Conference told ocean waves a major resource of untapped renewable energy

‘Second Shannon scheme’ could be an offshore wave-power station off the Clare coast with a future extension off Kerry’

“The commercial development of wave energy converters is moving towards reality and is led by an Irish company,  Ocean Energy.” Photograph; Getty Images

“The commercial development of wave energy converters is moving towards reality and is led by an Irish company, Ocean Energy.” Photograph; Getty Images

 

The big climate issue facing Ireland is reducing greenhouse gas emissions and switching to a low carbon way of living, and Prof Tony Lewis believes this can be done.

Prof Lewis, of the UCC centre for marine and renewable energy, says that harnessing ocean-wave energy can play a big part.

The Shannon region is a significant producer of electricity with a 900MW coal-fired power station at Moneypoint, Co Clare. It will be decommissioned between 2025 and 2030 to eliminate about 15 per cent of Ireland’s current greenhouse gas emissions, but with significant potential job losses.

However, Prof Lewis says there is a significant resource of untapped renewable energy off the Irish west coast in ocean waves, and his proposal would exploit that resource sustainably.

“The proposed project aims at mobilising the citizens of the Shannon region to tap this resource and provide a sustainable future for the area in relation to employment as well as by contributing to the low-carbon Irish energy system.”

His idea was one of 27 diverse and innovative ideas showcased at the Creative Responses to Climate Change conference in Trinity College on Monday. Many of the proposed initiatives were from communities, NGOs and “grassroots” organisations already helping citizens play their part in climate action.

Energy converters

“The commercial development of wave energy converters is moving towards reality and is led by an Irish company – Ocean Energy,” he said. “This company is constructing a 1 megawatt (MW) prototype in Portland, Oregon. This device will be deployed at the US navy test site, with follow-on testing at a more exposed site and will be ready for market roll-out in 2021.”

He said the “first Shannon scheme” showed how a far-seeing government in 1925 electrified the country by investing one fifth of its annual budget in constructing a hydro-power station at Ardnacrusha.

Their project could be seen as the “second Shannon scheme” which would build an offshore wave-power station off the Clare coast with a future extension off Kerry.

The “wave-energy converters” would be installed over the period 2022-2032. Further roll-out to achieve full capacity of 900MW was envisaged before 2040. If the project was accepted by the government the initial devices would be fabricated at a shipyard, the bare hulls delivered to the Shannon Estuary, and power conversion systems fitted out.

“A local industry will develop around the fit-out, and will provide replacement employment for Moneypoint staff,” he added.

Food choices

Among other projects featured in the conference “marketplace” was an ethical shopping app developed by an Irish start-up Evocco that allows consumers to make more sustainable food choices by tracking the impact their buying decisions have on the environment including their carbon footprint.

Co-founders Hugh Weldon and Ahmad Mu’azzam conceived the idea while studying mechanical engineering at Trinity. “In tracking the supply chain and changing purchasing behaviour we can gather valuable data insights to help food retailers and producers reduce their impact too.”