Massive boost for marine research as Galway Bay Ocean Observatory completed at weekend

Divers from Subsea Marine Ltd preparing to dive from the MV Tarrea Queen in Galway Bay to  complete the installation of the Galway Bay Ocean Observatory in a collaboration between the Marine Institute, The Sustainable Energy authority of Ireland, SmartBay Ireland and Commissioner of Irish Lights. Photo by Aengus Mc Mahon.

Divers from Subsea Marine Ltd preparing to dive from the MV Tarrea Queen in Galway Bay to complete the installation of the Galway Bay Ocean Observatory in a collaboration between the Marine Institute, The Sustainable Energy authority of Ireland, SmartBay Ireland and Commissioner of Irish Lights. Photo by Aengus Mc Mahon.

A significant piece of ocean research infrastructure was brought to fruition with the completion of the Galway Bay underwater ocean observatory over the weekend.  Through the combined effort of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI ), the Marine Institute and Commissioners of Irish Lights the final piece of equipment has been deployed to give researchers and ocean energy developers unique insight into the Galway bay marine environment.  The observatory is now entering into a commissioning period and is expected to be operational in the coming months. 

The ocean observatory will enable the use of cameras, probes and sensors to permit continuous and remote live underwater monitoring. Data from the equipment will be fed via an underwater cable, which was deployed last April, to the Marine Institute where analysis will take place.  Data from the observatory will also be available online through the Digital Ocean Platform under development by the Marine Institute. 

The equipment has been installed in the Galway Bay test site, which is an area 1.5km off Spiddal pier and is used primarily to test small scale ocean energy devices. This observatory equipment will allow ocean energy developers to monitor how their devices are performing in the ocean as well as give ocean researchers unique real-time access to monitor ongoing changes in the marine environment.

Also deployed at the test site this weekend was a novel mooring tether developed by an Irish company ‘Technology From Ideas’. This technology reduces the impacts of rough seas on moored devices, thus making them cheaper to design and construct. It also reduces need for excessive ropes and chains for moorings, which reduces impact on the seabed and the environment.  The development and testing of the mooring tether is being grant supported by SEAI. 

Declan Meally, Head of Emerging Technologies in SEAI said that they are seeing lots of great developments in Ireland’s marine and ocean energy research facilities.

“The new Galway undersea ocean observatory will strengthen our offering and greatly assist the testing of new ocean energy technologies. Also, in helping the development of support structures, such as moorings, SEAI is ensuring that the supply chain for the offshore energy renewable sector is simultaneously progressing,” he said.

Peter Heffernan of Marine Institute acknowledged the support of SEAI and Commissioners of Irish Lights in deploying this equipment. “While the Marine Institute team has been driving this project, we have greatly benefitted from the close collaboration of all partners including SEAI, SmartBay Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and Marine Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI ). This collaboration places Ireland on a stronger footing internationally as we work together to advance our marine research and development capabilities.”

Yvonne Shields CEO of Commissioners of Irish Lights who provided the ‘ILV Granuaile’ for deployment of the equipment confirmed that Irish Lights is delighted to step in and provide support where required for this project.

“The Granuaile is a world class service vessel that is primarily used to service Ireland’s network of offshore navigation and safety aids.  The vessel and crew are experienced in handling difficult sea conditions and Granuaile is ideally placed to assist renewable energy deployment around the coast”.

The Galway Bay ocean observatory is part of a larger collaborative project between SEAI, the Marine Institute, University College Cork (Marine Renewable Energy Ireland - MaREI ), SmartBay Ireland and Dublin City University to upgrade existing facilities at the Galway Bay test site.  The overall project has been funded by Science Foundation Ireland and is due to be completed this year.

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