What Opportunities and Challenges are Presented by Offshore Renewable Energy?

This question was supplied by the ‘Ask the Experts’ database managers.

Reviewed by: Dr. Emma Sheehan

Last Update: August 7th, 2020

At the 17th Ronald C. Baird Sea Grant Science Symposium on offshore renewable energy, Emma Sheehan (Associate Professor of Marine Ecology, University of Plymouth, UK) explained the various opportunities and challenges that are associated with offshore wind, tidal and wave energy technologies.

Each of these technologies presents the opportunity to provide renewable energy, exclude damaging activities and create habitat. However, they also present various challenges including conflicts with other marine sectors, loss of habitat, noise, electromagnetic fields (EMF) and the potential to spread non-native species.

Sheehan explains that, though offshore renewable energy is not a new subject area, there are still huge data gaps. This is because most studies are limited to small-scale or individual devices with experimental designs that are not fit for purpose. This results in an unknown in the cumulative effects that these technologies have. Another issue that persists is the lack of baseline data and understanding of natural temporal and variation of the systems.

Read more about this in the Sheehan’s study led by Dr. Thomas Wilding, “Turning off the DRIP (‘Data-rich, information-poor’)–rationalising monitoring with a focus on marine renewable energy developments and the benthos” here