The Triton team wants to start 2022 with an ode to our program partners. Throughout 2021, Triton and our partners completed several projects, proposed and implemented new research topics, and conducted fieldwork that collectively enabled research advancing the marine energy industry.
The Triton Initiative is a Department of Energy (DOE) Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) project that studies environmental monitoring technologies and methods to understand the potential impacts associated with marine energy systems. Over the past several years, Triton's research portfolio has supported industry partners with developing novel monitoring technologies, conducted field trials to test and provide environmental monitoring technology recommendations to the industry, launched new projects, and curated communications for all these efforts. None of this work would be possible without our extraordinary partners:
- BioSonics, Inc.
- CalWave Power Technologies (CalWave)
- Integral Consulting, Inc.
- Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO)
- University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and the Alaska Center of Energy and Power (ACEP)
- University of New Hampshire (UNH)
- University of Washington
- Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Here's some of what Triton and our partners accomplished together in 2021:
Environmental Monitoring Technology Development – Sequim, WA
Since the project's beginnings, a pillar of Triton's research has been supporting DOE-funded technology development projects. For five years, Triton has worked alongside industry partners tasked with conceptualizing and bringing to life innovative environmental monitoring technologies for marine energy applications. Triton’s researchers have had the pleasure of working with the following organizations and projects:
- BioSonics, Inc’s long-range acoustic monitoring system;
- Integral Consulting’s NoiseSpotter® underwater sound characterization system and its benthic habitat mapping technology;
- Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s electromagnetic field detection system; and
- University of Washington’s Drifting Acoustic Information System and 3rd Generation Adaptable Monitoring Package.
Triton has supported these projects throughout the development process, from assembling prototypes and conducting initial tests at PNNL's Marine and Coastal Research Laboratory in Sequim, Washington, to benchmarking improvements and preparing for final testing around an operating marine energy device. Triton supported technical development and helped innovate engineering solutions for field deployments. The team worked with these partners through complex challenges, inspiring successes and critical milestones for the marine energy environmental monitoring community. The combination of Triton's expertise in environmental monitoring and testing; the partners' vision and prowess in their specialized fields; and PNNL's facilities, dive team, and permitted test sites made for a powerful environment for innovation. From these partnerships, several of the most promising environmental monitoring technologies in the marine energy industry have completed final testing and are, or soon will be, commercially available for use by the marine energy industry.
Read more about these projects here: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: Triton's Support of DOE-Funded Technology Projects.
Triton Field Trials at the UNH Living Bridge – Portsmouth, NH
Throughout 2021, the Triton team worked on the Triton Field Trials (TFiT), a project dedicated to creating recommendations for monitoring methods and instrumentation used to study the impact of marine energy devices on the environment. TFiT examines four stressors to the marine environment, including underwater noise, collision risk, changes in habitat, and electromagnetic fields. A crucial part of TFiT involved exploring cost-effective methods and technologies used to monitor stressors and perform field tests on instruments in a variety of settings for marine energy deployments; one setting was the UNH Living Bridge.
The UNH Living Bridge project is a unique tidal test site located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The project uses an operational tidal turbine to demonstrate the feasibility of powering sensors that monitor structural performance, environmental conditions, and traffic patterns on the Portsmouth Memorial Bridge, and acts as a marine energy demonstration site and research platform. The TFiT underwater noise and collision risk research teams traveled to the Living Bridge in 2021 and partnered with Martin Wosnik and his team at the UNH School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering to conduct field trials. Underwater noise task leader Joe Haxel and PNNL engineer Jayson Martinez deployed a modified commercial, off-the-shelf drifting hydrophone system to record turbine sounds and ambient acoustic conditions. Similarly, Triton fish biologist Garrett Staines worked with Brian Polagye and Corey Crisp of the University of Washington on the deployment of the University of Washington passive acoustic drifter technologies (known as the DAISY) to also measure sound around the Living Bridge's turbine, providing benchmark comparisons between the two acoustic recording systems as well as advanced localization capabilities of turbine sounds afforded with the DAISY array. These tests help characterize changes in ambient sound levels and potential impacts on marine animals in energetic tidal environments.
Leading the collision risk field trials, Staines deployed an acoustic camera and underwater video camera at the Living Bridge to test how well these instruments detect artificial targets in front of an operational turbine under a variety of conditions. Fishing lures were used as the artificial targets; lures have a similar size and signature to real fish and served as a proxy. Performance of these monitoring technologies in an energetic tidal environment for both underwater noise and collision risk inform marine energy industry recommendations on best practices for monitoring these stressors.
