The past year has seen a turnaround in the fortunes of ocean energy in the Republic of Ireland with the publication in February of the Government’s Ocean Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP). The new policy recognised that the growth of ocean energy would require investment in maritime infrastructure - ships and, in particular, port facilities.
The OREDP followed the track laid down by three reports commissioned by Government since 2009 on the topic of maritime infrastructure and ocean energy (Scotland has had four reports on the same topic since 2010!). Put simply, the maritime infrastructure issue has three related strands. First, ocean energy still has a journey ahead of it to achieve technical maturity. Second, in Ireland’s case, any electricity generated from our bountiful west coast wave resource may need market opportunities, particularly in the export field, and these are not anticipated for some years to come. However, given that ocean energy becomes a reliable and (gradually) competitive source of electricity and that market opportunities are developed, then a major hurdle must be crossed: the actual capacity of Irish ports to support ocean energy. Ocean energy devices are large, ideally must be built (or at least assembled) close to deployment sites and will make significant demands on port facilities.
Ireland’s wave energy resource is off the west coast. It should be possible to support the development of the resource, at least at the southern end of the west coast, from Shannon Foynes and Cork. Beyond a certain level of deployment, the much smaller ports to the north of County Clare would struggle to cope with developments off Mayo –the most likely ocean energy location in the north-west - in particular.
This Paper analyses the issue, draws conclusions and make recommendations about a challenge which must be tackled if ocean energy is to develop at scale from around 2030 , a short time away in the notoriously long investment cycle times in energy and in maritime infrastructure.