Experts tackle ‘biofouling’

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ICIT conducting biofouling studies on EMEC waverider buoy (ICIT)The first stages have been completed of a project looking at biofouling – a key concern for the marine renewable sector.

Biofouling - the settlement and growth of organisms on submerged structures – is a serious problem for industries working in the marine environment.

The project involves the Orkney-based International Centre of Island Technology (ICIT), in collaboration with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) and Heriot-Watt’s Energy Academy.

It focused on the development of a knowledge network, enabling biofouling experts to work closely with marine energy test site personnel and technology developers.  The aim was to gather data, share knowledge and to formulate expertise on the specific aspects of biofouling that are relevant to the marine renewables industry.

The initial field research was carried out at EMEC’s wave and tidal energy test sites to identify common fouling organisms found in Orkney waters.  The hydrodynamic and mechanical consequences of biofouling organisms on marine energy converters are of particular concern, as they may decrease efficiency of energy generation, and accelerate corrosion of marine metals, affecting the survivability of the technology.

Using its knowledge network, ICIT is looking to build on this initial study to identify innovative solutions to mitigate these problems.

“Further work is needed to understand how the timing of settlement of these types of organisms could impact the fouling of artificial structure deployment and maintenance schedules,” said Joanne Porter, associate professor of marine biology at ICIT.

“Biofouling is a ubiquitous problem for any industry putting structures or vessels into the marine environment, however there are specific issues regarding biofouling for the marine renewable energy industry.

“By sharing data with other test centres we can build up a clearer picture to fill any knowledge gaps and help marine energy developers using these facilities drive down the cost of energy from their technology.”

Matthew Finn, senior business development manager at EMEC, added: “Ideally we’d like to develop a map of biofouling in key strategic areas for the marine industries around Orkney, and then expand it to include other key marine renewables sites around the world.

“Now that the initial collaborations have been made, and a network of interested parties is being built, we are looking to build these initial studies into larger research projects and identify the funding mechanisms which we can use to fill these key knowledge gaps.”

A report has been published summarising the review of the studies conducted during this project, identifying important knowledge gaps, and suggestions for future work.  For a copy of the report please contact Joanne Porter ( or Andrew Want (

Contact Information

c/o Maureen Shearer, Development Manager, HIE, 14 Queen Street, Kirkwall
KW15 1JE Scotland

T: 01856888710