Ireland is open for business and is actively committed to harnessing its abundant wave, tidal and offshore wind energy resources while developing an indigenous ocean energy industry in the process. The publication of the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan in 2014, and its ongoing implementation through the Offshore Renewable Energy Steering Group, has had the benefit of facilitating a genuinely collaborative environment in this area. All relevant agencies and Government departments are working together to support this burgeoning sector and offering one single gateway for information and access to the ocean energy industry in Ireland. Ireland has a unique ladder of development and test site infrastructure, which was significantly enhanced in 2016. The importance of supporting technology developers while also investing in academic research has been well-recognised, and the past year has seen tangible progress in both areas with some flagship projects already underway.
SUPPORTING POLICIES FOR OCEAN ENERGY
The Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP)
The Irish Government’s Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) published the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP) in February 2014 (http://www.dcenr.gov.ie/energy/en-ie/Renewable-Energy/Pages/OREDP-Landing-Page.aspx)
The OREDP highlights the potential opportunities for the country in relation to marine energy at low, medium and high levels of development, as derived from the findings of the Strategic Environmental Assessment of the Plan carried out prior to publication. The OREDP, as a policy document, sets out the key principles, specific actions and enablers needed to deliver upon Ireland’s significant potential in this area. Accordingly, the OREDP is seen as providing a framework for the development of this sector. The over-arching vision of the Plan is “Our offshore renewable energy resource contributing to our economic development and sustainable growth, generating jobs for our citizens, supported by coherent policy, planning and regulation, and managed in an integrated manner” (DCENR, 2014). The Plan is divided into two parts. The first part deals with the opportunities, policy context and next steps, including 10 key enabling actions for the development of the sector. The second part focuses on the Strategic Environmental and Appropriate Assessment of the Plan.
The implementation of the OREDP will be led by the DCENR and the Offshore Renewable Energy Steering Group (ORESG) is actively overseeing its implementation. The Steering Group consists of the main Government departments and agencies with roles and responsibilities that relate to energy and the marine environment, developers and broader interest and user groups when necessary. The Group reports directly to the Minister and the Plan will be reviewed in 2017.
The work of the ORESG, and hence the implementation of the OREDP, is organised according to three work-streams: Environment, Infrastructure and Job Creation. The Job Creation working group has responsibility across several actions, including identifying additional exchequer support requirements, supply chain development and communicating the message that ‘Ireland is Open for Business’. Under the Environment work-stream the Group ensures the needs of the marine energy industry are reflected in the on-going reform of the foreshore and marine consenting process. The actions deriving from the SEA and AA of the OREDP will also be taken forward under this work-stream to ensure that future marine energy development takes place in an environmentally sustainable manner. The Infrastructure working group concentrates on supporting and delivering objectives of other policies such as the National Ports Policy and Grid 25 so as to expedite integrated infrastructure development which will facilitate the offshore renewable energy sector.
Ireland’s Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015 - 2030
The White Paper ‘Ireland’s Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015-2030’, published by DCENR in 2015, is a complete update on Ireland’s wider energy policy. This paper sets out a framework to guide policy and the actions that Government intends to take in the energy sector from now up to 2030, while taking European and International climate change objectives and agreements, as well as Irish social, economic and employment priorities, into account.
The White Paper anticipates that ocean energy will play a part in Ireland’s energy transition in the medium to long term and reiterates the OREDP’s status as the guiding framework for developing the sector.
Currently, proposed ocean energy developments require a Foreshore Licence (for non-exclusive and temporary uses) and/or a Foreshore Lease (exclusive and permanent uses) granted by the Minister of Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government. Deployment of an ocean energy device may require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) depending on its nature, size and location, in accordance with European Union (EU) law and national legislation. Similarly, where a development is located in or near a site designated for nature conservation purposes, under the EU Habitats Directive, an Appropriate Assessment (AA) may also be required. If a development comprises onshore works (terrestrial) planning permission from the adjoining planning authority (County Council) will be required. A new Maritime Area and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill is expected to be enacted in 2017 will align the foreshore consent system with the planning system in order to streamline the EIA and AA processes for projects.
2016 saw two draft environmental guidance documents for the offshore renewable energy industry released for public consultation. These documents, one on the preparation of Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) and Natura Impact Statements (NIS) for offshore renewable energy projects and the other on Marine Baseline Assessments and Monitoring Activities, aim to ensure there is clear guidance for developers on environmental statements, data and monitoring necessary for deploying in Ireland’s oceans, ensuring best practice is adopted in order to develop the industry in an environmentally friendly manner.
