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.
- 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
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: https://www.housing.gov.ie/planning/foreshore/applications/marine-institute-spiddal
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:
- Ocean Energy Buoy
- Installed January 2007, Decommissioned May 2011
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: https://www.housing.gov.ie/planning/foreshore/applications/marine-institute-spiddal (Application Form and Supporting Materials > Environmental Report)