An all-Irish conference on exploiting the island’s potential for marine energy brought together 60 U.S. companies with officials from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland this week.
The Irish coastline is considered to be among the best in the world for offshore wind, wave and tidal resources, Irish officials said. Both Dublin and Belfast have plans to develop alternative marine energy into a cutting-edge industry. The two-day conference was being held simultaneously in the two capitals.
At the conference, Irish electricity supplier Energia signed a deal with the wave technology firm Ocean Energy Systems of the U.S. to take electricity produced by its wave energy converter, starting with a prototype being developed and tested in County Mayo, on Ireland’s western coast. The initial WEC generator is to be capable of generating 12 megawatt hours of electricity a day.
“The oceans of the world contain as much as 10 trillion watts of renewable energy,” Brian Cunningham, chief executive of Ocean Energy Systems, commented, “and Ireland’s west coast is recognized as one of the richest wave environments in the world.”
Powered by a swell of 8-foot high waves for 8.5 seconds, the WEC can supply 500 kilowatts of electricity to the grid – for a carbon dioxide savings of 840 pounds, the companies said.
The conference, called Marine Energy and Smart Grid Workshop, also included a pitch from General Electric Corp. of the U.S. for its smart grid technology.
“With Ireland expecting a 60% increase in energy demand by 2025, action needs to be taken now to increase energy efficiency, control demand and add renewable generation to the electrical grid,” GE vice president Bob Gilligan said.
The GE official said smart grid technology is essential to realize the benefits from renewable energy like wind and solar. GE technology is supporting a similar initiative in Hawaii – islands with no domestic source of fossil fuels.
Unlike wind and solar resources, wave and tidal resources suitable for generating energy are limited by the specific geographic requirements. As a result, the technology for harnessing these forms of energy are largely still in the developmental stage.
By. Darrell Delamaide