The power of the Atlantic is about to be harnessed in a Marine Institute / Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) initiative to open a wave energy test site a mile and a half off the coast of Spiddal, Co. Galway. The 37-hectare site will be open to entrepreneurs and engineers to test prototype ocean energy generators. The first wave energy generator, 'Wavebob,' has arrived at Galway Docks and will be deployed on the Spiddal site early next week.
This marks the first visible step in a national programme to become leaders in ocean energy technology. The Marine Institute and SEI have to date invested €300k in university based research and a further €850k in industry based research of ocean energy technology. Together with significant private investments by entrepreneurs such as William Dick, Wavebob Ltd., the initiative is beginning to bear fruit. Both agencies have been working closely to develop a research and development strategy for ocean energy technology in Ireland. This strategy will define a phased approach towards product development together with an outline of the investment levels required to sustain the development of an ocean energy industry in Ireland, further details of which are expected to be announced shortly by the Department of Communications Marine and Natural Resources.
Wavebob has already gone through a rigorous path of theoretical modelling followed by small-scale prototype testing in wave tanks. Some of this testing has been performed at the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre, UCC. This method of steady development is essential in order to confirm the potential of the device while minimising the risks and costs associated with the development process. The next critical step in the development process is to test the device in the sea. Wavebob have chosen to test a quarter scale prototype, which it is anticipated will provide the most accurate evidence to date for the cost and performance potential for the device. The quarter scale model was built in Belfast's Harland & Wolfe Shipyard and has received €200k in grant support from SEI.
"The most energetic waves in the world are located off the West coast of Ireland," explains Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO Marine Institute. "The technology to harness the power of the ocean is only just emerging and Ireland has the chance to become a market leader in this sector." David Taylor, CEO of SEI commented that "SEI is committed to innovation in the renewable energy sector. Wave energy is a promising new renewable energy resource which could one day make a significant contribution to Ireland's electricity generation mix thereby further reducing our reliance on fossil fuels".
In addition to the Wavebob, there are several other Irish ocean energy technology developers in operation, so it is hoped that the Galway Bay test site will be used to field test a number of other exciting Irish wave device designs over the coming years. It is expected that the implementation of the Ocean Energy Development Strategy over the coming years will see a progressive increase in the range and scale of research and innovation investment.