New wave

Can off­shore re­new­ables and aqua­cul­ture to­gether pro­vide sus­tain­able en­ergy, food and jobs?

Fish Farmer - - Masts -

THE Scot­tish aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try is ea­ger to ex­pand into new lo­ca­tions, which at the mo­ment tend to be avail­able only in deeper wa­ters, fur­ther from the coast. The harsher wave con­di­tions, and the need to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment, are among the chal­lenges that need to be tack­led.

But, nowa­days, aqua­cul­ture is only one of the many ‘blue econ­omy’ in­dus­tries aim­ing at a sus­tain­able use of the ocean space: off­shore re­new­able en­ergy, mar­itime trans­port, biotech­nol­ogy, tourism, and oth­ers – can these in­dus­tries work to­gether, help­ing each other and di­min­ish­ing the im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment?

An in­ter­na­tional team of 24 re­searchers, funded by the UK (EPSRC, NERC) and China’s (NSFC) re­search coun­cils, think so.

Dr Mau­r­izio Collu, the project leader, from the Uni­ver­sity of Strath­clyde, said: ‘Off­shore multi-pur­pose plat­forms - that is, plat­forms that serve the needs of mul­ti­ple in­dus­tries - could reached by a sin­gle in­dus­try act­ing alone.

‘For ex­am­ple, off­shore wind tur­bines, com­ple­mented by a suit­able en­ergy stor­age sys­tem (bat­ter­ies), could re­li­ably and sus­tain­ably power aqua­cul­ture sys­tems.

‘Fur­ther­more, op­ti­mis­ing the lay­out of a wave en­ergy con­verter ar­ray around aqua­cul­ture cages, it is pos­si­ble to cre­ate a ‘shel­tered area’ in their wake, open­ing new ar­eas of the sea that were not ac­ces­si­ble be­fore.’

Dr Collu, who pre­sented his re­search at the MASTS con­fer­ence in Glas­gow in Novem­ber, said he and the team were now work­ing on the techno-eco­nomic fea­si­bil­ity of in­stalling wind to pro­vide all the nec­es­sary power to op­er­ate and main­tain a typ­i­cal west of Scot­land salmon farm.

At the mo­ment, where a con­nec­tion to the shore is not fea­si­ble, diesel gen­er­a­tors are used to pro­vide this power, there­fore us­ing non-sus­tain­able fos­sil fu­els and emit­ting green­house gases into the at­mos­phere.

of­ten done on­shore), the power re­quire­ments are well within the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of off-the-shelf small wind tur­bines (with a rated power around few hun­dreds kW) which, if cou­pled with a suit­ably sized en­ergy stor­age sys­tem, can cover the power needs all year round.

Feed­ing barges can be used as sup­port struc shar­ing the costs, said Dr Collu.

The ques­tions that the in­ter­na­tional, multi-dis­ci­plinary team are an­swer­ing through re­search are: will the feed barge still be sta­ble if one or more wind tur­bines are in­stalled on it? Will it be safe to work on such plat­forms?

What would be the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of such a com­bined sys­tem? Will the noise of the wind tur­bine have an im­pact on salmon growth? Will the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties ac­cept the pres­ence of these wind tur­bines?

A stake­holder work­shop, in­volv­ing a num­ber of gov­ern­men­tal in­sti the end of Au­gust, hosted by the Scot­tish As­so­ci­a­tion for Ma­rine Science (SAMS), a mem­ber of the con­sor­tium: feed­back from a wide range of ex­per­tise and point of views were col­lected and are now be­ing taken into ac­count.

Those present in­cluded rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Crown Es­tate Scot­land, SAMS, Al­batern, the Scot­tish Aqua­cul­ture In­no­va­tion Cen­tre, Uni­ver­sity of Dundee (MUSES project), AquaMoor, and Al­lan Thom­son, for­mer found­ing di­rec­tor of Wave­gen and Aqua­ma­rine Power.

Dr Collu said the idea of hav­ing re­new­able en­ergy sys­tems to sus­tain­ably power aqua­cul­ture sys­tems was well re­ceived by the sec­tor, and at the mo­ment no ma­jor ob­sta­cle was fore­seen. Sug­ges­tions on a care­ful eval­u­a­tion of the site and the rel­a­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions were made.

The con­cept is not only about un­tap­ping ocean re­sources, it is also about pro­vid­ing sus­tain­able en­ergy, food, jobs, and eco­nomic pros­per­ity to iso­lated/re­mote com­mu­ni­ties, said Dr Collu.

In Scot­land, there are is­land com­mu­ni­ties which do not have round-the and Shet­land, which is now en­joy­ing a 24-hour elec­tric­ity sup­ply thanks to a lo­cal re­new­able en­ergy scheme.

In China, there are hun­dreds of re­mote is­land com­mu­ni­ties that have seen their pop­u­la­tions in rapid de­crease or be­ing re­lo­cated, due to the lack of ac­cess to ba­sic ser­vices, such as en­ergy and fresh­wa­ter. A multi-pur­pose plat­form cou­pling aqua­cul­ture sys­tems, off­shore re­new­able en­ergy de­vices, and de­salin­i­sa­tion units, could pro­vide the ba­sic ser­vices needed by any small com­mu­nity, and en­able their eco­nomic devel­op­ment.

ing struc­ture, ex­tract­ing en­ergy from the wind and waves, and pro­vid­ing this en­ergy not only to the closely co-lo­cated aqua­cul­ture sys­tems, but also to the lo­cal com­mu­nity grid.

These re­mote is­lands, of rare nat­u­ral beauty, are also seen as hav­ing a huge po­ten­tial for the tourism in­dus­try.

A scale model of the in­no­va­tive con­cept will be ex­per­i­men­tally tested in the ocean basins of Harbin En­gi­neer­ing Uni­ver­sity and of the Na­tional These will be use­ful not only to prove, ex­per­i­men­tally, the va­lid­ity of the con­cept in op­er­a­tional and sur­vival con­di­tions, but also to val­i­date the nu­mer­i­cal tools de­vel­oped by the UK and Chi­nese en­gi­neers, to an­a­lyse and de­sign the full scale con­cept.

In con­clu­sion, oceans are seen as the next ‘agri­cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion’ fron­tier, where huge and un­tapped op­por­tu­ni­ties are avail­able, some of which could have an im­pact in the next few years. But we must be care­ful to pro­ceed sus­tain­ably and in an en­vi­ron­men­tally com­pat­i­ble way., said Dr Collu.

Multi-pur­pose plat­forms, max­imis­ing the syn­er­gies among dif­fer­ent off­shore in­dus­tries, could make a promis­ing con­tri­bu­tion to this rev­o­lu­tion.

This INNO-MPP project is sup­ported by the UK En­gi­neer­ing and Phys­i­cal Sciences Re­search Coun­cil UK (EPSRC) and the Nat­u­ral En­vi­ron­ment Re­search Coun­cil UK (NERC) and the Nat­u­ral Science Foun­da­tion of China (NSFC).

Above: Dr Mau­r­izio Collu Op­po­site: the con­cept might look Right: Fair Isle

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