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Renewable energy impacts on marine life

February 2020: Offshore renewable energy generation may impact negatively on marine life due to construction or operation noise in combination with risks of blunt trauma from blades, which increases risks for marine life when hunting or navigating. Researchers are calling for improved designs and strategic trade-offs between marine conservation efforts and a transition towards 100% renewable energy generation.

Information

Countries are increasingly adopting renewable energy practices to achieve a net zero economy. This transition has led to many countries turning towards offshore energy sources and technologies such as wind turbines, wave energy converters, and other marine renewable devices (MREDs). Particularly offshore wind energy has seen a steep increase. Despite this transition being necessary and a positive step towards providing low-carbon energy, researchers are calling attention to the potential impacts of renewable energy impacts on marine life and to consider marine habitats when planning offshore renewable energy platforms.

Implications and opportunities

In a similar fashion to onshore wind farms that can cause collision of birds and bats with wind turbines, offshore energy platforms can cause blunt trauma to aquatic mammals such as dolphins. In addition to physical risks, noises can obscure marine animals’ capacity for echolocation and communication that some marine mammals use for hunting and navigating. The paper recommends focussing on constructing offshore energy platforms in locations with large populations or species that can re-locate, instead of small and isolated locations to minimise impacts. In addition, new designs could lead to the creation of marine reserves and artificial reefs to address marine conservation and clean energy generation challenges.

Limitations

The paper is an opinion piece published by experts in the fields of marine conservation and energy generation and does not seek to deliver primary research.


Sources

Wright, A. J., Araújo-Wang, C., Wang, J. Y., Ross, P. S., Tougaard, J., Winkler, R., … Reeves, R. R. (2019). How “Blue” Is “Green” Energy? Trends in Ecology & Evolution.  doi:10.1016/j.tree.2019.11.002 

BusinessGreen. (2020). SDG14: Navigating an ocean of risks and opportunities. Retrieved from https://www.businessgreen.com/feature/3084987/sdg14-navigating-an-ocean-of-risks-and-opportunities

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Disclaimer

The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.