Under the Job Creation work-stream of the OREDP, one of the key actions is the introduction of Initial Market Support Tariff for Ocean Energy. It is envisaged that this will be equivalent to €260/MWh and limited to 30 MW for ocean (wave and tidal), focusing on pre-commercial trials and demonstration. In July 2015 DCENR published an initial Renewable Energy Support Scheme Consultation, and are currently preparing for the next stage in the consultation process. The objective of this process is, where a clear need is demonstrated, to develop a new support scheme for renewable electricity to be available in Ireland from 2017 onwards, to support the delivery of Government policy, while taking account of the broader emerging policy context, such as the Energy Policy White Paper, the transition to the target market, the EU 2030 Climate and Energy Framework and State Aid guidelines, the Energy Union package and the European Energy Security Strategy. The development of the wave and tidal market support tariff is included as part of this process.
PUBLIC FUNDING PROGRAMMES
SEAI Prototype Development Fund
The OREDP reiterates the focus on stimulating industry-led projects for the development and deployment of ocean energy devices and systems through the support of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s Prototype Development Fund. The objectives of this programme are to accelerate and enhance support for the research, development, testing and deployment of wave and tidal energy devices.
Seventeen new projects were awarded grants in 2016, bringing the total number of projects to eighty-five since 2009. Such projects included physical tank testing of early stage wave energy convertor concepts, floating offshore wind platforms, and specialist software development.
The ERA-NET scheme is an innovative component of the European Union’s Framework Programme, which supports co-operation of national/regional research funding programmes to strengthen the European Research Area (ERA). OCEANERA‐NET (http://www.oceaneranet.eu), aims to coordinate and support research, innovation and knowledge exchange in the Ocean Energy sector amongst European countries and regions, by launching transnational competitive joint calls for funding collaborative RTDI projects. SEAI is a participant in the OCEANERA-NET, along with 16 funding Agencies from 9 European countries. The first OCEANERA_NET joint call commenced in late 2014, and a number of Irish partners were involved in successful project proposals. A second Joint Call was launched in February 2016.
Ocean Energy ERA-NET Co-fund
The Ocean Energy ERA-NET Co-fund (OCEANERA-NET COFUND) is a five-year action that secured support through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme for Research and Innovation in 2016. This new programme will build on the work of OCEANERA-NET. OCEANERA-NET COFUND aims to support transnational, collaborative research and development projects in ocean energy through joint calls and carry out other joint activities which will enhance the coordination of public research and innovation programmes and improve the exploitation of results of the projects funded. The first joint call will be launched in 2017 and will be open to applicants from three European countries (Ireland, Spain, Sweden) and four regions (Brittany, Pays de la Loire, the Basque Country, and Scotland).
Marine Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI)
MaREI is a centre of excellence for marine renewable energy, supported by Science Foundation Ireland. The Centre combines the expertise of a wide range of research groups and industry partners, with the shared mission of solving the main scientific, technical and socio-economic challenges across the marine and renewable energy spaces. In addition to facilitating fundamental research activities, the MaREI research programme is closely aligned to the requirements of its industry partners and the marine and renewable energy sectors as a whole, providing innovative solutions that reduce the time to market, and reduce costs to a competitive level.
MaREI’s research capabilities draw upon the excellent track record of well-established marine and renewable energy- based research groups across each of its academic partners, covering a wide range of cross-cutting topics such as device design and testing, novel materials, offshore operations, coastal and marine management, marine robotics, observation and monitoring, energy storage, aquaculture and green gas. The research team comprises internationally recognised experts in these fields from UCC, NUIG, UL, MU, UCD, and CIT, who have complementary research backgrounds key to providing the underpinning research necessary for Ireland to achieve commercially successful marine and renewable energy industries.
By the end of 2016, MaREI had approximately 130 researchers in place working on a variety of fundamental and applied research projects across its six academic partner institutions. These included targeted projects with 45 industry partners, comprising a range of SMEs and MNCs across the marine and renewable energy spaces, to the value of €5 million.
