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Characterization of underwater operational sound of a tidal stream turbine


The underwater sound emitted during the operation of the Atlantis AR1500 turbine, a 1.5 MW three bladed horizontal axis tidal-stream turbine, was measured in the Pentland Firth, Scotland. Most sound was concentrated in the lower frequencies, ranging from 50 to 1000 Hz. Within 20 m of the turbine, third-octave band sound pressure levels were elevated by up to 40 dB relative to ambient conditions. In comparison, ambient noise at these frequencies fluctuated by about 5–10 dB between different tidal states. At the maximum recording distance of 2300 m from the turbine, median sound pressure levels when the turbine was operational were still over 5 dB higher than ambient noise levels alone. A higher frequency, tonal signal was observed at 20,000 Hz. This signal component appeared at a constant level whenever the turbine was operational and did not change with turbine rotation rate. It is most likely produced by the turbine’s generator. This study highlights the importance of empirical measurements of turbine underwater sound. It illustrates the utility and challenges of using drifting hydrophone systems to spatially map operational turbine signal levels with reduced flow noise artefacts when recording in high flow environments.
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