Specialised wave energy technology company Ocean Energy recently completed the first successful sea trials for a wave energy converter. The device known as the OE Buoy has been undergoing extensive sea trials for the past eight months at the Marine Institute/SEI Wave Energy Test Site in Galway Bay. The test results, validated by the Hydraulic Marine Research Centre (HMRC) at University College Cork (UCC), represent a major breakthrough for Irish technologists in the search for viable alternative energy sources.
The device has been subjected to a wide range of wave conditions over the last eight months including a severe storm on New Year’s Eve when a wave height of 8.2 metres was experienced. The mooring system had no difficulty coping with these conditions and the whole system did not suffer any ill effects from the extreme waves.
The company has been working with UCC, the Irish Marine Institute and Queens University Belfast over the last five years to develop a device for generating power from waves. The HMRC captured and analysed the Galway Bay data from the OE Buoy. The results confirm previous findings obtained in earlier tank tests carried out by HMRC staff at Ecole Central de Nantes, France and UCC.
Dr Tony Lewis of the Hydraulic Marine Research Centre at UCC says the results are very encouraging. He believes Ireland has incredible potential for wave energy generation. “If Ireland could capture this opportunity then we have the potential to create a substantial number of jobs, solve our energy problems, and become a world leader in the production of wave energy devices,” he said.
John Keating of Ocean Energy Ltd. said the data collected indicates the project is commercially feasible. Mr Keating said “the results also show that the Government’s wave energy generation target of 500 mega watts by 2020, as set out in its Ocean Energy Strategy, is achievable.”
Dr Lewis says there is no reason why Ocean Energy should not become a world leader in the production of wave energy generation devices.
“This business is in its infancy. You can’t go out and buy a commercial wave energy device. It’s a whole new industry, similar to the car industry when Henry Ford started.”
To date, two Irish companies have developed and tested prototypes at the ocean energy test site in Galway Bay: Ocean Energy Ltd and Wavebob Ltd.
Mr. James Ryan, Marine Institute said that “Ocean Energy Ltd., along with the other very active wave power development company, Wavebob Ltd, have helped to consolidate Ireland’s position as a significant player in the global energy sector.”