The EcoWatt2050 consortium has been established through the auspices of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The three year EcoWatt2050 project is led by Heriot Watt University, in partnership with the Universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Strathclyde, Swansea, the Highlands and Islands, the National Oceanography Centre and Marine Scotland Science, the organization responsible for providing scientific advice to the Scottish Government on all aspects of marine renewable energy development, policy and planning.

Mean spring peak tidal range from FVCOM model: baseline without tidal stream energy extraction.

The research programme has been specifically designed to respond to questions posed by MSS:

  1. How can marine planning be used to lay the foundation for the sustainable development of very large scale arrays of marine renewable energy devices?
  2. What criteria should be used to determine the ecological limits to marine renewable energy extraction, and what are the implications for very large scale array characteristics?
  3. How can we differentiate the effects of climate change from energy extraction on the marine ecosystem?
  4. Are there ways in which marine renewables development may ameliorate or exacerbate the predicted effects of climate change on marine ecosystems? 

The overarching objective is thus to determine ways in which marine spatial planning and policy development, can enable the maximum level of marine energy extraction, while minimizing environmental impacts and ensuring that these meet the legal criteria established by European law.

EcoWatt2050 builds in direct participation from industry in various aspects of its work, and has a number of wider knowledge exchange and stakeholder engagement activities planned.

NOC tasks

NOC will focus on the interactions of tidal stream arrays with the wider ocean circulation. The ocean model NEMO (Nucleus for European Modelling of the Ocean) coupled with marine biogeochemical model ERSEM (the European Regional Seas Ecosystem Model) will be used to describe the present and future ocean circulation and biogeochemical conditions for the NW European Continental Shelf. An unstructured grid coastal ocean model FVCOM (Finite-Volume Community Ocean Model) - nested into NEMO - will be used to better characterize the Scottish shelf waters ocean circulation. The very large scale EcoWatt2050 tidal stream energy scenarios for Scottish waters are going to be implemented in the FVCOM model. Near and far-field effects will be evaluated by comparing a set of ocean physical parameters describing the present ocean climate scenario and the present scenario modified by energy-extraction. Furthermore, the NEMO and FVCOM models will be run, using atmospheric forcing and ocean boundaries representative of the projected future climate in 2050. Two future climate scenarios will be modelled, one without tidal energy extraction devices and a second with the possible very large scale tidal stream array layouts. This will allow the evaluation of the potential effect of climate change on the hydrodynamics and compare it with the future state of the seas modified by large scale energy extraction.

Possible change in mean spring peak tidal range due to tidal stream energy extraction (1.64 GW extracted from the Pentland Firth - UK).

The 4 scenarios (present, present with energy extraction, future and future with energy extraction) will be also linked with University of Aberdeen’s models of statistical relationships between physical and biological variables to examine changes in availability and location of critical habitats for benthic and mobile marine species, and to determine the consequences of changes in critical habitat for the ecosystem as a whole.