In terms of marine energy testing facilities in Irish waters, there is one existing wave test site in Galway Bay in operation. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and the Marine Institute established an Ocean Energy Test Site for quarter scale prototypes of wave energy devices in Galway Bay in 2006. The Galway Bay wave energy test site facilitates the open sea deployment of scaled prototypes of Wave Energy Converters during the early stages of the development of their concept.
Ancillary power and communications are also available on site. Wave energy devices that have been successfully deployed at the test-site since its inception include Wavebob and the Ocean Energy buoy. Also incorporated within the test site area is the SmartBay project, run by the Marine Institute. This is a national research infrastructure project for oceanographic monitoring.
The Galway Bay test site has been co-funded by the Marine Institute and Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland i.e. from state funds. Free access to the Galway site for developers is however available through Marinet. Marinet is an EC-funded network of research centres and organisations that are working together to accelerate the development of marine renewable energy - wave, tidal and offshore-wind - by offering periods of free access to their world-class testing facilities, standardising testing, coordinating research, providing focused training and industry networking. Marinet can be accessed by contacting the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre at Beaufort, University College Cork.
The Ocean Energy Development Unit in SEAI was established to progress the ocean energy sector in Ireland. SEAI has also been taking forward the development of a full scale grid connected wave test site off Annagh Head, County Mayo. This site is not yet operational. SEAI has applied to the Department of Environment for a foreshore lease in respect of the project and is in 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 cumulative amount of expenditure on Ocean Energy by SEAI in the period 2009 – 2013, including the estimated 2013 allocation, is €20.659m. Some of this funding has also been allocated under a grant scheme for industry known as the Prototype Development Fund. SEAI has been allocated an ocean energy budget this year and has several current applications from ocean energy companies for funding under this scheme. Applications are being assessed with a view to the distribution of funds to eligible applicants within the budget available.
Other supports for the sector include the development of the Beaufort Laboratory as part of the IMERC facility in Cork, which 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), as part of a broader campus approach with the Naval College, UCC and Cork Institute of Technology, aimed at maximising on marine industrial opportunities.
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) at Annagh Head. The potential for private sector involvement in this regard is being explored.