Effects of small marine energy deployments on oceanographic systems


  • Jonathan Whiting Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • Lysel Garavelli Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • Hayley Farr Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • Andrea Copping Pacific Northwest National Laboratory




Environmental effects, Marine renewable energy, Oceanographic systems, Tidal, Wave


The placement and operation of marine energy deployments in the ocean have the potential to change flow patterns, decrease wave heights, and/or remove energy from the oceanographic system. Changes in oceanographic systems resulting from harvesting marine energy, particularly tidal and wave energy, may be of concern. These changes include alterations in nearfield and farfield physical processes, as well as potential secondary environmental effects such as changes in sediment transport patterns, biological processes, or coastal erosion. Knowledge of changes in oceanographic systems associated with marine energy is primarily available from numerical modeling studies, informed by some laboratory tests and very few field measurements. A literature review was conducted using the Tethys knowledge base and other online sources, building on conclusions from the Ocean Energy Systems-Environmental State of the Science report. Potential changes in oceanographic systems that may be caused by marine energy differ between tidal and wave devices because of different extraction mechanisms and siting locations. Numerical models show that tidal extraction on the order of hundreds of megawatts or with significant channel blockage is required to create changes in oceanographic processes that exceed natural variability. Effects from wave energy extraction in arrays are localized and dependent on array spacing and proximity to the shore. Available evidence supports the conclusion that the risk of significant environmental effects from such changes could be retired (i.e., less investigation required for every project) for small deployments—those representative of the state of the industry in 2021. Determining changes in oceanographic systems to be low risk for small deployments can thereby streamline environmental consenting by reducing monitoring needs at this early stage in the industry.

Author Biographies

Jonathan Whiting, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Jonathan Whiting is a researcher for the Coastal Sciences Division of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, located in the Seattle office. A civil engineer by training, Jonathan provides a blend of analytical thinking and an outgoing personality that has provided numerous opportunities while at PNNL. He has supported a varied portfolio of projects related to wind and marine renewable energy and environmental effects, numerical modeling for ecological restoration, oil spill trajectory modeling, and carbon storage monitoring. These experiences have fostered a skillset centered around data analysis and management, including risk-based analyses, GIS mapping, visual analytics, coding, and web development.

Lysel Garavelli, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Dr. Lysel Garavelli is a Research Scientist in the Ecology Group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. She joined PNNL in August 2017 as Postdoctoral Research Associate. She previously worked in Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (Florida Atlantic University) as Postdoctoral Researcher from 2014 to 2017.

Her research focuses on the development of monitoring and modeling techniques to study the larval connectivity and population dynamics of marine and freshwater species and how it relates to their management and conservation. She is particularly interested in understanding the effects of anthropogenic factors on the environment such as fisheries and renewable energy. Recently, she incorporated machine learning techniques into her research to assess fish habitat suitability and analyze ichthyoplankton distribution data collected in situ.

Andrea Copping, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Dr. Andrea E. Copping joined Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim in 2006, as a senior researcher. Andrea focuses on marine renewable energy and offshore wind development for Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, on behalf of the US Department of Energy. Using risk-based approaches, Dr. Copping leads a research team that integrates laboratory, field, and modeling measurements into a coherent body of evidence to support siting and permitting decisions. Andrea leads OES-Environmental – an international project on environmental effects of marine energy development that shares environmental effects information to benefit from progress made around the world, under the IEA Ocean Energy Systems. Andrea plays a lead role in marine renewable energy end applications that support Blue Economy development including ocean observations, aquaculture, and providing power to remote communities and islands. Dr. Copping works across several scientific disciplines to determine implications of human stressors on marine resources and ecosystems processes, working with stakeholder groups and resource managers to ensure that the available scientific information is accessible and available. Andrea holds a BSc. in marine biology from McGill University, and a M.S. and PhD. in biological oceanography from the University of Washington. Although trained as a blue water oceanographer, Andrea has spent most of her professional career on interactions between human activities and the marine environment in coastal and estuarine areas. Andrea joined Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in 2006. Previously Andrea was Associate Director of the Washington Sea Grant, University of Washington, responsible for research and outreach on a wide range of marine topics. Dr. Copping is a Distinguished Faculty Fellow in the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, University of Washington, Associate Editor for the Coastal Management Journal, on the editorial board of the International Marine Energy Journal, and serves on scientific advisory boards for national marine energy development for Ireland, France, Chile, and Australia.




How to Cite

Whiting, J., Garavelli, L., Farr, H., & Copping, A. (2023). Effects of small marine energy deployments on oceanographic systems. International Marine Energy Journal, 6(2), 45–54. https://doi.org/10.36688/imej.6.45-54