Thank you to Martin Wosnik, Patrick O’Byrne, Jon Hunt, and Mason Bichanich at the Living Bridge and the UNH School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering for helping Triton conduct this work safely and effectively. Haxel notes, “the UNH team’s local knowledge of the Portsmouth waters and weather conditions were invaluable. Tracking approaching weather and knowing when it was safe to collect data between storms enabled our team to work effectively and safely while getting the best dataset possible.”
Triton teams safely traveled twice to Portsmouth during the COVID-19 pandemic. We appreciate UNH’s commitment to keeping safety protocols high while welcoming researchers from the Pacific Northwest to complete critical research for the marine energy industry. The team also wants to thank them for capturing photo and video content of these field efforts, allowing Triton to share this work with our PNNL audiences!
Studying collision risk at the Tanana River Hydrokinetic Test Site – Nenana, AK
Staines’s deployment of acoustic and underwater video cameras for collision risk monitoring at the Living Bridge provided an opportunity to refine the methodology before testing in a more challenging environment. He and PNNL fish passage scientist Bob Mueller traveled to the ACEP Tanana River Hydrokinetic Test Site (TRTS) in Nenana, Alaska, to test these technologies in a riverine environment. This test site is a high-energy, low-visibility, riverine area with a barge that hosts an operational turbine to harness the energy of the river's currents.
To collect data in the Tanana River's highly turbid waters, the team deployed the acoustic cameras tested at UNH to overcome murkiness that prevents video cameras from being effective. Data from acoustic cameras is used to generate a two-dimensional image of the water, animals, and detritus just upstream of the turbine. To ground-truth fish activity observed with the acoustic camera, UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences professor Andy Seitz and ACEP Deputy Director Jeremy Kasper fished behind the equipment to verify the species the Triton team saw on the footage. This collaborative effort enabled the team to gather data on fish behavior around the turbine and helped to inform practices for monitoring collision risk. This work was conducted in collaboration with the ACEP, the Pacific Marine Energy Center, and the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.
Staines shares some thoughts about his experience at TRTS: “Local knowledge and expertise are important to field work success no matter where you go. Alaska is a special case where access to a simple bolt or fitting may not be possible, or the weather may change in dramatic fashion. When you are new to a site like UAF’s TRTS and a week of field work goes smooth, you know it is not luck. A special thank you goes to ACEP research professional Stephanie Jump, who responded to the hundred information requests prior to our arrival, made schedule changes on the fly, and didn’t miss a beat when a mounting location on the barge needed to be shifted a few centimeters. She made sure everyone had lunch, water, protection from bugs and rain, and delivered a well-timed anecdote to keep minor frustrations in check during the day’s challenges. At the end of each day, we could depend on her to organize the next day’s tasks, schedule, and personnel—but not before telling a fieldwork story from the past, bringing uproarious laughter to the whole group. Thank you.”
The Triton team expresses gratitude to UAF and ACEP for supporting this research and offering invaluable expertise, with a special shoutout to Andy Seitz, Jeremy Kasper, Stephanie Jump, Mark Evans, and Paul Duvoy. We also thank ACEP for gathering and developing communications content. It was particularly challenging to capture footage from this fieldwork due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. We appreciate Amanda Byrd, Alice Bailey, and Colleen O’Neil for their enthusiasm to write content and send a team on-site to capture amazing imagery and drone footage and develop several informative videos highlighting Triton's field research and the collaboration with UAF and ACEP. Thank you for going above and beyond!
Environmental monitoring around the CalWave xWave – La Jolla, CA
Recently, multiple TFiT teams were given the exciting opportunity to conduct environmental monitoring tests around a deployed wave energy converter (WEC) in La Jolla, California. In September 2021, in collaboration with SIO, CalWave deployed their xWave™ technology for open water demonstration. The xWave™ is a fully operational, submerged WEC that will be deployed for six months for performance testing, providing an opportunity for Triton to collect valuable empirical environmental monitoring data. This demonstration is the first open water, submerged, long-duration deployment of an operational WEC in California and marks a momentous milestone for in-water testing of marine energy devices. We are thankful for the CalWave team for collaborating with us to deploy several technologies around the devices to collect data during the performance test.
In collaboration with CalWave, the Triton team conducted two separate field trials around this device to test Integral Consulting's NoiseSpotter® technology and an underwater camera used to monitor changes in habitat around the WEC's anchors. This would not have been possible without support from Christian McDonald and Brett Pickering, and the world-class facilities, site, vessels, and expertise at SIO.
