The environmental impacts and developmental constraints of tidal current energy generation.
Dacre, Sarah Lynn
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The thesis discusses the environmental impacts and developmental constraints of tidal current energy. Using an iterative approach and drawing upon a number of different methodologies the thesis attempts to evaluate the development potential of tidal current energy in terms of the resource and identify the potential environmental impacts. In addition, it attempts to identify the barriers to development that may be preventing the growth of the industry. The thesis also assesses further research requirements in terms of environmental and social barriers to development, focusing on an environmental impact methodology and its importance in tidal current energy development. Over recent years there has been a significant acceleration in tidal current energy research and development. The key challenge is for technologies to reach full commercialisation. The thesis investigates present market and industrial accessibility and due to institutional and environmental barriers, concludes that commerciality will be hard to achieve if such 'barriers' are not broken. However, the skills and capability base in the UK offshore industry and indeed the renewable energy sector is significant and this should be utilised accordingly. This vision of commercialisation needs to be sustained and a culture of forward thinking needs to be continuously cultivated. In essence, the UK cannot afford to miss this opportunity, both in terms of R&D status, economic stability, energy diversity and security of supply and in time export potential. The thesis identifies key environmental issues concerning tidal current energy development using a site-specific case study and highlights the misconception that renewable energies are without environmental impact. It is clear that some are well understood within the realm of other offshore industries, however, some are relatively unique to this type of development and the need for further research is evident in these areas, in order to dispel the environmental impact uncertainties that exist. The thesis also demonstrates that there are 'process gaps' within Environmental Impact Assessment and attempts to develop an environmental impact assessment framework to aid the tidal current energy development process.