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 2015. 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 overarching 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 before the end of 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
Fifteen new projects were awarded grants totalling €4.3 million through the Prototype Development Fund in 2015. Successful applicants include Ocean Energy Ltd., who secured €2.3 million to design and build a full scale version of their OE Buoy wave energy converter which will be deployed and tested at the US Navy Wave Energy Test Site in Hawaii. Other examples include SeaPower, who will receive over €1 million to test their wave energy converter at quarter scale in Galway Bay, while GKinetic Energy were awarded almost €200,000 to conduct towing tests of their tidal turbine system in Limerick Docks. Other projects include physical tank testing of early stage wave energy convertor concepts and feasibility studies of potential deployment sites.
2015 saw the installation of a 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. Separately, SEAI announced a Memorandum of Understanding with Apple in November 2015 to promote the development of ocean energy in Ireland. Apple has committed a €1 million fund that will help developers who receive a SEAI grant to test their ocean energy prototypes in the Galway Bay Ocean Energy Test Site.
The infrastructure to support testing at AMETS continues to be advanced, and it is expected that planning permission for the onshore aspects of the site, including the electrical substation, will be submitted early 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.
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 2015, MaREI had approximately 90 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 small and medium enterprises across the marine and renewable energy spaces, to the value of €5 million.
MaREI also secured over €4 million in additional funding from the SFI Infrastructure Fund in late 2015, which will allow the addition of an ‘Open Ocean Emulator’ at Lir-NOTF to accurately replicate real ocean wave conditions, and the development of an MRE Remotely Operated Vehicle by Prof. Dan Toal to address issues experienced by conventional equipment in challenging high-energy offshore conditions.
Ocean Energy Forum – The Ocean Energy Forum has been created by the European Commission DG MARE to bring together stakeholders to develop a shared understanding of the problems faced by the Ocean Energy sector and to collectively devise workable solutions. Irish representatives have been active in developing the draft Strategic Roadmap which sets out the industry’s six-point plan for bringing ocean energy technologies to the marketplace.
The European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Karmenu Vella, convened a high level session of the Ocean Energy Forum in Dublin in October 2015 to discuss the first conclusions of the draft Strategic Roadmap. This event was attended by several ministers from participating member states, including Ireland’s Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources Alex White.
The Ocean Energy Forum event was held to coincide with the annual Ocean Energy Europe Conference & Exhibition which took place in Croke Park Dublin and was sponsored by SEAI.
Competition on Hydrodynamic Modelling of a Rigid Body - Launched by Prof. John Ringwood and Prof. Frederic Dias of MaREI, this competition sought to evaluate different ways to model and simulate a device. Six teams from Korea, Canada, USA, Ireland and Norway submitted entries to the competition, which was won by a team from NREL in the USA. The results were presented at two special sessions of the ASME 34th International Conference on Offshore Mechanics and Artic Engineering in Canada in June.
International Smart Ocean Graduate Education Initiative - Ireland has a graduate programme co-funded by members of the SmartOcean group, which has a mix of Irish and International entities. The first round of PhDs started in 2013.
GKinetic - 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 of towing tests of a 1/10 scale version of the turbine system in Limerick Docks in late 2015 in order to understand and assess the performance of the technology.
WestWave – 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 securing the required permits, conducting site investigations, including detailed wave measurements, and developing the design and functional specificati on of the project. It is anticipated that applications for the site’s Foreshore Lease and onshore planning permission will be lodged in 2016.
MARINE SPATIAL PLANNING POLICY
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.
• 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);
• 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;
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
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
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.
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
• Guidance notes for pre-application consultation and investigate licenses available on the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG) website.
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.