fishermen and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) to assess possible effects on marine environment from proposed tidal energy development off North Wales.

The aim of the research is to study how marine mammals and seabirds use the seas around Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlli), and determining the most practical methods to study them.

The area to be studied is a tidal energy hotspot, where Scottish-based Nova Innovation proposes to deploy a 1MW tidal array, and according to the Swansea University, the company is keen to learn as much as possible about the local wildlife at the site so that this can be properly considered in the design of the project.

Swansea University’s researchers from the Seacams 2 project, and WDC staff plan to spend two weeks on the isolated island look at the functional use of the area by cetaceans.

They will be assessing the best ways to study such a remote area, testing various surveying methods including visual tracking, aerial photography using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), underwater video as well listening to the echolocation clicks produced by the animals using underwater hydrophones, according to the University.

Joseph Kidd, Commercial Manager for Nova Innovation, said: “Seacams 2 research will increase our understanding how cetaceans and seabirds use the area, feeding into our environmental impact assessment and adaptive management plans. Assessing the use of novel technologies will help us plan the most cost-effective strategies for monitoring the special wildlife in and around Ynys Enlli, and on other Nova projects being developed.”

Swansea team aims is to investigate not just ecological impact of the project but also the overall impact on the local communities as a whole.

Hanna Nuuttila of Swansea University said: “This project has been greatly assisted by support from local fishermen, Bardsey Island Trust and the Bardsey Bird Observatory. Further studies are also needed to assess the impacts of marine renewable energy structures on local fisheries, and my aim is to work closely with local fishermen to do this.”

To remind, Nova Innovation secured an agreement for lease (AfL) from The Crown Estate to explore the potential of Bardsey Sound for tidal power generation in July 2017.

More recently, the company received a grant of £265,000 to help to establish its operations in Wales.