screenshot of the 2020 State of the Science Report

USA - Marine Energy Devices Likely Pose Minimal Impacts to Marine Life, Report Shows

Marine scientists from around the world spent the last four years reviewing numerous studies and other data on the possible environmental effects of marine renewable energy (MRE) devices and found that the potential impact to marine life is likely small or undetectable. However, scientists say there is still uncertainty around some issues, as there have been relatively few sizable deployments of MRE devices around the world where data can be collected.

The 2020 State of the Science Report was released today by Ocean Energy Systems (OES)-Environmental, a collaboration under Ocean Energy Systems, supported by the International Energy Agency, and dedicated to examining the environmental effects of MRE development. The 300-page report is the most comprehensive international analysis to date on the issue. The report’s release coincides with World Oceans Day and with President Trump’s proclamation of June as National Ocean Month.

“We believe that small numbers of operational marine energy devices are unlikely to cause harm to marine animals, including marine mammals, fish, diving seabirds, and benthic animals; change habitats on the seafloor or in the water significantly; or change the natural flow of ocean waters or waves,” said Andrea Copping, an oceanographer with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and lead author of the report.

With the ocean covering more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, drawing upon the power of the ocean to provide electricity would reduce the carbon footprint from energy production, provide grid stability in remote, coastal areas, and could add $3 trillion to the global economy. MRE development is also expected to create new jobs in supply chain companies and environmental consultancies.

MRE is generated from ocean waves, tides, and currents; ocean temperature and salinity gradients; and the flow of large rivers. For example, devices like wave energy converters extract the power from ocean waves and convert it into electricity. Developing a fraction of available wave energy in U.S. waters could result in clean, reliable power for millions of American homes.