Ireland is open for business and is actively committed to harnessing its abundant wave, tidal and offshore wind energy resources while developing an indigenous ocean energy industry in the process. The publication of the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan in 2014, and its ongoing implementation through the Offshore Renewable Energy Steering Group, has had the benefit of facilitating a genuinely collaborative environment in this area. All relevant agencies and Government departments are working together to support this burgeoning sector and offering one single gateway for information and access to the ocean energy industry in Ireland. Ireland has a unique ladder of development and test site infrastructure, which was significantly enhanced in 2015. The importance of supporting technology developers while also investing in academic research has been well recognised, and the past year has seen tangible progress in both areas with some flagship projects already underway.
SUPPORTING POLICIES FOR OCEAN ENERGY
The Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP) The Irish Government’s Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) published the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP) in February 2014 (http://www.dcenr.gov.ie/energy/en-ie/Renewable-Energy/Pages/OREDP-Landing-Page.aspx). The OREDP highlights the potential opportunities for the country in relation to marine energy at low, medium and high levels of development, as derived from the findings of the Strategic Environmental Assessment of the Plan carried out prior to publication. The OREDP, as a policy document, sets out the key principles, specific actions and enablers needed to deliver upon Ireland’s significant potential in this area. Accordingly, the OREDP is seen as providing a framework for the development of this sector.
The overarching vision of the Plan is “Our offshore renewable energy resource contributing to our economic development and sustainable growth, generating jobs for our citizens, supported by coherent policy, planning and regulation, and managed in an integrated manner” (DCENR, 2014). The Plan is divided into two parts. The first part deals with the opportunities, policy context and next steps, including 10 key enabling actions for the development of the sector. The second part focuses on the Strategic Environmental and Appropriate Assessment of the Plan. The implementation of the OREDP will be led by the DCENR and the Offshore Renewable Energy Steering Group (ORESG) is actively overseeing its implementation. The Steering Group consists of the main Government departments and agencies with roles and responsibilities that relate to energy and the marine environment, developers and broader interest and user groups when necessary. The Group reports directly to the Minister and the Plan will be reviewed before the end of 2017.
The work of the ORESG, and hence the implementation of the OREDP is organised according to three work streams: Environment, Infrastructure and Job Creation. The Job Creation working group has responsibility across several actions, including identifying additional exchequer support requirements, supply chain development and communicating the message that ‘Ireland is Open for Business’. Under the Environment work stream, the group ensures the needs of the marine energy industry are reflected in the on-going reform of the foreshore and marine consenting process. The actions deriving from the SEA and AA of the OREDP will also be taken forward under this work stream to ensure that future marine energy development takes place in an environmentally sustainable manner. The Infrastructure working group concentrates on supporting and delivering objectives of other policies such as the National Ports Policy and Grid 25 so as to expedite integrated infrastructure development which will facilitate the offshore renewable energy sector.
Ireland’s Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015 - 2030
The White Paper ‘Ireland’s Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015-2030’, published by DCENR in 2015, is a complete update on Ireland’s wider energy policy. This paper sets out a framework to guide policy and the actions that Government intends to take in the energy sector from now up to 2030, while taking European and International climate change objectives and agreements, as well as Irish social, economic and employment priorities, into account. The White Paper anticipates that ocean energy will play a part in Ireland’s energy transition in the medium to long term and reiterates the OREDP’s status as the guiding framework for developing the sector.
Ocean Energy Portal
The Ocean Energy Portal was launched in November 2014, and has been significantly updated and enhanced throughout 2015. The portal acts as a ‘sign-post’ to guide interested parties, internal and from abroad, through the supports available in Ireland for the development of the marine renewable energy sector. All information is aligned under six axes of activity which provide access to marine data, maps, tools, funding and information relevant to renewable energy site assessment, development and management. Since its launch, the Portal has become the “first stop shop” to which all developers can engage with relevant support sectors in Ireland and from where they can obtain the most relevant and up to date information (www.oceanenergyireland.ie)
Under the Job Creation work stream of the OREDP, one of the key actions is the introduction of Initial Market Support Tariff for Ocean Energy. It is envisaged that this will be equivalent to €260/MWh and limited to 30MW for ocean (wave and tidal), focusing on pre-commercial trials and demonstration. In July 2016, DCENR published a Technology Review Consultation, the first stage in a review of renewable electricity support schemes. The objective of this process is, where a clear need is demonstrated, to develop a new support scheme for renewable electricity to be available in Ireland from 2016 onwards, to support the delivery of Government policy, while taking account of the broader emerging policy context, such as the Energy Policy White Paper, the transition to the target market, the EU 2030 Climate and Energy Framework and State Aid guidelines, the Energy Union package and the European Energy Security Strategy. The development of the wave and tidal market support tariff is included as part of this process.
