Investigation of the novel challenges of integrated offshore multi-purpose platform
The Made in China 2025 report highlights ocean renewable energy technologies as one of the 10 areas of opportunity for UK and Chinese companies. The "Outline of the National Marine Economic Development Plan" specifically targets the development of novel ocean farming methods, more productive but also more socially and environmentally compatible. In the EU, the "Blue Growth" program aims at sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors, already representing 5.4 million jobs and generating a gross added value of 500 billion euros a year.
Offshore structures are very costly. The main idea of a Multi-Purpose Platform (MPP), integrating (for example) renewable energy devices and aquaculture facilities, is to find the synergies to share manufacturing, installation, operation and maintenance, and decommissioning costs. This has the potential to, save money, reduce the overall impact, and maximize the socio-economic benefits.
MPP development poses cross-disciplinary challenges, since they simultaneously aim to achieve several potentially conflicting objectives: to be techno-economically feasible, environmentally considered, socially beneficial, and compatible with maritime legislations. In the EU, previous research focused on farms of multi-megawatt MPP (ocean renewable devices + aquaculture systems), with very few/no attempts to investigate lower rated power systems suitable for island/coastal communities. In China, previous projects aimed at island communities focused on renewable energy, but they did not integrate any aquaculture elements. Therefore, for island communities, novel fundamental questions arise, especially in terms of techno-economic feasibility and assessment and maximization of socio-environmental benefits at a completely different scale, but still requiring a whole-system, cross-disciplinary approach.
The proposed solution is to investigate which are the specific challenges arising from the integration of these different offshore technologies, and with a multi-disciplinary approach to tackle them, making sure that all the dimensions (technological, economic, social, environmental, legal) are taken into account. The renewable energy technologies (Which wind turbine? Which wave device? What kind of solar panel?) and aquaculture systems most suitable for the needs of an island community will be identified, and the "cross-disciplinary" questions will be defined, e.g. "What is the impact of the noise generated by the renewable energy devices on the (closely co-located) aquaculture species growth rate?"
Answering these questions, the novel contribution will consist in developing approaches to assess the feasibility of an MPP system, focusing on: global MPP dynamic response to metocean conditions, overall integrated control and power management strategies, environmental impact, socio-economic risks and benefits.
The potential of these methodologies will be then show-cased through two case-studies, one focusing on an island community in China, and one in the UK.
The project consortium brings together internationally recognised experts from three Chinese and three British universities and institutes, for a total of 20 investigators, in the fields of solar and offshore wind and wave energy, control systems for renewable energy devices, environmental and socio-economic impact of renewables and aquaculture systems, aquaculture and integrated multi-trophic aquaculture development, and ecosystem modelling.