Ocean current energy conversion devices should normally be constructed on shore and then transported to the chosen site for installation. Seabed and marine disruption should be short and impact should be small.
More significant is the fact that an ocean current energy converter will remove energy from the ocean current, leaving it weaker. This could have a significant effect on downstream marine ecologies. A major tidal stream plant such as a tidal fence-style array of turbines would probably have a similar effect to a large tidal barrage. The effect of smaller units would be less but an environmental impact study would certainly be necessary to establish their probable extent.
The moving blades of an underwater turbine could injure or kill marine mammals and fish. Further study is required to establish how dangerous this will be. Measures similar to those needed with conventional hydropower plants are likely to be necessary in order to minimise this danger.
The other main impact of an ocean current installation will be on shipping and fisheries. Large underwater structures will form a hazard to shipping, so major shipping lanes must be avoided. Other sites may interfere with local fisheries and these too must be taken into consideration.
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