Universities to measure environmental impact of Welsh tidal power

From the tidal races off Anglesey and West Wales to the tidal flow of the Bristol Channel, the Welsh coastline has great potential for renewable marine energy

New technologies to harness this potential are now under development as companies try to evaluate whether tidal power is commercially viable. However, the challenge is not just to exploit the power of the tides, but to safeguard the coastal environment and ecosystem at the same time.

Welsh universities are teaming up to carry out an environmental assessment of one of the most promising sites for marine energy, off the Pembrokeshire Coast.  Operation Celtic Odyssey is a collaborative research programme, applying the latest survey and monitoring techniques, to establish the environmental suitability of the coastline for tidal energy development.

The St David’s peninsula and the adjacent coastline around Ramsey Sound, the westernmost points west of mainland Wales, are fully exposed to the storm waves of the Atlantic and constantly subject to the ebb and flow of major, tidal streams. The area has been identified by the Welsh Assembly Government as a potential site for tidal energy generation and one pilot test project is due to start shortly.  
Operation Celtic Odyssey is a two-week application of the range of marine expertise from the Universities of Swansea, Cardiff, Swansea Metropolitan, Aberystwyth and Bangor and Pembrokeshire College. The Ramsey Sound area is home to populations of harbour porpoise, seals, and seabirds. The scientists will aim to assess the likely impact of marine energy devices on these populations.


(RV Noctiluca)

Two Research Vessels Noctiluca (Swansea University) and Guiding Light (Cardiff University) will act as floating laboratories and offshore classrooms for survey and monitoring. The team will be observing marine wildlife, undertaking 3-D modelling of the seabed and turbulence, studying fish behaviour, and measuring underwater background noise. Research staff will include hydrographers, marine biologists, engineers, marine archaeologists, and ornithologists. The vessels will also act as platforms for seminars for local schools and visiting businesses to learn more about the marine environment.

The Operation is organised by the Low Carbon Research Institute, a multi-disciplinary body set up by Welsh universities to investigate renewable energy, funded by Government, the research councils and industry. Marine energy is one of the Institute’s leading priorities. Through Operation Celtic Odyssey, the team hopes to develop protocols and guidelines for the sustainable development of tidal energy off the Welsh coast.  

Dr Chris Wooldridge of Cardiff University, Celtic Odyssey’s Scientific Officer, said: “Efforts to de-carbonise the country’s electricity supply raise the question of where energy will come from in future years. Energy debates are invariably passionate in nature whether they surround nuclear, conventional, wind or marine power. Celtic Odyssey is well placed to make a substantive, evidence-based contribution to the debate on tidal power.”

Dr Ian Masters of Swansea University’s College of Engineering, added: “Through this exciting and important initiative, the multi-disciplinary team of researchers will help to improve the competitiveness of marine power as a sustainable and renewal energy source that will, in the future, make it possible for Wales to become self-sufficient.” 


This news item was generated by Bethan Lauder at Swansea University Public Relations Office. Telephone: 01792 51 3245 Email b.lauder@swansea.ac.uk