Irish firms secure bonanza of multimillion-euro ocean energy deals

31 Jan 2018

Ocean Energy’s OE Buoy. Image: Ocean Energy

In the space of a day, two major ocean energy deals worth millions of euro have been signed, showing that Ireland is doing more than simply ‘making waves’.

When it comes to renewable energy production in Ireland, wind energy often gets the most attention, with our position in the path of the North Atlantic Drift giving us our fair share of windy days.

But now, it seems that ocean energy is showing signs of a changing tide, with two major deals announced in the space of a day that will put Ireland on the map as a major player in the sector.

The first of these was the announcement that the €11m Funding Ocean Renewable Energy through Strategic European Action (FORESEA) programme has approved funding for six developers of offshore renewable energy technologies in Ireland.

To be deployed at SmartBay’s Marine and Renewable Energy Test Site in Galway, the developers include: Sea Power, Bluwind Power, Marine Power Systems, Blue Ocean Monitoring, UGen and CalWave.

“Today’s announcement marks the beginning of a new phase for the development [of] sustainable low-carbon technologies in Ireland, with a significant increase in the planned testing of a range of promising devices in the SmartBay test site,” said the group’s general manager, John Breslin.

Among the newly funded technologies is Marine Power Systems’ WaveSub, a wave energy converter consisting of a barge and floating sphere tethered together by cables.

Oh, buoy

Meanwhile, another Irish success story was occurring overseas with the announcement that Ocean Energy will see its wave energy converter, the OE Buoy, built in the US by Oregon-based marine fabrication company Vigor.

When completed, the devices will be deployed at the US navy’s Wave Energy Test Site on the Hawaiian Island of O’ahu in autumn 2018.

The total contract value is €5.25m out of a total project value of almost €10m for this first-of-a-kind, grid-scale project at the Hawaiian test site.

The multimillion-euro project is part-funded by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland under a 2012 agreement committing the American and Irish governments to collaborating on marine hydrokinetic technologies.

Could significantly reduce carbon emissions

The 750-tonne OE Buoy has a potential capacity of 1.25MW, with Ocean Energy claiming that each device deployed off the Irish coast would singlehandedly reduce the country’s carbon emissions by more than 4,370 tonnes annually.

It is estimated that a 100MW wave farm could power up to 47,000 Irish homes.

Enterprise Ireland’s regional director for North America, Sean Davis, said: “Ocean Energy typifies the type of world-class technology innovation that emanates from Ireland that’s delivering advantages for companies internationally.

“Enterprise Ireland has invested in and supported Ocean Energy to win business abroad, with a particular focus on gaining traction in North America.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic