A novel system was developed to deploy settlement panels to monitor biofouling growth in situ and evaluate antifouling coatings at depths representative of operational conditions of full-scale marine renewable energy devices. Biofouling loading, species diversity, and succession were assessed at depths ranging from 25-40 m at four tests sites in Orkney (UK) featuring extreme wave and tidal current exposure to more sheltered conditions. Evaluations were carried out over a period of 8 months with intermediate retrieval of samples after 3 months. Early pioneer fouling communities, comprised of colonial hydroids, were succeeded by tube-forming amphipods across sites while solitary tunicates dominated in greater shelter. The highest biofouling loading was observed on high-density polyethylene (HDPE) panels (6.17 kg m−2) compared with coated steel (3.34 kg m−2) panels after 8 months. Distinct assemblages were present at exposed vs sheltered sites. Better understanding of fouling and antifouling strategies may provide guidance to more effectively manage biofouling impacts in this sector.