Numerical modelling of the interaction between tidal stream turbines and the benthic environment
Haverson, David Thomas
The tidal stream industry has seen large growth in recent years, and the number of pre-commercial scale devices currently being tested reflects this development. However, commercialising this technology whilst showing that their environmental impacts is minimal remains a challenge. The impact on benthic communities is not considered to be a key strategic consenting issue, yet it is anticipated that the benthic habitat will change as a result of the presence of tidal turbines. To date, only single tidal turbine devices have been installed to demonstrate the application of tidal stream technology but despite successful tests there are still uncertainties surrounding the quantitative impacts these turbines have on local benthic communities. Unlike the wind industry, where physical effects of wind turbines have been catalogued through deployment of thousands of turbines, the tidal stream industry lacks these array scale quantitative data. Local impacts are known, but understanding the scale of the impacts and their relative significance of large arrays remains unknown. Tidal turbines (both single and arrays) interact with the hydrodynamics by decreasing the near field current flow directly in its wake through energy extraction and the drag caused by the physical structure. However, turbines may also affect the far field hydrodynamics, altering bed characteristics, sediment transport regimes and suspended sediment concentrations. As benthic habitats are closely linked to the physical seabed composition and the hydrodynamic conditions, the benthic environment is affected by to changes in the current flow. This thesis presents a series of studies investigating the interaction between tidal turbines and the benthic environment. Based on the hydrodynamic modelling software, TELEMAC2D, a numerical model has been developed to investigate the hydrodynamic impact of a single tidal array at Ramsey Sound, Pembrokeshire as well as the cumulative impact of multiple tidal developments in the Irish Sea. Based on the results of the models, the hydrodynamic outputs were used as inputs to drive a species distribution model, based on the software MaxEnt, to investigate how the distribution of benthic species altered in the presence of a 10MW tidal array at Ramsey Sound. Results of the study showed the development would have a minimal negative impact on the benthic environment.