The WestWave project proposal is to develop a 5 MW wave energy project off the west coast of Ireland by 2015. The project is led by ESB Energy International Limited (ESBI) who will work with a number of wave energy technology partners in order to develop the project.
This project is a collaborative approach from ESBI and other potential utility partners to accelerate the development of the ocean energy sector in Ireland through the development of a pre-commercial wave farm array off the west coast in line with Irish Government Ocean Energy Strategy and the EU Ocean Energy Association’s Roadmap. It is a ‘public good’ project which seeks to attract support from the EU under NER300 funding mechanism as well as support from relevant state agencies and departments in Ireland along with leading Irish and international wave energy technology developers. ESBI believes this approach will deliver the best outcome for Ireland and the EU leading to the development of commercial wave farm projects by 2020 and beyond.
The west coast of Ireland offers the best European resource in terms of wave energy potential. The potential exists to develop a significant ocean energy industry with sustainable long term employment and expertise. As part of the Ocean Energy Strategy ESBI is proposing to develop a pilot scale wave energy farm at a location on the west coast of Co Mayo. The exact location for the wave farm has not yet been identified but there are a number of options in the general area of Achill Island County Mayo which have been identified as offering potential to site the pilot wave farm.
The WEC technology suited for this project in this nearshore location is the Oyster device developed by Aquamarine Power Limited. This device operates in shallow water up to 20 m in depth and will be located close to the shore. The Oyster device has been on test in Billia Croo in Orkney and its characteristics are well understood. Data as to its environmental performance will be available to enable assessment of potential impacts and development of any required mitigation measures to be made.
The proposed development will comprise a total of six Oyster wave energy converters. These will be fixed to the rocky seabed, each using a piled foundation. The devices will be partially submerged with about 3m protruding above the sea level. The Oyster device does not produce any electricity itself but pressurises water in a high pressure pipeline to shore where electricity will be produced in the form of a hydroelectric power plant. Onshore infrastructure will include the power plant, substation and access road.
Installation of the devices will require piling of a foundation using a jackup barge and support vessels, tugs and diver support vessels and a multicat vessel. Installation of the 6 devices is expected to take about 4 months. Construction of the hydroelectric power plant and access road is expected to take about 6 months.
Preliminary ecological and archaeological assessments, in the general location, have been undertaken to assist in identifying the most appropriate final location for the project. There are no protected areas in the marine or terrestrial environment at any of the site options possible for the project but it is likely that near shore reef areas would be protected under the Habitats Directive. Within fifteen kilometres of the area, Special Protection Areas under the EU Birds Directive have also been designated as important for seal and bird breeding. Assessment under Article 6.3 of the Habitats Directive will be undertaken and a separate assessment report will be provided.
The development will require a foreshore lease from the Foreshore Licensing Unit of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and planning permission from Mayo County Council.
If required a full Environmental Impact Statement in accordance with the requirements of the European Communities (Foreshore) Regulations 2009, (S.I. No. 404 0f 2009) will be prepared.
All aspects of the project will be considered including, construction phase, operational phase, decommissioning phase and potential cumulative impacts of other plans or projects in the area.
An Environmental Management Plan and Environmental Monitoring Plan will be developed in consultation with key stakeholders which will set out key management and monitoring to be undertaken to monitor impact on the environment during all project phases and provide a basis for corrective actions should these become necessary.
The project will serve to integrate policy and knowledge needs in the marine renewable energy area and will lead to the development of a robust approach and methodology for assessment of projects of this type.
This report provides the basis of the request for screening and scoping opinion.