SafeWAVE The contribution of the SafeWAVE EU project to the future development of ocean energy




wave energy, environmental impact, marine spatial planning, consenting procedures, public engagement, environmental modelling, data sharing, non technological barriers


The European Atlantic Ocean offers a high potential for marine renewable energy (MRE), which is targeted to be at least 32% of the EU’s gross final consumption by 2030. The European Commission is supporting the development of the ocean energy sector through an array of activities and policies: the Green Deal, the Energy Union, the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) and the Sustainable Blue Economy Strategy. The nascent status of the MRE sector and Wave Energy (WE) in particular, yields many unknowns about its potential environmental pressures and impacts. Wave Energy Converters’ (WECs) operation in the marine environment is still perceived by regulators and stakeholders as a risky activity. The complexity of MRE licensing processes is also indicated as one of the main barriers to the development of the sector. The lack of clarity of procedures, the varied number of authorities to be consulted and the early stage of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) implementation are examples of the issues identified that may delay the permitting of the projects. Finally, there is also a need to provide more information on the sector to the general public. Only with an informed society would be possible to carry out fruitful public debates on MRE implementation at the local level. These non-technological barriers that could hinder the future development of WE in EU were addressed by the WESE project funded by EMFF in 2018. The present project builds on the results of the WESE project and aims to move forward through the following specific objectives:

  1. Development of an Environmental Research Demonstration Strategy based on the collection, processing, modelling, analysis and sharing of environmental data collected in WE sites from different European countries where WECs are currently operating (Mutriku power plant and BIMEP in Spain, Aguçadoura in Portugal and SEMREV in France).
  2. Development of a Consenting and Planning Strategy through providing guidance to ocean energy developers and to public authorities tasked with consenting and licensing of WE projects in France and Ireland; this strategy will build on country-specific licensing guidance and on the application of the MSP decision support tools (i.e. WEC-ERA[1] and VAPEM[2] tools) developed for Spain and Portugal in the framework of the WESE project; the results will complete guidance to ocean energy developers and public authorities for most of the EU countries in the Atlantic Arch.
  3. Development of a Public Education and Engagement Strategy to work collaboratively with coastal communities in France, Ireland, Portugal and Spain, to co-develop and demonstrate a framework for education and public engagement (EPE) of MRE enhancing ocean literacy and improving the quality of public debates.

The project will finish in September 2023. In this contribution we present the main outcomes, results and lessons learnt during the project.



Author Biographies

Juan Bald, AZTI

  • PhD in Biology from the University of Navarra and Maîtrise de Sciences de l'Environnement, Section Océanologie from the University of Bordeaux (France). He has worked at AZTI since 1999, since 2010 as Principal Researcher and since 2016 he has been Coordinator of the Environmental Management of Seas and Coasts Area at AZTI. Specialist in the management of shellfish resources (between 2000 and 2016 he was responsible for the project for the management of shellfish resources in the Basque Autonomous Community that AZTI has been carrying out for the Basque Government's Directorate of Fisheries since 1998), indicators of the physical-chemical state of estuarine and coastal waters in relation to the Water Framework Directive (since 1999 he has been working on the project for the monitoring of the quality of coastal and estuarine waters that AZTI has been carrying out for the Basque Water Agency) and the development of environmental impact studies. He has worked on various impact studies caused by cultivation cages, marinas, dredging and recently in relation to marine renewable energy projects (waves and wind) in the framework of projects funded at national and European level (it should be noted that he is the general coordinator of the Wave Energy in the Southern Europe project, WESE, He participates or has participated in teaching activities in several Postgraduate Masters at the University of the Basque Country, University of Navarra and Polytechnic University of Catalonia. Since 2018 he is an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Biology of the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Navarra, teaching the subject of Project Organisation and Management in the Degree of Environmental Sciences. He is a member of Annex IV of the International Energy Agency on issues related to the environmental impact of marine renewable energy projects and of the Working Group on Marine Renewable Energy (WGMRE) of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). As a result of participation in all these projects, 25 articles have been published in indexed journals (h-index = 19; with 1,272 citations,;

Ibon Galparsoro, AZTI

Doctor in Marine Sciences by the University of Vigo. Principal Investigator in the AZTI Marine Research Unit. He has more than 18 years of professional experience in different lines of marine research applied to Integrated Coastal Zone Management. Among the main lines of research developed are: Marine and Maritime Spatial Planning, modelling, assessment and mapping of coastal and marine ecosystem services, development of tools to aid decision-making in the area of marine spatial planning (renewable energy, aquaculture, marine protected areas, etc.), environmental impact and ecological risks related to human activities, studies related to the conservation and declaration of marine protected areas, implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive; as well as the mapping and characterization of seabed and benthic habitat and species modelling.
Principal Investigator of more than 73 projects. AZTI´s leader of three European projects and work packages coordinator. Most relevant projects: Mesh Atlantic (Mapping European Seabed Habitat in the Atlantic area for a better marine management; INTERREG IVB), MESMA (Monitoring and Evaluation of Spatially Managed Areas; 7th Framework Program) and AquaSpace (Ecosystem Approach to making Space for Aquaculture; H2020 Grant agreement no. 633476). Participation in European projects: DEVOTES project (DEVelopment Of innovative Tools for understanding marine biodiversity and assessing good Environmental Status) 7th Framework Program (Grant Agreement no: 308392) and WESE (Wave Energy in the Southern Europe (WESE) Project funded by the European Commission. Agreement number EASME/EMFF/2017/, SafeWAVE (Streamlining the Assessment of environmental efFEctsof WAVE energy; Grant Agreement nº 101000175 (2020-ongoing). I have participated and led a task of the team of the European Topic Centre of Inland, Coastal and Marine Waters of the European Environmental Agency. I have participated as an evaluator of national and European projects.
Author of more than 45 publications, including 41 scientific articles in international scientific journals (Q1: 28; Q2: 10 and Q4: 3). h` index 20 (source: Scopus), with 1458 citations. Research Gate index 32.78 (date 04/18/2020).
I am Associated Editor of Frontiers in Marine Ecosystem Ecology journal and have been guest editor of two special issues in Elsevier. I have made more than 34 oral presentations at international conferences. I have participated in several invited conferences in courses, workshops and seminars. I participate as professor in several Postgraduate Masters (University of the Basque Country; University of Navarra). I participate as an expert in working groups of international organizations (ICES). I have co-directed two Doctoral Thesis and five Master's Thesis.

