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Orkney hosts major marine renewable energy conference

A device used to measure tidal currents being deployed at EMEC’s tidal test site. (Colin Keldie)

Marine scientists from around the world are gathering in Orkney this week for a five-day international conference about marine renewable energy and the environment.

The event is co-hosted by University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and Heriot-Watt University and explores how marine renewable energy — such as offshore wind and tidal energy — interact with marine wildlife, communities and the environment.

More than 100 delegates from destinations including the United States, the UK and Europe have signed up to join the event, which is called the Environmental Interactions of Marine Renewables (EIMR) International Conference 2024.

On behalf of UHI, Professor Ben Wilson, chair of the EIMR 2024 Scientific Advisory Committee, said:  “The offshore renewables market is global, yet the actual infrastructure has the potential for major consequences for the local people and wildlife where it is placed.

“This conference series was born in 2012 in recognition that it is important that local issues are not missed as energy supplies are decarbonised.”

Research areas to be discussed at the event include how to create value for communities that interact with marine renewable sites and how developments such as offshore wind farms can affect marine wildlife.

Delegates will also discuss research around the risks of animals colliding with renewable infrastructure such as wind turbine blades and how to address this. Other topics include how climate change can affect the ecosystems around marine energy sites.

Keynote speakers at the event include Kristopher Leask, an Orkney Islands councillor and the policy manager for renewable energy charity Community Energy Scotland; Brian Polagye, an expert on marine renewable energy systems at the University of Washington in the United States and Alexander Gilliland, an ecosystem specialist at the Scottish Government’s Offshore Wind Directorate.

Also delivering keynote speeches are Neil Kermode, managing director of EMEC, and Professor Richard A. Williams, principal and vice-chancellor of Heriot-Watt University.

The Environmental Interactions of Marine Renewables Conference takes place in-person and online from April 15-19 at the Pickaquoy Centre.