Research grant could facilitate worldwide strategies in fight against biofouling

The United Kingdom’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Knowledge Exchange Fellowship is providing about US$64,000 in a research grant for a year-long study through the Biofouling in Renewable Energy Environments—Marine (BioFREE) project.

The International Centre of Island Technology and European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) will join together in the project to research practical strategies to minimize impacts of biofouling for the marine renewable energy (MRE) industry, according to a Feb. 16 announcement from EMEC.

EMEC said, the BioFREE project will focus on developing a knowledge network of biofouling experts to work closely with MRE test sites and technology developers to gather data, share experiences and formulate expertise on addressing biofouling impacts.

The field research will be carried out at EMEC’s wave and tidal energy test sites in partnership with other test centers in North and South America, Asia and Europe, where various arrays of panels populated with anti-fouling coatings will be deployed to develop a standard operating procedure for MRE biofouling monitoring, according to EMEC.

In January, reported companies that tested at “EMEC through the first Marine Renewables Infrastructure Network project found the learning generated from deploying in the sea has been invaluable to the development of their technologies,” according to EMEC Senior Business Development Manager Matthew Finn.

The Marine Energy Research and Innovation Centre (MERIC) located in Las Cruces, Chile and the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Centre (NNMREC) in the U.S. state of Oregon are among the research centers involved.

Sarah Henkel, NNMREC environmental research director said, “I very much welcome and look forward to participating in the development of standardized protocols for MRE biofouling monitoring. I also support the idea of identifying and documenting the positive ecological effects we expect to see from these installations.”

“The BioFREE project represents an excellent opportunity for us to compare results and develop much needed standard protocols to quantify biofouling risks for the MRE industry around the world,” said Sergio Navarette, researcher with MERIC. “We are looking forward to contributing with the experience gained by MERIC at our biofouling testing site in Las Cruces.”

EMEC has an established relationship with the lead research organization in the project, Heriot-Watt University (HWU), which says the project will conclude in late 2018.

Information presented to Innovate UK earlier this year from HWU researchers cited several reasons to conduct the BioFREE project including: the “potentially substantive benefits from tackling biofouling in terms of investor confidence.”

HWU also said, device performance and sensor accuracy are negatively impacted by the growth of fouling organisms, leading to reduced efficiency and reliability; anti-fouling strategies are costly and time consuming. Biofouling also reduces accuracy of data buoys and sensors used to assess the hydrodynamic resource and device performance.

In addition to studying how to reduce system degradation from biofouling, the project will also research effective solutions by applying site-specific procedures and actions.

“Site-specific assessment of foulants and their timings is necessary to tailor effective local solutions to improve energy capture,” according to HWU. “Assessment of biofouling in habitats not previously exploited for human use is necessary to inform the MRE sector of concerns and provide anti-fouling strategies.”

Dissemination of BioFREE findings will include production of training materials and technical reports, delivered through webinars and presentations, to the MRE industry and scientific community.

In July 2017, officials from European Union’s $329 million Interregional-5A (Interreg VA) program, which runs from 2014-2020, announced the program is funding nearly $12 million for research in bio energy and MRE that includes dealing with biofouling.

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for

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