An investment by the Government in Ireland’s ocean energy development, through IDA Ireland, was announced this week, with significant research and development work to be undertaken at the national wave energy test site at Belmullet. If planning is obtained for the research site at Belmullet this will lead to the creation in the long term of between “500 and 600 jobs” through the harnessing of “unrivalled” wave power and the possibility that Ireland would become a lead exporter of large quantities of green electricity.
Minister for Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan outlined that Tonn Energy (the first commercial wave power development company in Ireland ), which is a joint venture between Irish ocean energy company Wavebob and Swedish electricity utility Vattenfall (one of Europe’s largest power utilities ), will receive grant assistance for the development of the world’s first fully commercial ocean energy generator, with work now beginning on the planning, installation, operation, and maintenance of pre-commercial devices at the Belmullet test centre by Sustainable Energy Ireland.
This test centre will be one of the key elements of the overall National Ocean Energy Strategy which will see more than 500 megawatts of ocean energy generated by 2020 with Tonn Energy delivering some 250MW of electricity in that timeframe.
At a meeting in Belmullet held the day after the announcement, project director of Tonn Energy Harvey Appelbe said that following the completion of the test site — subject to planning and environmental assessment — there will be a focus on the commercial side in developing a wave power plant. Mr Appelbe said that 2013 is the goal for when the first device will be placed in the waters, with the expectation that it will be moored approximately 12 kilometres off-shore from Annagh head.
Due to the large scale of the project and resources needed it is also foreseen that local harbours such as Ballyglass pier would need to be upgraded to be able to cope with the large scale operations being conducted in the Atlantic.
Göran Dandanell, director and head of business development for Vattenfall UK and Ireland; Harvey Appelbe, project director for Tonn Energy; and Andrew parish, chief executive with Wavebob, said there would be a “big dependency” and a “concerted effort” given to support the local economy in the creation of jobs in operating and maintenance and support services with the particular use of the skill-sets of local fishermen, who would be a vital contributor to this project. Mr Parish also said that they are in discussions to proactively work alongside third level institutions in the region.
The consultation process with local fishermen and community groups has only just commenced and a series of public meetings with SEI and local communities will take place in the near future.