Iratxe Menchaca, AZTI

  • PhD in Biology from the University of the Basque Country (2010). She has been working at AZTI since 2010 as a researcher in the Environmental Management of Seas and Coasts Area. Expert in ecotoxicology as an integrative assessment tool for marine sediments and estuaries. She has carried out interdisciplinary research in the field of the assessment of the ecological status of estuarine and marine waters, as well as in the assessment of shellfish resources. He has worked on several impact studies caused by port activities (dredging) and recently in relation to marine renewable energy projects. He has directed 1 Master's thesis. She participates in teaching activities in the master's degree in Biodiverisity at the University of the Basque Country, in the subject "Protection, restoration and management of resources".

Author of more than 16 international publications and participation in more than 20 conferences.

María C. Uyarra, AZTI

PhD in Biology and MSc in Applied Ecology & Conservation from the University of East Anglia (UK, 2009, 2002). She has been working as an interdisciplinary researcher in the Environmental Management of Seas and Coasts Area of AZTI since 2011. During her training she specialised in the study of the interactions between coastal tourism and coral reefs, including aspects such as climate change, coastal development, biodiversity, economic valuation and social research. He has participated/led several projects related to these and other subjects such as: marine ecosystem services, marine recreation, marine protected areas, environmental assessment, marine policy implementation, marine literacy, where his main interest lies. She has participated in more than 10 European projects, having been the manager of the European project DEVOTES (DEVelopment Of innovative Tools for understanding marine biodiversity and assessing good Environmental Status, 2012-2016). She has co-directed 1 PhD thesis and several Master's and Bachelor's theses. She participates in the teaching activity of the Erasmus Mundus Master in Environment and Marine Resources of the University of the Basque Country and the Master Biodiversity in Tropical Areas and its Conservation of the Menéndez Pelayo International University. She is co-author of more than 25 scientific articles/book chapters, and editor of the special issue of Marine Frontiers, for which she was awarded the Frontiers Sportlight Runner-up Award.

H-index: 14, with 761 citations

Sarai Pouso, AZTI

PhD in Marine Ecosystem and Resources (University of the Basque Country, 2019) and MSc in Ecosystem Restoration (Alcalá University, 2010). She has experience on multidisciplinary assessment of marine ecosystem services. At her current position, she applies her expertise in statistics and spatial analysis in international projects related with management of marine resources, assessment of marine ecosystem services and restoration of marine and coastal ecosystems.

Ainhize Uriarte, AZTI

Graduate in Marine Sciences from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) and Master in "Big Data and Data Science Applied to Economics and Business Administration and Management" (UNED), she is a researcher in the area of "Environmental Management of Seas and Coasts" at AZTI. In recent years she has focused on the study of issues related to marine biodiversity and aspects related to conservation (endangered species, marine protected areas, etc.), the assessment of marine and estuarine waters (application of the Water Framework Directive, European Marine Strategy), environmental impact studies in the marine environment (in particular noise pollution and marine litter) as well as issues related to Climate Change. During his professional career he has participated in several national and international projects and contracts and in more than 40 scientific publications and technical documents on the topics in which he specialises.

Research Gate:”.

Iñigo Muxika, AZTI

PhD in Biology from the University of the Basque Country. He has worked at AZTI since 1999, since 2011 as a senior researcher. Expert in benthic invertebrates, as well as in the use of environmental quality indicators and evaluation of the marine environment. His scientific-technical contribution amounts to more than 50 articles in scientific journals, book chapters and technical papers (43 in SCI indexed journals; H index: 26; more than 3,500 citations) (Scopus Author ID: 55945163600). He is co-author of more than 75 papers in international conferences (17 of them as speaker). He has participated in teaching activities in several Postgraduate Masters at the University of the Basque Country and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. He has co-directed several Master's theses. He has participated as an expert in international institutions and working groups related to the management of the marine environment (ICES, Groups for the implementation of the Water Framework Directive, etc.). He has participated in dozens of projects (in many of them as coordinator), both for private and public entities

Breffni Lennon, University College Cork (UCC)

Breffní Lennon is a human geographer working at the intersection of the social sciences with science and engineering; engaging in sustainability, energy and society, and communities as they relate to issues of space, place, and culture. I have a specialist interest in how these issues inform geopolitical and socio-environmental trends, particularly in terms of collective understandings of spatial and procedural justice.



How to Cite

J. Bald, “SafeWAVE The contribution of the SafeWAVE EU project to the future development of ocean energy”, Proc. EWTEC, vol. 15, Sep. 2023.

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