Underwater active sonar technology described as groundbreaking has been successfully deployed on the Magallanes Renovables ATIR tidal energy converter as part of Menter Môn's Marine Characterisation Research Project (MCRP).

The MCRP project aims to support the safe implementation of tidal energy converters in the Morlais Demonstration Zone (MDZ), situated off the coast of Holy Island, Anglesey. Working in collaboration with the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews, the project team has mounted the active sonar beneath the hull of the Magallanes ATIR tidal energy converter, which is presently operational at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney.

During the initial phase of the research, the sonar system will collect crucial data for a month, with plans for a second phase later this year. The technology emits high-frequency acoustic signals into the water, and by analyzing the resulting echoes, researchers can detect and identify marine mammals, including seals, dolphins, and porpoises, in the vicinity of the tidal energy converter.

This study serves a dual purpose by establishing essential baseline background characteristics at a field site with limited existing data while offering valuable insights into the interactions and behavior of marine mammals around tidal energy converters.

The sonar technology and its findings will play a pivotal role in ensuring the safe and phased deployment of tidal energy converters at the Morlais site, facilitated by an Environmental Monitoring and Mitigation Plan designed to protect marine wildlife. Magallanes is expected to lead the way in tidal energy converter deployment, with plans to establish a tidal energy converter array in 2026, after securing 5.6MW of capacity through the UK Government's Contracts for Difference in 2022.

The MCRP project receives co-funding from the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government, alongside The Crown Estate's commitment to gathering and sharing data and evidence to support the tidal stream sector and promote sustainable growth of renewable energy.

In line with the project's funding requirements, all research and discoveries from the MCRP will be made available to other renewable energy ventures through The Crown Estate's Marine Data Exchange – a world-leading collection of offshore marine industry data. This resource will be instrumental in supporting future commercial-scale deployments of tidal energy converters, providing a valuable head start to these projects by enabling them to make informed, evidence-based decisions.