ICIT, EMEC diving deeper into biofouling issues

Following the completion of an initial field research in January 2016, the International Centre of Island Technology (ICIT) and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) have now joined forces to carry out a one-year project focused on finding practical strategies to minimise the impacts of biofouling on the marine renewable energy (MRE) industry.

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.

Biofouling is a major issue for the MRE industry, as it can decrease the efficiency of energy generation and lead to corrosion which can reduce the survivability of technologies, EMEC states.

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

The BioFREE project will also identify and promote the positive impacts that the MRE industry 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. 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.

Andrew Want, Project Lead, Research Associate in Marine Ecology at ICIT said: “The findings will allow recommendations for test centres and developers to minimise the impacts of fouling, chiefly through selective scheduling of deployments and maintenance, in different habitats, to times when the settlement of fouling organisms will be minimal, or their removal will be least costly.”

Sarah Henkel, Environmental Research Director at the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Centre in Oregon, said: “I very much welcome and look forward to participating in the development of standardized protocols for MRE biofouling monitoring. I also support the idea of identifying and documenting the positive ecological effects we expect to see from these installations”.