Lir National Ocean Test Facility
The Lir National Ocean Test Facility (NOTF) is a world-class center for renewable energy and marine research, located in the UCC Beaufort Building in Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork. Lir is a custom designed test facility which features upgraded and expanded tanks and equipment for the testing of small scale ocean energy renewable devices. Testing infrastructure includes:
- A new Deep Ocean Wave Basin (circa 1:15 scale testing)
- The Open Ocean Emulator, an ocean wave basin with a sophisticated 2 sided paddle system and a two sided absorption system (circa 1:50 scale testing)
- A wave and current flume with coastal/tidal testing capabilities (circa 1:50 scale testing) and a wave demonstration flume
- Mechanical and electrical workshops
- Electrical testing infrastructure, including a smart-grid and a series of linear and rotary rigs used to test power takeoff and energy storage
Lir is an essential part of Ireland’s ocean energy research and testing infrastructure and provides a significant launch pad for both national and international marine renewable energy developers. The upgraded facilities will provide support to developers in taking their first steps in testing and developing their devices and is a vital component of Irelands test infrastructure.
Ocean Energy projects that Irish partners are participating in through European-funded programmes include:
- The H2020 INFRARIA 2016-2017 MaRINET2 project will provide and co-ordinate free access to ocean energy developers to test infrastructure throughout Europe. MaRINET2 will build upon the previously successful MaRINET programme. UCC are project co-ordinators. Facilities at NUI Galway and the University of Limerick are also included, as well as the Galway Bay Marine and Renewable Energy Test Site.
- The H2020 INFRADEV 2016-2017 Marinerg-i project, led by UCC, aims to unite Europe’s leading renewable energy research organisations to become the leading international distributed infrastructure. Its integrated nature and co-ordinated approach will accelerate the research development and deployment of offshore wind, wave, tidal and combined energy technologies and help maintain Europe as a global leader in this sector.
- The H2020 TAOIDE proposal is to develop a fully-integrated generator to grid energy delivery system with high reliability and availability, suitable for use in multiple architectures of marine renewable energy systems. This work will provide the basis for development of a power production system certified for use in marine renewable energy applications – a system designed for the specific environments and regulations of the European Union market, utilising skills, expertise and capabilities of European partners. The Irish partners in this projects are ORPC Ireland, UCC, and Letterkenny Institute of Technology.
OPEN SEA TEST SITES
Ireland has a unique ladder of development and test site infrastructure, allowing developers to move from laboratory test facilities at the Lir National Ocean Test facility in Cork, to a quarter scale test bed in Galway Bay and to a full test facility at the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS) near Belmullet, Co. Mayo. Significant steps were taken to further develop these facilities in 2016.
Galway Bay Marine and Renewable Energy Test Site
Ireland’s ¼ scale ocean energy test site is located within the Galway Bay Marine and Renewable Energy Test Site and is situated 1.5 km offshore in water depths ranging from 20 m – 23 m. The site has provided test and validation facilities for a number of wave energy devices and components to date. 2016 saw the formal launch of the subsea observatory at the site, with a four kilometre cable providing a physical link to the shore at Spiddal, Co. Galway. The ocean observatory enables the use of cameras, probes and sensors to permit continuous and remote live underwater monitoring. The cable supplies power to the site and allows unlimited data transfer from the site for researchers testing innovative marine technology including renewable ocean energy devices.
The installation of this infrastructure was the result of the combined efforts of the Marine Institute, SEAI, the Commissioners of Irish Lights, Smartbay Ireland and the Marine Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI) Centre. The project was part funded under the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) “Research Infrastructure Call” in 2012. The SeaPower platform, a quarter-scaled wave energy converter, was successfully deployed to the site in November 2016. The scaled wave energy converter has been feeding back both energy and survivability data since.
Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS)
The Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS) is being developed by SEAI to facilitate testing of full scale wave energy converters in an open and energetic ocean environment. AMETS will be located off Annagh Head, west of Belmullet in County Mayo and will be connected to the national grid. It is currently envisaged that the site will provide two separate test locations at water depths of 50m and 100m to allow for a range of devices to be tested, though the potential to facilitate testing at shallower depths or the testing of other technologies such as floating wind is being investigated.
The infrastructure to support testing at AMETS continues to be advanced. Working in conjunction with SEAI, Mayo County Council upgraded port facilities in the area ensuring both local fishermen and developers ease of access. Planning permission for the onshore aspects of the site, including the electrical substation, was submitted in 2016. Crucially, the Foreshore Lease for AMETS was signed by the Minister of Environment Communities and Local Government in late 2015. This was the culmination of a detailed assessment and approval process and provides the legal basis for operating the test site.
