Potential environmental impact of tidal energy extraction in the Pentland Firth at large spatial scales: results of a biogeochemical model
Abstract. A model study was carried out of the potential large-scale (> 100 km) effects of marine renewable tidal energy generation in the Pentland Firth, using the 3-D hydrodynamics–biogeochemistry model GETM-ERSEM-BFM. A realistic 800 MW scenario and a high-impact scenario with massive expansion of tidal energy extraction to 8 GW scenario were considered. The realistic 800 MW scenario suggested minor effects on the tides, and undetectable effects on the biogeochemistry. The massive-expansion 8 GW scenario suggested effects would be observed over hundreds of kilometres away with changes of up to 10 % in tidal and ecosystem variables, in particular in a broad area in the vicinity of the Wash. There, waters became less turbid, and primary production increased with associated increases in faunal ecosystem variables. Moreover, a one-off increase in carbon storage in the sea bed was detected. Although these first results suggest positive environmental effects, further investigation is recommended of (i) the residual circulation in the vicinity of the Pentland Firth and effects on larval dispersal using a higher-resolution model and (ii) ecosystem effects with (future) state-of-the-art models if energy extraction substantially beyond 1 GW is planned.