The Galway Bay ¼ scale wave energy test site has been in operation since 2006. The site has provided test and validation facilities for a number of devices to date.
The following is a list of deployed devices at the Galway Bay Test Site:
- Ocean Energy Buoy (Installed January 2007, Decommissioned May 2011)
The Marine Institute, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, the MarEI Centre (Marine Renewable Energy Ireland) and SmartBay Ireland have been working together to enhance research infrastructure at the test site. The project was funded through a grant from Science Foundation Ireland, at a total cost of €3.6m and consists of 3 components:
- A standard telecommunications cable from a shore station via the new pier at Spiddal (west) to the wave energy test site providing power and data connectivity
- Subsea test and monitoring platforms
- Floating sea station platform
The first two components, the Galway Bay subsea Cabled Observatory, were installed in 2015. The 4km cable was installed in April 2015 using the Marine Institute’s research vessel the R.V. Celtic Explorer and comes ashore at Spiddal Pier. Researchers can bring their marine instruments and sensors to the test site. These can be plugged into dedicated science ports on the subsea test platform. The subsea test and monitoring platform was deployed in August 2015.
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.
- 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 area 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 here.
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.
In 2022, the test site awaits reopening and issuing of the lease.
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.
Papers, Reports, Research Studies
- The Marine Institute (2016). Galway Bay Marine and Renewable Energy Test Site Foreshore Lease Application Environmental Report. Report by Irish Marine Institute and Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). pp 280.
- Application forms, supporting materials, and the environmental report’s appendices, can be found here.
Baseline Assessment: Galway Bay Test Site
|Receptor||Study Description||Design and Methods||Results||Status|
|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.||Completed|
|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||Negligible||Completed|
|Birds, Physical Environment, Marine Mammals, Human Dimensions, Fisheries||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.||Completed|
|Physical Environment||New substrata/structures||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||Completed|
|Physical Environment||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.||Completed|
|Human Dimensions, Fisheries||Impact to fishing/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.||Completed|
|Human Dimensions||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.||Completed|
|Human Dimensions, Visual Impacts||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).||Completed|
|Human Dimensions, 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.||Completed|
Post-Installation Monitoring: Galway Bay Test Site
|Stressor||Receptor||Study Description||Design and Methods||Results||Status|
|Noise||Marine Mammals||Impacts of installation and operational noise||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.||Completed|