Annex IV distributes metadata forms (questionnaires) to solicit information from developers involved in environmental monitoring around marine renewable energy project sites around the world. This page provides project descriptions, baseline assessment, post-installation monitoring, and links to available data and reports. Content is updated on an annual basis.

Galway Bay Test Site

Project Site Annex IV

Title: Galway Bay Test Site
Start Date:
January 01, 2006
Info Updated:
July 04, 2018
Project Status: 
Test site operational
Quarter-scale wind, wave and tidal energy devices
Project Scale: 
Test Site
Installed Capacity: 
No provision to export to the National Grid

The Galway bay Test Site is located on the north side of Galway Bay, 2.4km southeast of Spiddal village, which is located 19km west of Galway city. The area of the site is 37 hectares and it has water depths of 21-24 metres. The test site area is demarcated by four cardinal marks, one at each corner. A fibre optic telecommunications and power cable was installed from the test-site to the shore in April 2015.


Four Sites:

  • 1 North West 53°13.90’ N - 9°16.15’ W
  • 2 North East 53°13.90’ N - 9°15.55’ W
  • 3 South West 53°13.60’ N - 9°16.15’ W
  • 4 South East 53°13.60’ N - 9°15.55’ W
Licensing Information: 

A Foreshore Lease was granted to the Marine Institute by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government on 15th December 2017. This prescribes that a maximum of three marine renewable energy devices can be deployed at the site at any one time and for a maximum period of 18 months, with the exception of any floating wind energy device which can only be deployed for 12 months. The test site areas is leased for a period of 35 years, with test and demonstration devices for 10 years. All documentation relating to the Foreshore Lease is available at:

Process Status: 

The Galway bay Test Site has been operational since 2006 for wave energy device testing. In 2016 it was decided to expand the range of technologies that could be tested at the site. The Foreshore Lease facilitating this testing was granted in 2017.


The following is a list of deployed devices at the Galway Bay Test Site:


Key Environmental Issues: 

Benthic habitats: An appraisal established the baseline benthic fauna present at the test site and found a high level of similarity between the sampled locations and the results of a benthic faunal study carried out in 1981, suggesting that there has been no noticeable changes in benthic fauna in this area since the establishment of the original test site in 2006.


Marine mammals: As harbour porpoises (Annex II species of the Habitats Directive) are present throughout the year and entitled to strict habitat protection, and as part of the Foreshore Lease, a marine mammal and underwater noise monitoring programme, using up to date equipment and validation techniques, must be developed before any devices can be deployed. Full reporting of marine mammal observer operations and any associated mitigation measures must be made to the appropriate authority (NPWS).


Noise: Operational noise is more difficult to determine as it could vary according to device and technology types. The Environmental Report found that this would be the same as installation noise in terms of consequences and impacts.


Seabirds: The lowering of objects to the seafloor will result in the disturbance of natural sediments on the seafloor and temporarily re-suspend them; and a loss of substratum and disturbance to bird species in the installation area. Under the terms of the lease, a comprehensive environmental monitoring plan to be developed with NPWS and Birdwatch Ireland will be developed prior to any device deployments. This could include onsite observations and survey work if deemed appropriate.


Environmental Webpage: (Application Form and Supporting Materials > Environmental Report)

Galway Bay Test Site is located in Ireland.

Baseline Assessment: Galway Bay Test Site

General Description:

Studies conducted for the Environmental Impact Assessment.

ReceptorStudy Description Design and Methods Results Status
  • Physical Environment

Impacts on the seabed.

Survey on benthic species detailed in earlier report (Aquafact, 2010).

Disturbance to sediment and the resultant increases in suspended sediments and turbidity and the subsequent deposition of sediments will be of such a scale that impacts on the benthos, fisheries, birds and mammals will be negligible.

  • Physical Environment

New substrata/structure 

Previous studies from the site and from elsewhere (e.g. ORPC in Cobscook Bay, Horns Rev in Denmark).

All new hard surfaces installed in the test site will provide surfaces for colonisation e.g. underside of surface buoys or scaled devices, gravity bases and mooring chains etc. While colonisation of the structures will begin immediately, it is anticipated that at least 12 months will be required before a functional community has been established (i.e. individuals begin reproducing). Up to this point, structures can be removed from the site. Likelihood = High, Consequence = Negligible; Impact = Low

  • Marine Mammals

Presence of marine mammals. 

