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ICIT and EMEC collaborate on marine energy biofouling research

The International Centre of Island Technology (ICIT) and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) have joined forces in a year-long project to research practical strategies to minimise the impacts of biofouling for the marine renewable energy (MRE) industry. Biofouling, the settlement and growth of organisms on submerged structures, is a major issue for the MRE industry as it can decrease the efficiency of energy generation and lead to corrosion that can reduce the survivability of technologies.

Funded by NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship, the ‘Biofouling in Renewable Energy Environments – Marine’ (BioFREE) project will focus on developing a knowledge network of biofouling experts to work closely with marine energy test sites and technology developers to gather data, share experiences, and formulate expertise on addressing biofouling impacts.

“The location of our campus in Orkney and our close working relationship with EMEC will provide maximum opportunities for our scientists to work closely together with developers to improve the knowledge regarding the settlement of target fouling organisms. This knowledge will help develop enhanced antifouling solutions for the sector” said Joanne Porter, Associate Professor Marine Biology, ICIT (photo courtesy Andrew Want).

The aim of BioFREE is to increase energy efficiency and device reliability within the MRE industry by identifying, assessing and managing fouling organisms located in varying habitats with contrasting organisms and seasons.

The findings will allow recommendations for test centres and developers to minimise the impacts of fouling, chiefly through selective scheduling of deployments and maintenance, in different habitats, to times when the settlement of fouling organisms will be minimal, or their removal will be least costly, explained Andrew Want, Project Lead, Research Associate in Marine Ecology at ICIT.

The BioFREE project will also identify and promote the positive impacts that the MRE industry can have on the marine environment by exploring mooring systems designed to enhance habitats for certain species.

EMEC’s partnership with Heriot-Watt University combines industrial need with academic excellence. We are particularly pleased to see the inclusion of a task to look at the positive impacts our industry may play in local ecology, said Neil Kermode, Managing Director at EMEC.

The field research will be carried out at EMEC’s wave and tidal energy test sites in partnership with other test centres in North and South America, Asia, and Europe, where various arrays of panels populated with anti-fouling coatings will be deployed to develop a standard operating procedure for MRE biofouling monitoring.

The Marine Energy Research and Innovation Centre (MERIC) in Chile and The Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Centre in Oregon are among the research centres that are involved.

 The BioFREE project represents an excellent opportunity for us to compare results and develop much needed standard protocols to quantify biofouling risks for the MRE industry around the world. We are looking forward to contributing with the experience gained by MERIC at our biofouling testing site of Las Cruces, said Sergio Navarette, Researcher with MERIC in Chile.

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