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Streamlining of Ocean Wave Farm Impacts Assessment (SOWFIA)

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The SOWFIA project drew together partners in Europe who have a focus in planned wave farm developments. The aim was to facilitate the development of European wide coordinated, unified and streamlined environmental and socio-economic Impact Assessment (IA) practice for offshore wave energy conversion developments. Wave farm demonstration projects have been studied in each of the collaborating EU countries. Rather than focus on one specific device, this project benefited from the range of wave energy converters (WECs) being tested at each of the wave farm demonstration sites and the staggered time frames. By utilising the findings from technology specific monitoring at multiple sites, SOWFIA aimed to accelerate knowledge transfer and jump start European-wide expertise on environmental and socio-economic IA of large scale wave energy projects. The virtual centre of excellence, developed during this project is expected to provide an ongoing resource for expertise in IA development of European wave farm projects leading to faster permitting processes and subsequent reduction in the cost of electricity generated from wave energy. Through regional coordination via the SOWFIA project collaboration, the exchange, sharing and transfer of IA and policy experience and associated knowledge and good practices was enabled. There is no better way to improve the understanding for the future commercial phase than to learn from existing smaller-scale developments.


  1. Catalogue of wave energy test sites and projects available online at, containing information on the wave energy activities in Europe. The Catalogue also provides information on environmental data available at each test centre and how monitoring has been carried out.
  2. Organization of relevant Workshops with key stakeholders. The Workshops aimed at discussing the implementation of EU Directives and how they affect wave energy development in the different countries.
  3. Identification of Stakeholders’ sensitivities and their role in the approval process of wave energy projects. Stakeholders have been actively sought and invited to collaborate in SOWFIA Workshops
  4. Catalogue of environmental impact studies and review of monitoring methodology. The report D3.3 presents in-depth information on the main environmental parameters investigated at test centres and sites around Europe.
  5. Analysis of barriers, accelerators and lessons learnt from wave energy development experiences in consultation with wave energy and tidal energy developers. This information has been analyzed to understand key issues hindering technology development and its commercialization.

Lessons learned

  • Sea trials at established test centres should be subject to less rigorous consenting requirements. But these initial less rigorous consenting requirements should be compensated for by a more exhaustive monitoring of the test sites. Established test centres can facilitate this by taking a more proactive approach to relevant environmental studies. Data is essential to inform regulators on the potential impact of wave energy installation on the environment, therefore initial developments should take place in less sensitive locations.
  • Concerns raised by stakeholders involve issues relating to the creation of non-navigation and non-fishing areas affecting the shipping and fishing industry, concerns over maritime safety and effects on marine mammals. The approach to mitigation measures is different according to the concerned raised. In some cases, liaison officers have been established to reduce conflict of use with other maritime industries. Environmental concerns are reduced through monitoring activities and mitigation measures aimed at reducing impacts on animals.
  • Existing legislation is fit for purpose but more appropriate for larger wave energy developments. Environmental impacts vary according to size and location of the development and should be taken into account. There is a need for a pragmatic and calculated-risk approach to operate now. Such an approach encapsulates the principles of adaptive management, with the aim of reducing uncertainty over time through monitoring.

Partners and coordinator

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United Kingdom
Contact point: 
Dr Deborah Greaves
+44 1752 586 122


In brief

01/10/2010 to 30/09/2013
Contract number: 

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