Zoë L. Hutchison, Andrew B. Gill, Peter Sigray, Haibo He, John W. King, A modelling evaluation of electromagnetic fields emitted by buried subsea power cables and encountered by marine animals: Considerations for marine renewable energy development, Renewable Energy, Volume 177, 2021, Pages 72-81, ISSN 0960-1481, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2021.05.041.
• In a bundled DC cable, closer cable cores reduced the emitted DC magnetic field (DC-MF) intensity.
• As a cable’s burial depth increased, the intensity of DC-MF at the seabed surface decreased.
• Buried cables still present a DC-MF at intensities perceivable to some receptive species.
• Variable burial depth along a cable route will present a variable EMF to receptive species.
• An animal’s proximity to a cable (buried or not) influences their exposure to the EMF.
The expanding marine renewable energy industry will increase the prevalence of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from power cables in coastal waters. Assessments of environmental impacts are required within licensing/permitting processes and increased prevalence of cables will increase questions concerning EMF emissions and potential cumulative impacts. It is presumed that protecting a cable by burial, may also mitigate EMF emissions and potential impacts on species. Focussing on a bundled high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission cable, we use computational and interpretive models to explore the influence of cable properties and burial depth on the DC magnetic field (DC-MF) potentially encountered by receptive species. Greater cable pair separation increased the deviations from the geomagnetic field and while deeper burial reduced the deviations, the DC-MF was present at intensities perceivable by receptive species. An animal moving along a cable route may be exposed to variable EMFs due to varied burial depth and that combined with an animal’s position in the water column determines the distance from source and EMF exposure. Modelling contextually realistic scenarios would improve assessments of potential effects. We suggest developers and cable industries make cable properties and energy transmission data available, enabling realistic modelling and environmental assessment supporting future developments.