Staines, who has supported the NoiseSpotter® technology development process from the very beginning, traveled to SIO with Grace Chang, Kaus Raghukumar, and Frank Spada of Integral Consulting to put the NoiseSpotter® through its final demonstration. A successful development, testing, and validation of the NoiseSpotter® already took place at PNNL’s Marine and Coastal Research Laboratory from 2017-2019 (Chang et al., 2021). Deployment in a high-energy test site was the final step for this project. These tests in La Jolla characterized potential sound emissions from the xWave™ device and other nearby sounds, such as marine mammal vocalizations. The NoiseSpotter's® novel vector sensor array enables researchers to gather information about the location and identity of those sounds in real-time.
During these tests, multiple configurations of the NoiseSpotter® were demonstrated. Configurations included real-time data collection with data transfer to the cloud, a drifting test to gather data decoupled from water currents, and self-logging data collection with no expression on the water's surface. The final demonstration was a huge success and brought the NoiseSpotter® closer to the finish line of commercialization.
A week later, the TFiT changes in habitat team traveled to SIO. The team included benthic ecologist and task lead Lenaig Hemery, Triton project manager Alicia Amerson, Earth scientist Kailan Mackereth, and marine scientist and science communicator Cailene Gunn. They deployed a Boxfish 360-degree underwater video camera around an anchor near the xWave™ device. Not only did the team feel grateful to be conducting research around a deployed marine energy device at a world-renown oceanographic research institution, but they were welcomed with beautiful weather and incredible water visibility.
For three days, the team deployed the camera at sunrise, midday, and around sunset to monitor habitats at different times of day, with and without Light and Motion and FoxFury underwater lights to illuminate the surrounding area. The field tests assessed the utility of these cameras for monitoring artificial reef effects and other potential changes to habitats around marine energy devices and associated structures. Data from this footage will inform a set of recommendations to decision makers in the marine energy industry on best practices for monitoring marine energy related changes to underwater habitats.
Thank you to Dan Petcovic, Marcus Lehmann, and Thomas Boerner at CalWave for providing Triton with the opportunity to collect empirical data around a deployed WEC and real-time information about the WEC operating status. It was a memorable experience for all team members working around an operational WEC for the first time. The Triton team would also like to extend a huge thank you to the folks at SIO for helping make this research possible. From offering facilities and providing access to the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier, vessels, expertise, and a beautiful site to work, the team appreciates your support through the early mornings and long days conducting tests.
Hemery gives a special shout-out: "Brett Pickering was our boat captain for our changes in habitat fieldwork, and we could not have asked for a better captain. He made us feel very welcomed and safe, and knew exactly where to lower our video lander so that it would be at a suitable distance from the WEC's anchor, providing us with excellent data. Brett is also very knowledgeable of the sea life in the area, which enriched our experience!"
Amerson shares her appreciation to FoxFury Lighting Solutions: “With all deployments there can be a potential snag, especially when working in the ocean. In the case of using lights in water, technology can fail. I am thankful for Mario and Maria Cungini who own FoxFury Lighting Solutions for their friendship, engineering, and quick customer service in replacing lights that went out on the lander during the first deployment. Thank you!”
Amerson also expresses her appreciation to SIO scientific diving safety officer Christian McDonald who was open to work with her and the Triton team without hesitation. “Christian, thank you for being open to a partnership with Triton for getting us on the water. I also greatly appreciate Brett Pickering for keeping the team safe, the life at sea stories, and hoisting the heavy lander up and down three times a day—that was no easy feat.”
Soon, Haxel and the TFiT underwater noise team will be heading to SIO to deploy hydrophones around the xWave and characterize sound generated by the device for many weeks. This longer-term deployment of acoustic monitoring instruments will provide valuable data about the WEC’s sound emissions, as well as information about the ambient acoustic environment. Triton looks forward to continued collaboration with SIO and CalWave.
Thank you to our sponsor
The Triton team is greatly appreciative of the support from Sam Eaves, the project’s WPTO sponsor. She is instrumental in developing ideas and is a great sounding board that helps Triton evolve and meet the growing needs of the marine energy industry. She is a thoughtful and collaborative sponsor, and we are grateful for her contributions and insight.
Thank you to all our partners for making 2021 a huge success! As we turn the page into 2022, the Triton team looks forward to seeing what the future holds for these partnerships and the opportunities ahead for conducting innovative research to support the growing marine energy industry.
Written by Cailene Gunn.