Turning the sod: Beaufort Research set to propel new energy and maritime research

12 Jul 2013

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, TD, turns the sod at the site of the new Beaufort building for maritime and energy research in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, yesterday. Photo via Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Work is to start immediately on the construction of a €15.2m building to house the Beaufort Research energy and maritime research cluster in Cork. Ireland’s Taoiseach Enda Kenny, TD, was in Cork yesterday to turn the sod on the new University College Cork-led initiative. The build is set to create 200 construction jobs, with the centre having the scope to house an additional 55 researchers when it’s complete in 2014.

The new build is combining existing ocean energy and maritime research under one roof in order to make Ireland a global hotspot for maritime and energy research involving researchers, industry and new spin-outs from Ireland’s research base.

One of the goals of the new project is for the Beaufort building to be a flagship development in the Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster (IMERC). It will be based in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork.

Beaufort Research will bring together the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre (HMRC), Coastal and Marine Research Centre (CMRC), and the Sustainable Energy Research Group (SERG). It will form the research cornerstone of the Irish maritime campus in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork.

The main remit of Beaufort Research, which is being led by Tony Lewis, a professor in energy engineering at University College Cork (UCC), is to carry out pioneering research in areas such as wave and tidal energy, offshore wind energy, maritime governance and maritime ecology.

Lewis described the turning of the sod on Beaufort as the “culmination” of his career in maritime engineering and marine renewable energy.

“The realisation of this UCC facility and its location within the IMERC campus will place Beaufort at the epicentre of research and innovation in the maritime and energy field in the future,” said Lewis.

Beaufort Research

How the Beaufort Research building will look when it’s completed. Image via Beaufort Research

Ocean energy and marine research ecosystem

The building stage of Beaufort Research is expected to create 200 construction jobs, Kenny confirmed yesterday.

Beaufort Research will tap into the expertise of the nearby Irish Navy, UCC’s research base and the National Maritime College of Ireland, which is also based in Cork. As well as this, the building will be poised right by the ocean to use it as a test-bed for new clean-tech technologies and to investigate whether such technologies could impact the ecology of our oceans.

With ocean energy research still in the very early stages, the researchers at Beaufort Research want to make sure that they have all of the angles covered – especially in terms of the marine ecosystem – before developers push forward with commercialisation strategies only to find out that a technology won’t get approval.

Speaking yesterday evening, Georgina Foley, business developer and access manager at Beaufort Research, said the cluster aims to monitor the A to Z of the industry, taking into account whether a new technology could impact the marine ecosystem, for instance, whether noise pollution will affect the mating patterns of marine mammals.

She said the Beaufort Research initiative already employs 80 researchers, but once the new building is built, the aim is to expand that to house up to 135 researchers.

Scope for new clean-tech research spin-outs to incubate at Beaufort

There will also be an additional 200 sq metres of space in the building that will be left aside for new spin-outs from ocean energy research.

Foley said Beaufort Research will be welcoming researchers from all across the island and from further afield who want to pursue a new venture from their research.

Aside from that, the Beaufort building will also house one of five UCC-led centre projects focused on the Marine Energy Industry of  Ireland (MaREI), which recently received funding from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).

More than €15.2m has been invested in the Beaufort Research development so far from the PTRLI 5 programme, involving European funds, the Higher Education Authority, the Irish Government and Bord Gáis Energy.

National Ocean Test facility

As for the National Ocean Test facility at Beaufort, the plan is that this facility will be used for the design and testing of devices that could be deployed at sea, including wave, tidal and offshore wind devices.

Kenny spoke about how Ireland needs to be able to compete globally in new clean-tech research fields, like sustainable energy and maritime science.

UCC president Dr Michael Murphy believes that the positioning of Beaufort Research as an “international leader” in the area of maritime and energy research has been evidenced by its success in securing funding in excess of €50m from European programmes and SFI in recent years.

“This centre will continue to drive academia and industry to the forefront of global developments in marine renewable energy research,” he said.

The Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) estimates that direct employment in this sector could double over the next five years, leading to further investment and job creation opportunities.

Sir Francis Beaufort (27 May 1774 - 17 December 1857) was an Irish hydrographer and officer in Britain's Royal Navy. Beaufort was the creator of the Beaufort Scale for indicating wind force. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Sir Francis Beaufort (1774-1857) was an Irish hydrographer and officer in Britain’s Royal Navy. Beaufort is best known for being the creator of the Beaufort Scale for indicating wind force. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Sir Francis Beaufort

The centre is being named after the Irish hydrographer, Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort, who was responsible for the introduction of the globally adopted Beaufort Scale.

Another goal is to position Beaufort Research as an accessible entry point for national and international industry and research groups focused on sustainable resource development.

The facilities at the 4,700 sq-metre building will include the National Ocean Test Facility that will feature ocean energy research instruments, including a teaching flume and a large test flume, 12 electric paddles (ocean wave generators), multiple beach scenarios and a movable floor.

The infrastructure will also house the ocean wave basin, with 40 wave paddles to produce real three-dimensional seas at model scale.

A coastal flume, which includes a flow facility, can be used to test tidal turbines. There will be mechanical and electrical workshops, a ‘Power Take-Off lab’ and energy storage and smart-grid labs. There will also be industry suites and an incubation space of 200 sq metres initially.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic