Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
126. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to develop an ocean energy test site centre at Belmullet, County Mayo; and the progress made to date if any. [28955/11]
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Wave and tidal energy, commonly known as ocean energy, is still at the RD&D stage globally. In 2008, the Ocean Energy Development Unit (OEDU) was established in the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to take forward Ireland’s ocean energy programme.
Already by 2008, a number of Irish universities and the Marine Institute were pursuing research and initiatives in the ocean energy area and a quarter scale test site for devices had been established in Galway Bay. The intention was to eventually be able to test full scale grid connected pre-commercial wave energy prototypes. In order to achieve this goal, the OEDU in SEAI has been pursuing a strategy of developing a site where this testing could take place.
The proposed Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS) project in Belmullet, County Mayo, is approaching a stage of development that would see it ready to enter the full consenting process within the next few months subject to budgetary considerations for 2012 and forward years. The test site includes two offshore test areas at 50m and 100m water depths which would in turn be connected to a shore based electricity substation.
The site off Annagh Head near Belmullet was selected in 2008 on the basis of a comprehensive study which looked at a variety of sites along the west coast of Ireland. The decision to choose Belmullet was based principally on the quality of the wave climate (amongst the best in the world), suitable grid for electrical connection, good shore infrastructure and deepwater with sandy seabed close to shore.
Arup Engineering Services was appointed in 2009 to manage the overall project while ESB International has provided engineering support since the commencement of the project. To facilitate local input into the project as well as address any potential concerns about the project, a local liaison service has been established in the local civic offices in Belmullet.
To facilitate a complete investigation of the proposed test site area a foreshore licence was granted that enabled a variety of surveys to take place. These surveys formed the basis of a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which is in progress for the past 12 to 18 months and includes environmental, mammal, marine traffic and bathymetry amongst others. This will in turn form the basis of a foreshore lease application for the offshore test areas and planning application for the sub-station, subject to budgetary considerations.
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