SEAI’s Ocean Energy Prototype Development Fund supports a range of technology demonstration projects. Recent examples include:
GKinetic Ltd. is a Co. Limerick based developer of a submerged tidal energy device composing of twin, multi-bladed, vertical axis turbines mounted either side of a tear drop shaped ‘bluff body’ that will be moored to the seabed. The concept has undergone staged development, in line with industry best practice. Previous testing has been undertaken at NUI Galway, the IFREMER flow tank facility at Boulonge-Dur-Mer in France and numerical modelling for design optimisation. GKinetic conducted a series towing tests of a 1/10th scale version of the turbine system in Limerick Docks in late 2015 in order to understand and assess the performance of the technology, and will re-deploy in 2017 for more advanced testing.
SeaPower Ltd. is a Co. Sligo based R&D and engineering company who have developed a wave attenuator device called the SeaPower Platform. Since its conception in 2008, SeaPower have progressed from numerical modelling and design, to tank testing in Cork, and now to the open sea Galway Bay Marine and Renewable Energy Test Site. The company have received support from the SEAI Prototype Development Fund throughout its development, and phase 1 of the current project saw the device deployed to the quarter-scaled Galway Bay test site in November 2016. Since deployment, the company have been continually receiving wave energy data and assessing survivability in open sea winter conditions.
Phase 2 is expected to commence in 2017.
SeaPower Platform at Foynes Port, Co. Limerick in 2016 (left). The SeaPower Platform being towed to the Galway Bay test site in 2016 (right).
ESB’s WestWave project aims to develop a 5 MW wave energy project off the west coast of Ireland, at a site near Killard, Co. Clare. The current phase of the project is developing the foundations for this project to allow the capital investment and procurement phase. Ongoing activity includes to securing the required permits, conducting site investigations, including detailed wave measurements, and to developing the design and functional specification of the project. It is anticipated that applications for the site’s Foreshore Lease and onshore planning permission will be lodged in 2017.
Ocean Power Innovation Network
The Ocean Power Innovation Network (OPIN) is a collaborative industry network that has been developed by agencies in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The network’s mission is to advance innovation in the sector by learning from experts in other industries, to push the boundaries of what’s possible in ocean energy and progress innovative ocean projects in a coordinated way. To date OPIN has facilitated two workshops in 2016, held in Dublin and Edinburgh, which The SeaPower Platform being towed to the Galway Bay test site in 2016 have exposed attendees to the benefits of Open Innovation, highlighted opportunities for learning and technology transfer from other sectors such as offshore oil and gas, and encouraged valuable industry collaboration. The next OPIN event is due to take place in Belfast in March 2017.
The Ocean Energy Ireland Portal
The portal, designed by SEAI and the Marine Institute with input from numerous other groups, acts as a ‘sign-post’ to guide you through the supports available in Ireland for the development of the marine renewable energy sector. All information is aligned under six axes of activity which provide access to marine data, maps, tools, funding and information relevant to renewable energy site assessment, development and management. The website is continuously updated, and 2016 saw numerous new or upgraded features. The Marine Renewable Energy Atlas, an interactive GIS map of Ireland and its waters, was updated to include the most relevant, high quality downloadable data available. A new inventory for Environmental Planning was added to the website, which will aid developers researching testing and deployment in Ireland. The updated Ocean Energy Supply Chain Database was published in summer 2016, and currently features 120 businesses. www.oceanenergyireland.com
MARINE SPATIAL PLANNING POLICY
Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is not currently used as a decision making tool. However, the Marine Coordination Group is progressing the development of MSP in Ireland, work that will continue in the short and medium term.
The 2014 EU Directive on a Framework for Maritime Spatial Planning requires Member States to put maritime spatial plans in place by March 2021 at the latest. Ireland has until 2016 to transpose this directive into Irish law. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government will play a leading role in the development of a maritime spatial planning framework for Ireland.
As part of the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources (DCENR) Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP), a Strategic Environmental Assessment for Marine Renewables was also conducted in 2010.
Separately the Marine Renewables Industry Association (MRIA), the trade association for marine renewables on the island of Ireland, has previously published a White Paper on Initial Development zones (MRIA, 2010). This proposed that four initial Development Zones (IDZs) for Ocean Energy should be prioritized by the Government and that efforts to achieve the 2020 target should be focused on these zones.
Site selection is a matter for project developers in the first instance, subject to the relevant consent processes. Work has now commenced, through the OREDP, on mapping opportunity and constraints to inform future development.
