The risks to whales and dolphins from tidal turbines are a “potential show-stopper” for marine energy plans, according to researchers in Scotland.
The warning comes as a study will examine possible sites where animals injured by turbines could end up stranding.
The new University of the Highlands and Islands is offering a postgraduate studentship in the research.
UHI said how the animals would behave around turbines was unknown.
The development of marine renewables in Scotland is still in the early stages with prototype devices being built and tested.
A report published in 2010 on the potential benefits of harnessing wave and tidal power suggested £2.5bn could be spent in Scotland and 5,300 jobs created by 2020.
Industry forum Scottish Renewables and development agency Scottish Enterprise had commissioned the study.
Scotland’s waters provide habitat for dolphins and killer whales as well as large fish such as basking sharks.
The dangers of marine mammals being injured by tidal devices have already been recognised following reports published in 2008 and 2009.
A study of harbour porpoises suggested one turbine could come into contact with up to 13 animals in one year, according UHI’s information on the studentship.
However, the university added that the number of collisions in reality was expected to be much lower.
The new research will investigate where injured animals and the bodies of dead ones could potentially end up.
It will look at how carcasses are carried on tidal current and moved by wind and waves onto beaches.
Oban’s Scottish Association for Marine Science, which is part of UHI’s network of colleges and research centres, will host the study.
UHI said: “For the species at risk, collisions could have welfare and population consequences, for regulatory agencies they may have conservation implications and for developers and utilities they run the risk of damaging the devices, imposing uneconomic consenting requirements and alienating public opinion.
“Consequently establishing a good understanding of the magnitude of this potential show-stopper is important to the efficient growth of this Scottish-led energy sector.”
2 thoughts on “Whale and dolphin turbine injury risk to be studied”
There are alternative water turbine designs where the blades are not exposed. Developed by Scottish Engineers but lacking the funding that goes overseas. Thats why the turbine is coming from Norway and design development from outside Scotland too. Why study something that is obviously going to harm marine life to see if their death can be described as acceptable in comparison to the other ways we cause harm when the alternative is already available and there is no possibility of harm using this?
There are many of us in the marine energy industry who have spent a lifetime , in my case from the age of fifteen, working or being involved with all issues of the marine environment.
Angus Black is correct, there are several designs coming forward that do not have the exposed clever blade action of a propeller type blade, seen on the marinized wind turbine type designs being pushed forwards at present.
The ducted Hales Turbine design is a benign form of turbine which allows screening of the larger creatures and a safe passage through the turbine of fish and the like.
As the never ending demand for energy, in all forms grow, renewable and sustainable energy from the vast potentail areas must be harvested but with good engineering combined with the love and care our marine environment deserves.
Hales Energy Ltd