PUBLIC FUNDING PROGRAMMES
SEAI Prototype Development Fund
The OREDP reiterates the focus on stimulating industry-led projects for the development and deployment of ocean energy devices and systems through the support of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s (SEAI) Prototype Development Fund. The objectives of this programme are to accelerate and enhance support for the research, development, testing and deployment of wave and tidal energy devices. Sixty five technology projects have received support from SEAI since the programme was launched in 2009.
Fifteen new projects were awarded grants totalling €4.3 million through the Prototype Development Fund in 2015. Successful applicants include Ocean Energy Ltd., who secured €2.3 million to design and build a full scale version of their OE Buoy wave energy converter which will be deployed and tested at the US Navy Wave Energy Test Site in Hawaii. Other examples include SeaPower, who will receive over €1 million to test their wave energy converter at quarter scale in Galway Bay, while GKinetic Energy were awarded almost €200,000 to conduct towing tests of their tidal turbine system in Limerick Docks. Other projects include physical tank testing of early stage wave energy convertor concepts and feasibility studies of potential deployment sites.
The ERA-NET scheme is an innovative component of the European Union’s Framework Programme, which supports cooperation of national/regional research funding programmes to strengthen the European Research Area (ERA). SEAI is a participant in the OCEANERA-NET, along with 16 funding Agencies from 9 European countries. The first OCEANERA_NET joint call commenced in late 2014, and a number of Irish partners were involved in successful project proposals. A second joint call was launched in February 2016.
SEA TEST SITES
Ireland has a unique ladder of development and test site infrastructure, allowing developers to move from laboratory test facilities at the Lir National Ocean Test facility in Cork, to a quarter scale test bed in Galway Bay and to a full test facility at the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS) near Belmullet, Co. Mayo. Significant steps were taken to further develop these facilities in 2015.
Galway Bay Ocean Energy Test Site
Ireland’s ¼ scale ocean energy test site is located within the Galway Bay Marine and Renewable Energy Test Site and is situated 1.5km offshore in water depths ranging from 20m – 23m. The site has provided test and validation facilities for a number of wave energy devices and components to date.
2015 saw the installation of a subsea observatory at the site, with a four kilometre cable providing a physical link to the shore at Spiddal, Co. Galway. The ocean observatory enables the use of cameras, probes and sensors to permit continuous and remote live underwater monitoring. The cable supplies power to the site and allows unlimited data transfer from the site for researchers testing innovative marine technology including renewable ocean energy devices. The installation of this infrastructure was the result of the combined efforts of the Marine Institute, SEAI, the Commissioners of Irish Lights, Smartbay Ireland and the Marine Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI) Centre. The project was part-funded under the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) “Research Infrastructure Call” in 2012. Separately, SEAI announced a Memorandum of Understanding with Apple in November 2015 to promote the development of ocean energy in Ireland. Apple has committed a €1 million fund that will help developers who receive a SEAI grant to test their ocean energy prototypes in the Galway Bay Ocean Energy Test Site.
Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS)
The Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS) is being developed by SEAI to facilitate testing of full scale wave energy converters in an open and energetic ocean environment. AMETS will be located off Annagh Head, west of Belmullet in County Mayo and will be connected to the national grid. It is currently envisaged that the site will provide two separate test locations at water depths of 50m and 100m to allow for a range of devices to be tested, though the potential to facilitate testing at shallower depths or the testing of other technologies such as floating wind is being investigated.
The infrastructure to support testing at AMETS continues to be advanced, and it is expected that planning permission for the onshore aspects of the site, including the electrical substation, will be submitted early 2016. Crucially, the Foreshore Lease for AMETS was signed by the Minister of Environment Communities and Local Government in late 2015. This was the culmination of a detailed assessment and approval process and provides the legal basis for operating the test site.