• A fish farm in Scotland, not yet bearing any renewable energy devices


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.

INNO-MPP proposes a multi-purpose platform (MPP), integrating offshore renewable energy and, closely co-located, integrated multi-trophic aquaculture systems for island community scenarios.

The main aim of this project is to develop a fundamental, multidisciplinary understanding to tackle the challenges arising from the integration of offshore renewable energy devices and aquaculture systems, closely co-located.

The first objective is to identify and rank the most suitable technologies for island communities. At present, several wind turbine and wave energy technologies are available, as well as aquaculture systems - therefore it is needed to narrow down the technology scope in order to focus the analysis methodologies. Linked to this, an identification of the main cross-disciplinary questions is performed: e.g.
"What is the impact of the noise generated by the renewable energy devices on the (closely co-located) aquaculture species growth rate? How the dynamic response of a floating hybrid wind-wave energy device will change when an aquaculture system is integrated with it?" These questions will develop a whole-system, multidisciplinary approach for our methodology.

The second objective is to develop an understanding of the MPP coupled aero-hydro-servo-structural dynamics, as well as the technological strategies to manage the energy production, consumption, and storage. This is done in collaboration with a socio-economic-environmental analyses of the MPP. The focus of this objective is not in furthering the fundamental understanding of the single technologies (wind, wave, solar, aquaculture), but in tackling the novel challenges arising, in the different disciplines, from the integration of these technologies.

The third objective is to perform a synthesis of the previous analyses, developing a cross-disciplinary approach, and performing a cross-disciplinary interactions analysis. The interfaces between the several MPP subsystems will be mapped, and ranked in order of importance. This will allow a deeper understanding of the most important cross-disciplinary coupling, crucial to prevent by design potential conflicts between, for example, the aquaculture system and the renewable energy devices requirements. This approach will be also used to maximise the socio-economic benefit opportunities offered by the MPP platform.

The fourth objective is to demonstrate the capabilities of the new understanding developed in the previous steps through case studies, focusing on a Chinese island community and a Scottish scenario.

This project brings together engineers with experts in marine ecologists. SAMS contributes the ecological expertise in aquaculture (A Hughes), renewable energy (B. Wilson), and ecosystem function (S. Benjamins, N. Serpetti) in the UK.

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