LCRI Marine is a collaboration of all the leading academic marine institutions in Wales. The project aims to enable, support and help build a sustainable marine energy sector in Wales. It provides the independent and world-class research essential to move the marine renewable energy industry forward.
Much of the contribution of the Applied Oceanography division of CAMS to LCRI Marine has been characterising the tidal and wave energy resource at a variety of temporal and spatial scales through state-of-the-art numerical model simulations. This has led to improved understanding of how the resource varies regionally, and highlights the challenges faced in using tidal energy to generate electricity in such a turbulent high flow environment. Modelling studies at larger scale have quantified intraseasonal and interannual variability in the wave energy resource of the entire northwest European shelf seas. Findings from this study are important for developers trying to quantify the risks related with relying on the wave resource of a particular region to generate electricity over long time scales, and how this resource is likely to vary in the future as a result of climate change. Ongoing resource assessment work at CAMS is simulating wave/tide interactions; particularly how consideration of tidal processes modulates our shelf-scale estimates of the wave energy resource and, at regional scale, how the inclusion of waves in numerical models affects our understanding of the tidal energy resource.
The Applied Oceanography division also have particular expertise in quantifying environmental impacts in relation to natural variability, particularly how exploitation of the marine renewable energy resource at a variety of scales could affect sediment dynamics and morphodynamics. Specific areas which have been investigated are how tidal energy arrays could affect the maintenance of large offshore sand banks. Since such large sedimentary deposits remove the energy of storm waves, and cause waves to refract and diffract, they provide an important natural coastal defence, reducing the risk of coastal flooding.
The impacts of energy extraction on suspended sediment concentrations in the Irish Sea have also been investigated. Specifically, northwest Anglesey is characterised by a turbidity maximum that is unique throughout the entire Irish Sea and important for biological productivity and, ultimately, shelf population dynamics. It is important that we understand how sediment dynamics and sedimentary deposits vary naturally, and what the scale of any proposed tidal energy farm will be compared to such natural variability. LCRI Marine researchers in CAMS have also assessed how wave energy farms could theoretically affect beach processes, but again it is important to continue and expand on this work by considering natural variability of beach processes, in order to fully appreciate the magnitude of any impacts