THE EUROPEAN Commission has appointed leading Irish ocean energy researchers to co-ordinate a €9 million test programme aimed at accelerating development of marine renewable energy technology.
The Europe-wide programme will be run by University College Cork’s hydraulic and maritime research centre, which has pioneered wave energy potential for many years. The centre will streamline testing at 42 facilities in 28 research centres in 12 European states – all of which are participating in the new marine renewables infrastructure network (Marinet).
Ireland, which shares the most active Atlantic wave system in Europe with Scotland, has several approved test centres – including the national ocean test facility at the centre in Cork and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s test sites in Galway Bay and Belmullet, Co Mayo.
The programme will offer periods of free marine renewable energy trials at these centres at no cost to participants, through European Commission funding.
Wave energy, tidal energy and offshore wind energy devices can be tested, as environmental trials can be undertaken. The programme seeks to remove financial barriers for companies working in this area but which may not qualify for national grant aid as their trials are taking place outside their home state. Potential users must work in Europe or in a country associated with the European FP7 research programme, and the initiative will run annually until 2015.
Prof Tony Lewis of UCC has urged Irish firms and researchers to apply, pointing out that it offers a “unique opportunity” to carry out trials in world-class European locations.
Mark Healy, Marinet project manager at the university, says that by linking the marine renewable energy-testing facilities and using an agreed testing framework, the initiative will provide a clear path to commercialisation.
Companies can use different locations at different stages of the technology’s development under the programme, he says.
Participating countries apart from Ireland include Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Norway (which is not an EU member), and Britain, which lists Queen’s University Belfast among its seven test sites.
The UCC centre is a constituent of the new Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster, which was opened formally by Taoiseach Enda Kenny last Friday. Directed by Dr Val Cummins, the cluster involves the Naval Service, Cork Institute of Technology with the National Maritime College of Ireland, and UCC. It plans to create 70 new research jobs by 2014, focusing on wave energy, development of “green” ships, and sustainable use of ocean resources.
A “fully developed” all-Ireland ocean energy sector could be worth about €9 billion and fuel a home and global market by 2030, according to a joint Republic-Northern Irish report published early this year.
Up to 52,000 jobs could be created in wave energy and 17,000 in tidal energy if the Government’s own 2020 renewable targets were met, according to British consultancy firm SQW Energy