Innovation challenge to track animals around tidal turbines goes live

The Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence (MEECE) and ORE Catapult have launched an innovation challenge to find solutions for tracking underwater species behaviour and movements in and around tidal stream turbines.

Illustration/Monitoring of fish movement around OpenHydro tidal turbine (Screenshot/Video by Cape Sharp Tidal)
Illustration/Monitoring of fish movement around OpenHydro tidal turbine (Screenshot/Video by Cape Sharp Tidal)

The challenge, sponsored by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is targeting both gathering data of this nature more efficiently, and gathering higher quality data.

While very few collisions have ever been recorded between underwater species (birds, mammals or fish) and tidal turbine blades, still not enough is known about these interactions.

The consenting and licensing processes for installation of tidal stream projects are, as a result, onerous and currently represent a major barrier to commercialisation.

Prior to consenting, project developers must collect a large amount of baseline data on abundances and behaviours, which is time consuming and expensive. In addition, post deployment observations must continue to ensure that the devices are not damaging their environment, it is stated in the challenge description.

The challenge is broad, and innovations could come from a range of technology areas, according to technology scope criteria.

While not wanting to limit the scope in any way, MEECE and ORE Catapult are expecting that solutions would involve innovations in some of the following areas:

  • Sensors and electronic devices (including battery or other energy storage systems)
  • Data and image processing
  • Robotics and autonomous systems

MEECE will provide up to £35,000 worth of free support to companies to progress innovative technologies at any stage of development – with the support available for businesses, startups, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) or individual entrepreneurs that are UK based or have the intention to set up a UK base.

The deadline for applications to the challenge has been set for 11 August 2021, while the selection and notification of successful innovation is planned for 8 September 2021.