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University team looking at MeyGen impact on marine wildlife

By Gordon Calder

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The research data will help when it comes to the deployment of additional turbines at the MeyGen site in the Pentland Firth.
The research data will help when it comes to the deployment of additional turbines at the MeyGen site in the Pentland Firth.

STUDENTS from a leading Scottish university are examining the findings of environmental research carried out at the MeyGen site.

Monitoring equipment was installed by Simec Atlantis Energy, the company behind the tidal energy project, in the Inner Sound waters between the mainland and Stroma to assess any impact the development may have on marine wildlife.

The equipment was deployed during phase 1A of the scheme.

The findings are now being examined by PhD students from the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at St Andrews University which has been working with the company for the past five years. The students are writing papers and research notes on the findings.

The aim of the exercise is to avoid mammals such as seals, porpoises and dolphins colliding with the turbines but also to focus on marine activity around the site. The company wants to know if the wildlife is harmed by the turbines, if the mammals were there to start with, or if the sound of the turbines means they avoid the area.

According to Simec, the findings show most of the wildlife leaves the location when it hears the turbines working.

The research data will help the company when it comes to the deployment of additional turbines at the site.

Simec is working with the St Andrews team to deploy another environmental monitoring unit early next year to obtain more data on marine activity at the MeyGen site.

Fraser Johnson, operations and maintenance manager (tidal) at MeyGen, said: "It has been a real pleasure to work with the Sea Mammal Research Unit over the past five years.

"On their behalf we have deployed state-of-the-art environmental monitoring equipment at the MeyGen site to monitor marine mammal activity in the surrounding area.

"We look forward to continuing our work with SMRU and reading their academic findings once published."

As previously reported, the company played a key part in assisting China to develop its tidal energy industry by helping to design the massive 500-kilowatt turbine which has been installed off the country's east coast. It is based on the Atlantis AR1500 turbine, which is in operation in the firth.

Meanwhile, Simec Atlantis is developing the second, 80-megawatt stage of its MeyGen scheme with plans to supply power to a data centre in what is expected to be a global first for marine energy.

When the MeyGen project is completed, it is expected to generate 398 megawatts of electricity, which could power 175,000 homes.

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