Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Questions (107)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

107. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will supply an update on plans to make the Belmullet wave test site, County Mayo, operational, including possible joint ventures involving private investment; the priority that he is giving to the project as part of the development of our indigenous wave energy resource and without which we continue to fall behind other countries in research and development and associated jobs in this up and coming energy area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9953/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Wave and tidal energy is still at the RD&D stage globally. Ireland has a rich ocean resource and has significant potential in this area. In order to take forward the ocean energy strategy, an Ocean Energy Development Unit (OEDU) was established in the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) in 2009.

The OEDU has been taking forward the development of the sector through administration of a Prototype Development Fund of grants for industry. SEAI has also been progressing the development of a full scale grid connected wave test site near Belmullet off County Mayo, which would complement existing wave testing facilities i.e. the wave tank in Cork and the quarter scale wave testing site in Galway Bay.

The cumulative amount of expenditure on Ocean Energy in the period 2009 – 2013, including the estimated 2013 allocation, is €20.659m.

Ireland also has an opportunity to become a leader in ocean energy industries and technologies. Accordingly, other supports for the sector include the development of the Beaufort Laboratory as part of the IMERC facility in Cork. This will see a re-housing of the wave tank facility and will bring together researchers in the area currently based in the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre (HMRC) and the Coastal and Marine Research Centre (CMRC). The whole process is part of a broader campus approach with the Naval College, UCC and Cork Institute of Technology, aimed at maximising on marine industrial opportunities.

Research in the ocean energy area is ongoing in most universities across the country and ocean energy was recently identified as of 1 of 14 priority research areas by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in their Research Prioritisation Exercise.

The primary rationale for the Ocean Energy Programme, of which the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS) in Belmullet is but one component, is to develop and maximise the employment and wealth-generating industry activities that could potentially be associated with ocean energy as it evolves into a fully commercially viable sector. Various studies carried out to date have illustrated that there is considerable potential to create a range of long term jobs and viable indigenous industry.

Work is continuing in the development of the AMETS facilities off Belmullet and SEAI has been responsible for the co-ordination of the work programme. SEAI has applied to the Department of Environment for a foreshore lease in respect of the project and is the latter stages of the consenting process. Additionally a grid connection offer from ESB Networks has been accepted. A comprehensive data collection project to provide wave and seabed information for device developers is also underway.

The Government recognises the potential of our indigenous wave energy resource and the Research and Development and job potential in this area. In the context of overall reducing budgets, the capital allocation for the Ocean Energy Programme was increased to €5 million for 2013.

One of the priorities to be pursued is the further development of the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS). The potential for private sector involvement is being explored and the strategy as to how to bring this forward will be further considered.