Underwater Noise Monitoring Device

As progress is made in researching and harnessing the untapped renewable energy available in the seas around Ireland the issue of environmental impact has become an increasing concern.  There is as of yet no data collection method or technologies in place for measuring the noise levels of wave energy collection devices or their impact on marine eco-systems.  A collaboration based in Galway bay which involves technology giant IBM and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).  The collaboration aims to test and advance technologies that facilitate an environmental impact assessment of wave energy infrastructure.

Despite the existence of EU underwater noise limits as established by marine environmental policy there are no global standards in relation to noise impact from wave energy infrastructure.  The system being tested by IBM in collaboration with SEAI consists of sensing platforms, communications infrastructure and stream analytics based on cloud computing.   A test site in Galway Bay has been developed to monitor the wave conditions alongside the noise, marine eco-system and pollution levels within the bay.  Similarly another test site is being developed off the coast of County Mayo.

Once the system becomes fully functional, it is believed that it will produce one of the largest data sources of underwater acoustic information ever compiled.  The data which will be available to marine researchers and participatory agencies will significantly advance the understanding of underwater sound and the associated environmental impacts.  This data will likely go on to inform policy and the drafting of standards applicable to renewable energy industries, shipping, off shore oil and gas works etc.

Barriers and Drivers

The research and testing being carried out at present is supported by a grant from the Ocean Energy Industry Prototype fund sourced through the Ocean Energy Development Unit in SEAI.  Despite being a leader in wave energy research there are many barriers to include the regulatory, logistical and financial to further wave energy projects in Ireland.  Progress is being made to overcome barriers but issues remain such as securing investment grants, development of an applicant friendly facility for permit applications, grid access, construction facilities and skilled workers with the required technical expertise.          

Economic Performance

There exists a capacity for this technology to be adopted by other countries investing in wave energy research such as the UK.  Further enhancement of the technology in Ireland will likely be pursued through the IBM Smarter Energy programme and supported through SEAI in the short to medium term.  

Social Performance

Analysis of data produced and the adaptation of regulation of processes to accommodate this new information could potentially create scope for new jobs with environmental impact assessment, marine energy research and technology development.

Environmental Impact

The overarching benefits that this collaboration are likely to achieve include a better regulated approach to wave infrastructure implementation with environmental impacts minimised. 

Further Information

http://www-03.ibm.com/press/ie/en/pressrelease/35827.wss

http://hmrc.ucc.ie/publications/GD/Non%20technical%20barriers%20to%20wave%20energy.pdf

http://www.fastcompany.com/1791003/ibm-examines-impact-of-wave-energy-devices-on-ocean-acoustics

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