The competent authorities currently involved in consenting for offshore energy projects are:
• Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG) – responsible for consenting of activities/developments on the foreshore (HMW to 12 mile territorial sea limit);
• The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) – responsible for licensing construction of new generating stations and their subsequent operation.
• EirGrid and ESB – transmission and distribution operators, respectively;
• Local planning authorities or An Bord Pleanála (The Irish Planning Authority) – responsible for consenting onshore components development.
The main steps for the offshore energy project consenting are the following:
• Foreshore license/lease (managed by DECLG) – while the nature, scale and impact of these projects can vary significantly, all require foreshore consent (i) to investigate/survey the site; (ii) to construct the development (and cabling); and (iii) to occupy the property. Currently, both the development consent and property management aspects of a foreshore lease or license are addressed simultaneously by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, when determining whether it is in the public interest to grant a foreshore lease or license;
• Permission to generate and grid connection (managed by CER) – generators with an installed capacity of 1 MW or less do not need to apply to the CER for an authorization to construct or a license to generate. Grid connection is subject to a separate administrative process involving either the transmission or the distribution system operators;
• Onshore development – where a project includes onshore components, consent for development will be required from relevant local planning authorities and/or An Bord Pleanála (The Irish Planning Authority).
There is no specific authority responsible to manage the ocean energy consenting process as a whole (“one stop shop” facility or entity). However, the new Maritime Area and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill will align the foreshore consent system with the planning system in order to streamline the EIA and AA processes for projects.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT
An EIA is assessed on a case-by-case basis. In the case of a proposed development on the foreshore, DECLG formally decides as part of the foreshore consent process whether or not a project would or would not be likely to have significant effects on the environment.
DECLG undertakes a screening exercise in respect of each application to determine if an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required. Where a proposed development also requires planning consent for development onshore, the relevant planning authority (a local authority or An Bord Pleanála) as part of the planning process will decide if an EIA is required or not.
In the case of a proposed development on the foreshore, if an EIA is required the foreshore lease/license application to DECLG will have to be accompanied by an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in accordance with section 13A(1)(c) of the Foreshore Act, 1933.
LEGISLATION AND REGULATION
There is no specific legislation to deal solely with ocean energy. Ocean energy developments are subject to the same legislation as any other marine development.
The Irish Government has recently published the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan which enables cross government support and collaboration for the sector and will inform ongoing review of relevant legislation.
The current Foreshore Act has been in place since 1933 and has been subject to limited updating in that time. A new Maritime Area and Foreshore (Amendment) Bill is expected to be enacted. The new Bill will aim to align the foreshore consent system with the planning system, to streamline the EIA process for projects and to provide a coherent mechanism to facilitate and manage development in maritime sea.
Two other policy initiatives are also of relevance. The Government of Ireland published ‘Harnessing our Ocean Wealth’ in 2012. This is an Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland which has the goal of delivering a thriving maritime economy, healthy ecosystems and more engagement with the sea. As part of the implementation of this policy two specific Task Forces have been created: the Enablers Task Force, which has been working on MSP at a strategic level, and the Developers Task Force.
With respect to the OREDP, a Steering Group has been created to take forward actions identified in the plan. These actions are being delivered by three working groups with particular focus on the environment, job creation and infrastructure development.
The provisions of the Public Participation Directive were applied to consent applications under the Foreshore Acts which require the preparation of an EIS by the European Communities (Foreshore) Regulations 2009 (S.I. No. 404 of 2009) and the European Union (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Foreshore) Regulations 2012 (S.I. No. 433 of 2012).
These regulations amend the Foreshore Act and apply to the consideration of foreshore consent applications subject to EIA. These regulations provide an enhanced level of public participation and information sharing on environmental matters.
GUIDANCE AND ADVICE
There are the following guidance:
• Guidance notes for pre-application consultation and investigate licenses available on the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG) website.
• Guidance for Authorization to Construct and License to Generate are available on the Commission for Energy regulation website.
Usually deployment in designated test centers are already pre-consented so developers do not have to submit a full application comprising all the typical consents providing certain initial conditions are met.
The Galway Bay Test Site is currently operated as a pre-consented test site where developers may test their quarter scale devices. The lease for the Galway Bay Test Site will be reviewed in 2016.
In the case of the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site, is it anticipated that a lease will be granted to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and individual WEC developers will be required to apply for a license consenting authorities (currently DECLG) to use an area within the test site. It is intended that the SEAI will produce guidance for developers in this regard going forward.