Marine Mammal surveys were conducted using both land-based and at-sea survey methods.

The area is an important habitat for Harbour porpoise with almost daily presence at the test site. This presence is influenced by seasonal, diel and tidal factors.

  • Marine Mammals

Collision Risk

Inferred from results found elsewhere. 

Likelihood = Unlikely; Consequence = Minor; Impact = Low

  • Marine Mammals


Impacts of installation and operational noise. 

The study carried out for the Galway Port expansion project (Galway Harbour Company, 2014b) showed that permanent (non-recoverable) and temporary (recoverable) injury do not occur for dolphins and porpoises due to shipping activity. The study also shows that permanent (non-recoverable) injury does not occur for seals and otters and that temporary (recoverable) injury will only occur within <2m of the ship. Conclusion is that the likelihood of installation noise is Possible; but consequences are negligible and hence impacts are low.

Marine mammal monitoring to assess the effect of a ¼ scale ocean energy device on harbour porpoise presence was carried out in galway Bay between 2009 and 2010 when an ocean energy scaled device was on site (O’Brien et al., 2012; O’Brien, 2013). Monitoring was also carried out at 2 control sites, one 1km east of the test site and the second was 500m west of the test site. Results from this short-term deployment and monitoring failed to show a significant difference in detections between sites, suggesting that the OE platform did not influence harbour porpoise presence, either positively or negatively.

  • Fish and Fisheries


Data from Central Statistics Office, BIM, MI, SFPA and Irish Naval Service as well as existing knowledge. 

There may be some very short-term disruption to fishing activity during device deployment and recovery operations; however, due to the small amount of ocean energy devices that will tested at any one time the impact on fishing will be negligible.

  • Birds

Impact on birds and specifically on the avian conservation interests of Natura 2000 sites within 15 km of the test site.

Review of literature and expert judgement together with results from previous studies in the area. 


  • Historic and Cultural Heritage

Potential impacts of test site and its operation.

Desktop assessment of background historical and archaeological data relating to the site and assessment of third party acquired marine geophysical data.

Development will have a specific but limited direct impact on the seafloor. Following review of the survey data, no archaeological features were identified within the test site. It is suggested that the current proposed development will not have any impact on any known archaeological features.

  • Water Quality

Potential impacts of test site and its operation on water quality. 

Review of existing literature and expert opinion. 

The test site is not anticipated to present any significant risks to water quality during installation, operation or decommissioning. In the marine environment, the main threat to water quality is oil pollution arising from accidental leakage from the vessels used in construction and deployment and from devices in operation.

  • Visual Landscape

Assess the likely impacts of the test site on the receiving environment in terms of both seascape character and visual amenity.

Methodology based on available published guidance. Also desktop review, fieldwork and expert analysis.

This coastline has an anthropogenic character and the continuing use of the Test Site is not considered to significantly conflict with the seascape values associated with the northern portion of Galway Bay. The overall significance of seascape impact is judged to be Slight and this only applies to a worst case scenario where all of the structures are briefly in place at the same time. In terms of visual impacts, the proposed structures will generally be seen as small-scale features from shore-based viewing locations due to the viewing distances involved (generally greater than 2km) and none are of significant bulk. Owing to the balance between the relatively high sensitivity of this seascape area versus the relatively low degree of impact arising from the proposed marine energy test facility, the highest overall significance of impact is deemed to be Moderate-Slight (VP3).

  • Vessel Navigation

Impact on navigation. 

Assessment of vessel types found in the area including seasonal variation in traffic patterns and fishing operations (AIS and VMS). Operational knowledge from previous 10 years.

Information on local ports and harbours, standard sailing routes, existing Aids to Navigation, existing navigation aids, known navigation hazards, industry activity, sea conditions, bathymetry, fishing grounds and fishing activity was gathered relating to navigation in the area to support the assessment. On assessment of the existing environment, no significant impact on navigation was identified.

Reports and Papers

All the documentation related to the environmental aspects can be found at:

Marine Institute - Spiddal

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