Morlais tidal energy: Leask Marine's ‘world-leading' buoy protects wildlife.
Published on August 3 2023
The groundbreaking Morlais tidal energy scheme in north Wales is making significant strides in safeguarding sea wildlife, thanks to a state-of-the-art buoy leading the world in high-technology environmental monitoring. Developed by Leask Marine in Orkney for a group called Menter Môn, the buoy is equipped with cutting-edge data collection technology, including surface infrared and red-green-blue (RGB) cameras, as well as underwater RGB cameras and wind speed measurements. It gathers crucial information about the feeding patterns and movements of marine creatures, such as dolphins and porpoises, off the coast of Anglesey.
The Morlais project, located in a region of outstanding ecological importance, has previously faced concerns from environmental groups regarding its potential impact on wildlife. To address these concerns and pave the way for responsible development, the data collected by the buoy will be essential in determining the project's future expansion in the area.
Dafydd Gruffydd, the managing director of Menter Môn, expressed the significance of the buoy's technology and research in the tidal energy sector's evolution. He emphasized the importance of understanding the potential impact on wildlife before deploying energy devices in the region.
The Marine Characterisation Research Project (MCRP), managed by Clare Llywelyn, is spearheading this world-leading research endeavor in the tidal stream energy industry. The MCRP collaborates with various organizations, including Natural Resources Wales, the North Wales Wildlife Trust, and RSPB Cymru, to gain expert insights on marine mammals, birds, and fish. The project aims to ensure that the deployment of tidal turbines will not have any significant impact on marine wildlife before proceeding with the next stage of development.
Clare Llywelyn underlined the commitment to safeguarding marine wildlife in the area and how the ongoing monitoring will be integral throughout the project's lifetime. The project's findings will be shared with similar tidal stream energy projects in Wales and globally to promote the responsible development of this sector.
The Morlais project secured substantial funding, with a £31 million grant from the EU's regional funding program in March 2022, further advancing its potential to provide clean power for over 180,000 homes once fully operational.
Gareth Roberts, Morlais's operational leader, expressed his excitement about the project's potential impact on Anglesey, placing the island on the global map of tidal energy. With all infrastructure in place, developers from around the world are showing keen interest in connecting their equipment to the grid, making use of the advanced facilities provided by the Morlais scheme.
Looking ahead, once this phase of the Marine Characterisation Research Project concludes, the installation of turbines in the Morlais zone is scheduled to commence in 2026. Continuous environmental monitoring will be maintained throughout the project's lifespan to ensure the responsible protection of marine mammals and seabirds.
Overall, the incorporation of Leask Marine's barge ‘Marinus,' which was built in Orkney and utilized in Wales for this project, plays a significant role in facilitating the deployment of equipment and fostering responsible tidal energy development in the region. The project's collaborative efforts and technological advancements are setting a precedent for other renewable energy initiatives globally, marking a pivotal step towards sustainable energy solutions while preserving precious marine ecosystems.