The breadth and coverage of analytical expertise in the IEA Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCPs) are unique assets that underpin IEA efforts to support innovation for energy security, economic growth and environmental protection. The 38 TCPs operating today involve about 6 000 experts from government, industry and research organisations in more than 50 countries1.

Ocean Energy Systems (OES TCP)


Monitoring effects of ocean technologies on marine life

The OES TCP carries out a range of activities relating to the viability, uptake, sustainability and acceptance of ocean energy technologies. Findings from recent work point to the need to monitor regularly interactions between marine mammals and ocean technologies in order to identify the most severe risks and implement mitigation actions. 

More research and monitoring are needed on the interaction between marine mammals and ocean energy technologies.*

The OES TCP estimates that if deployed worldwide, ocean technologies could meet the world’s current electricity demand of close to 20 000 TWh. While a range of technologies and devices have been demonstrated through pilot projects, widespread commercialisation is slow due to relatively high costs and concerns over environmental issues in coastal waters such as the risks to marine mammals and habitats. 

For these reasons the OES TCP set out to assess the environmental effects of ocean wave, current and tidal energy systems. An earlier first phase of the study aimed to collect data on research and monitoring projects around wave and tidal devices.

Activities of the second phase of the project included targeted workshops to develop recommendations for the research community, regulators and marine energy developers for designing monitoring programmes and instrumentation to investigate the highest risks associated with wave and tidal technologies.

Workshop participants defined specific interactions between marine animals and ocean energy devices (collision, attraction, avoidance and entrapment), and proposed optimal approaches to measure interactions, and assesses monitoring costs. Of these, collision/evasion was identified as the highest risk. Examples cited include harbour porpoises interacting with tidal devices, large whales and harbour seals changing movement patterns around wave arrays, and monitoring interactions of large fish around tidal turbines, including evasion and passage through the turbine. For these issues, monitoring and observation is most appropriate via boats or airplanes.

While there appeared to be consensus among participants representing the research community that the risk of collision between marine animals and tidal blades is very low, the interaction remains of concern to regulators and stakeholders. Therefore, further monitoring and research are needed. Key methods to improve monitoring of collision/evasion include tagging mammals to track movements; acoustic monitoring to detect, localise and characterise species attracted to sounds emitted by wave and tidal devices; and assessing fish populations so as to track developments over time.

These best practices provide insight into the interactions between marine wildlife and wave and tidal devices that enable policy makers and regulators to make informed decisions on deployment projects. These findings, together with best practices for monitoring the environmental effects of marine energy devices, have been collected into a final report, Best Practices for Monitoring Environmental Effects of Marine Energy Devices.

* Photo courtesy of WavEC - Offshore Renewables


  • Assessment of environmental effects and monitoring
  • Assessment of project information and experience
  • Consenting processes for ocean energy
  • Cost of energy assessments
  • Detailed global information related to ocean energy
  • Worldwide Web Global Information Service database


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