5 ocean energy research labs making waves in Ireland

18 Dec 2015

Behind wind energy, ocean energy is Ireland’s ‘rising tide’ when it comes to renewable energy generation, and here are five centres around the country helping to contribute to it.

When we think of how Ireland is to achieve its target of 16pc of our energy demands being met by renewable energy by 2020, we typically think of erecting hundreds of wind turbines across the country.

But, increasingly, we are beginning to realise that wind alone will not satisfy our demand, and that there lies huge potential in ocean energy, too.

Just last week, Ireland participated in the now-finalised talks in Paris for COP21 deciding our plans on how to tackle climate change, while Ireland’s Minister for Environment Alex White laid out the country’s energy white paper.

The latter of which reveals that the Government hopes that, by 2050, carbon emissions will be reduced by between 80pc and 95pc, compared to 1990 levels.

So how are we to do that? Well, for starters, projects like Limerick company GKinetic launching a device capable of working in rivers that can potentially generate 1MW of energy for local areas when fully operational.

But testing such equipment is equally important, which is where these five centres, and others for that matter, come in.

Centre for Ocean Energy Research (COER)

For over a decade, the landlocked town of Maynooth, home to Maynooth University, has been one of the country’s leading centres of ocean energy hubs, developing the technologies that will be used in the area now and in the future.

Its work covers areas including the mathematical modelling of wave energy devices as well as their geometric and economic optimisation, much of which is tested at its modular wave tank facility on campus.

Last September, an Irish wave energy project developed at COER called INNOWAVE was awarded €800,000 in EU Horizon 2020 funding to develop commercial wave energy technology, making it one of the largest single investments in the technology in Ireland’s recent history.

InnoWave COER

The InnoWave The Oyster wave energy generator developed at COER. Image via Aquamarine Power

Lir National Ocean Test Facility

Connected with University College Cork (UCC), the Lir National Ocean Test Facility has one of the newest test facilities for ocean energy technology in the country, with the opening of the Beaufort Building by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny last July.

Included in the 4,700 sq m, five-storey complex are a series of state-of-the-art wave simulators, test tanks, workshops and offices. which are expected to contribute to the growing ‘blue economy’, particularly in this region.

The facility was previously designated Ireland’s national ocean test facility back in 2009 and is currently a member of the Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster (IMERC), which aims to boost ocean energy’s profile in the Cork region.

Beaufort centre Lir

Testing equipment at the Beaufort Building in UCC


Ryan Institute – NUI Galway

The Ryan Institute and, in particular, its Energy Research Centre in Galway, is perfectly situated in a region where much testing has already been undertaken with regard to marine energy and its capabilities, some of which was developed at the centre.

The focus of the centre is heavily geared towards offshore renewable energies and finding means of reducing the costs of development and deployment of these technologies.

Among the focuses of the centre on ocean energy include observing currents and waves through high-resolution hydrodynamic modelling, data monitoring and forecasting for input to control ocean energy systems.

It is also involved with research into novel composite materials, as well as examining these materials’ structural integrity and fatigue resistance.

Ryan Institute

Ryan Institute image via Wikimedia Commons

Nimbus’ Litmus Technology Trialling Centre

The Nimbus Centre is Ireland’s largest research centre devoted to embedded electronic systems and the internet of things.

The Litmus Technology Trialling Centre is a facility within Nimbus, comprising test-beds devoted to the development, testing and trialling of energy and water-based applications, products and services.

Litmus received public attention earlier this year for the development of the AEOLUS smart kite, flown on Irish Defence Forces’ ships to increase their speed, but also to generate wind energy and improve surveillance range.

Check out the head of the centre, Dr Dirk Pesch, speaking earlier this year about the test bed the centre has and what it has to offer.

Smart kite

The smart kite developed at Nimbus

Mobile and Marine Robotics Centre

Situated in the University of Limerick (UL), the Mobile and Marine Robotics Centre consists of researchers, post-doctoral researchers and PhD students from a range of disciplines. With marine technology undergoing a bit of an explosion in interest over the past couple of years, research at the Limerick centre is some of the most exciting in the country.

With expertise in the likes of electronic, computer, mechanical and aeronautical engineering backgrounds, the centre has recently hosted a Spanish organisation looking to recover Armada shipwrecks.

In terms of research it undertakes in marine renewable energy, the centre is and will develop technologies such as wireless and subsea sensors for remote presence and ones dealing with augmented reality.

Robotic diving equipment developed at the Mobile and Marine Robotics Centre

Robotic diving equipment developed at the Mobile and Marine Robotics Centre

Ocean wave image via Shutterstock