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Assessment of Zooplankton Injury and Mortality Associated With Underwater Turbines for Tidal Energy Production

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Collaborative work between the UMASS-Marine Renewable Energy Center, the Town of Edgartown, and the Coastal Systems Program is focused on developing the tidal energy potential of Muskeget Channel. We have undertaken detailed oceanographic and environmental surveys to optimize in-stream turbine power generation and to quantify potential environmental effects. In 2011 and 2012, tidal turbine demonstration projects were conducted in Muskeget Channel to determine the combined effects of blade strikes, shear stress, turbulence, and cavitation on zooplankton. Single turbines may minimally impact zooplankton populations; however, full-scale projects may potentially alter zooplankton populations forming the base of coastal food webs. Static plankton tows were performed up- and downstream of the operating turbine axis. Integral flow meters allowed adjustment of tow duration to optimize zooplankton density in the concentrate. Samples were held at in situ temperatures, and sequential photomicrographs and video images were taken to determine particle density, size distribution, and the number of live organisms in samples taken up and down gradient of the operating tidal turbines within 3 h of collection. Statistical analysis showed no significant difference in the total number or size distribution of motile zooplankters, indicating tidal turbine operation did not cause significant mortality and suggested that impacts of commercial size tidal energy projects upon zooplankton populations in Muskeget Channel may be negligible.
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Keywords: MHK impacts; marine renewable energy; mortality; tidal turbine; zooplankton

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 July 2013

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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