Limerick company aims to make some waves with new tidal energy device

15 Dec 2015

GKinetic sign image via Facebook

Ocean-based renewable energy, such as tidal energy, is increasingly being seen as Ireland’s best alternative renewable energy source, overtaking the more common wind energy. Now, a new string has been added to its bow, as Limerick is set to become home to the first OC1 device in Ireland.

Having undergone trials since late October, with previous testing taking place at the IFREMAR testing centre in Boulogne-Sur-Mer, France, the OC1 has officially launched at the Shannon Foynes Port Company (SFPC).

The first pilot tidal energy device to enter use following the launch is a 15 kW river unit, capable of powering small communities from natural river flow, but future commercial deployment is expected to increase the devices’ size and capacity to somewhere in the region of 1 MW.

Designed by GKinetic’s founder, Vincent McCormack, the OC1 device works by exploiting the natural phenomena that occurs when water accelerates around an obstacle, which accelerates the flow of water to eight-times that which would occur naturally, creating greater amounts of energy.

An un-tapped source of renewable energy

The OC1 has the added bonus of being able to operate in water as shallow as 2m, and in courses as narrow as 3m, meaning a huge number of sites that were previously not feasible for a turbine are now eligible for use.

Its relative small size, GKinetic says, means that its own environmental impact is relatively minimal, with a payback time of approximately three years.

“The global market for hydrokinetic devices such as the GKinetic device is estimated at 150 to 200 GWh, yet only 5 pc of this market has currently been realised,” said McCormack about the OC1’s launch. “This particular device is a river unit, but our plan is to create large scale tidal units capable of generating up to 1 MW. Our goal is for the deployment of units on the Shannon Estuary, with the potential to create up to 300 jobs from manufacturing to deployment and maintenance.”

Last October, the company – founded in 2013 by McCormack – was one of three marine energy companies to receive a total of €4.5m to boost this particular area of renewable energy research and development.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic