The Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS) is being developed by Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to facilitate testing of full-scale wave energy converters in an open ocean environment.
AMETS will be located off Annagh Head, west of Belmullet in County Mayo and will be connected to the national grid. The test site is an integral component of Ireland’s Ocean Energy Strategy and is being developed in accordance with the national Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP).
The site will be focused on wave energy and will provide two separate test locations at various depths of water to allow for a range of devices to be tested. It is envisaged that the test site will provide a grid connected national test facility, to which full scale wave energy converters could be coupled during their final stages of pre-commercial development.
AMETS is located in the Belmullet area of County Mayo, Ireland. Offshore there are two test areas: Test Area A at 100m water depth is located some 16km out from Belderra Strand; and Test Area B at 50m water depth is located 6km from the strand. Test Area A is 6.9 km2 (2.02 nautical square miles) and Test Area B is 1.5 km2 (0.44 nautical square miles).
Environmental Impact Assessment and Appropriate Assessment complete; Foreshore Lease Award, January 2016; Substation Planning Permission, April 2017; Ongoing resource data collection.
The test site is not yet in operation for developers but SEAI can offer interested developers a suite of detailed information such as live met-ocean data measurements, numerical wave modelling reports including wave propagation and wave energy assessments, offshore site investigations including vibrocores and multi-beam surveys. Environmental Impact Assessment and Appropriate Assessment complete; Foreshore Lease Award, January 2016; Substation Planning Permission, April 2017; Ongoing resource data collection.
Key Environmental Issues
Noise: Survey of terrestrial noise included in EIA. Construction noise [terrestrial] will be within the limits set by the National Roads Authority (NRA). Marine noise was also considered but this consisted of a literature review rather than actual noise monitoring, primarily due to the fact that no wave energy converters of the type and scale expected to be deployed at AMETS have been constructed yet. Based on existing studies it is anticipated that the potential impacts of noise at AMETS will be of short duration and low.
EMF: No dedicated survey, critique of existing literature and research results along with advice on mitigation methods and monitoring practice.
Water quality: The main impacts on water quality will arise during the construction phase, when cable burial and anchoring operations will generate suspended sediment close to the cables. However, this will quickly settle and there will be only a temporary and insignificant impact on water quality.
Air quality: Considering the low levels of air pollutants in the receiving environment and the rapid dispersion in the area, the impact on air quality from emissions associated with construction, operation and decommissioning of the test site is expected to be negligible.
Papers, Reports, Research Studies
All the documentation related to the Environmental Impact Assessment for AMETS can be found on the Ocean Energy Ireland portal: http://www.oceanenergyireland.com/PublicationGallery/Publications:
• A Hydrodynamic Modelling Framework for Strangford Lough Part 1: Tidal Model
• Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site: Environmental Impact Statement
• Environmental Aspects of Developing Ireland’s Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS)
• Seabird Surveys at Ireland’s Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS)
Baseline Assessment: Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS)
|Receptor||Study Description||Design and Methods||Results||Status|
|Marine Mammals||Presence of marine mammals.||Marine mammal surveys were conducted using both land based watches (total 13) undertaken between October 2009 and October 2010 from Annagh Head, seasonal vessel-based line transects through the AMETS (total 6), towed hydrophone surveys and analysis of data recorded by CPODS deployed at the site and a number of control stations. Also looked at historic data.||Seven cetacean species, two seal species, and two other marine megafaunal species (sunfish and basking shark) were recorded.||Completed|
|Marine Mammals||Impact of noise on marine mammals.||Project analysis with literature review.||Of the species recorded in the vicinity of the AMETS, porpoise are likely to be the most sensitive to disturbance, actively avoiding vessels because they are more sensitive to high frequency sounds than dolphins. The impact during construction will be temporary and will not be significant and mammals will return to the area once construction is completed.||Completed|
|Birds||Bird presence study.||Birds were observed through a combination of monthly land-based watches from vantage points and monthly offshore seabird surveys. Land-based surveys were completed for shore and open water bay habitats, for terrestrial habitats at the landfall sites, and on Inishglora Island. Eight sea-based surveys were conducted between October 2009 and October 2010.||The Mullet peninsula and its nearby islands are protected under the EU Birds Directive through a number of Special Protection Area (SPA) designations. Important species that use the shore habitats of the bay are wintering waders, common sandpiper and ringed plover. Use of shore habitats by flocks of roosting gulls and by waders during the summer months is also of note. Survey coverage of shore habitats and their use by birds was considered good. The potential impacts on birds will vary depending on the location of the installations and on the timing of construction activities.||Completed|
|Invertebrates||Characterise subtidal and intertidal habitats and species.||The Marine Institute conducted multi-beam surveys in 2007 and 2008 (R.V. Celtic Voyager) with supplementary multi-beam surveys by IMAR Survey in September and October 2009. Geotechnical investigation (vibrovoring) was undertaken by the Marine Institute and Coastline Limited. In areas not surveyed by remote methods, concentrated surveys by drop-down video and/or diver surveys were conducted.||The communities present within the site are all characteristic of exposed communities already subject to extreme wave action. During the survey they all showed evidence of being subjected to the effects of sand scouring and sediment movement, and any sedimentation caused during the cable laying process is unlikely to have any more effect on these communities than a natural storm event would have. The greatest potential for impact on subtidal benthos is the creation of artificial reefs which may fragment communities and provide habitat for predatory species leading to impact on benthic species.||Completed|
|Physical Environment, Sediment Transport||Impact on the wave resource, sediment transport, and coastal landform.||Modelling of the impact of wave energy converters was carried out by the Hydraulic and Maritime Research Centre in UCC.||The modelling indicated that the impact of the wave energy converters when deployed at the test area would be insignificant in comparison to the natural processes occurring in the bay. There will be no significant impacts on sediment transport, coastal landform or surfing waves.||Completed|
|Ecosystem Processes||Characterise the wind, atmospheric pressure, and direction.||A Met Ocean buoy is moored at Test Area A. An Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) is located on the seabed adjacent to the weather buoy.||NA||Underway|
|Ecosystem Processes||Characterise the currents and wave resource.||A Waverider buoy is moored at Test area B. At 20m water depth one ADCP may be deployed on the seabed.||In tests during the summer and fall of 2016, the prototype generated an output of more than 3 kW at a tidal current velocity of 0.8 m/s. The results correspond to full power production for a commercial-scale 0.5MW power plant at 1.75 m/s current velocity.||Ongoing|
|Human Dimensions, Social & Economic Data||Identify any cultural heritage sites.||The cultural heritage of the area was examined through archaeological, architectural and historical studies. The archaeological and architectural study involved a documentary search and field inspection of the area. Field inspections of the marine environment (geophysics and dive surveys) and walkover surveys on the intertidal and land areas were also undertaken.||Although there are a number of recorded archaeological monuments and finds in the vicinity, none will be directly impacted by the proposed development. The combined results of the desktop assessment and the field survey indicate that, although the subject site is one of considerable archaeological and historical significance, there is no evidence of archaeological material at the site of the proposed development. There is, however, the potential that invasive ground works at the site may impact upon previously unrecorded archaeological material.||Completed|
|Human Dimensions, Visual Impacts||Determine visual impacts to landscape and seascapes||Project analysis.||The greatest visual impacts during the construction stage would occur in the vicinity of the substation site and at the location of the underground cable. These impacts would be negative, but would be moderate and temporary.||Completed|
|Human Dimensions, Navigation||Identify potential points of conflict with vessel navigation||Consultations were carried out with all groups, organisations and agencies with a stake and/or interest in the waters off the west coast of Ireland, in particular the region off the Mayo coast.||From these consultations it was concluded that some alteration to standard navigation routes may occur resulting from the presence of the test areas but this will not have a significant impact on navigation in the area.||Completed|
|Human Dimensions, Fisheries||Impact on the local fishing industry.||Information was obtained from consultations with stakeholders, Corine (Coordination of Information on the Environment) land cover mapping, and site visits.||Inshore fishing activities within the project area consist of brown crab and lobster fishing and some trawling. During the construction and decommissioning phases, and during WEC deployment and recovery operations, the project’s impacts on the fishing industry in the area will be temporary in nature and of low significance overall. When operating, the test area will effectively constitute fishing exclusion zones. The impact on the crab and lobster fishing industry will, however, be low as Test Area A was redesigned following an extensive consultation process with the fishing community. Test Area B, at the 50m water depth, will not impact significantly on fishing activity in the area. Trawling activity will be impacted, with a reduction in access to the trawling ground adjacent to Test Area A of some 9%. However this impact, although negative, can be considered low, given that the area is one of five such areas fished in the region and the overall impact will be small (ESBI, 2011).||Completed|