Wave and tidal energy potentially worth €9bn

Wave and tidal energy potentially worth €9bn

01 June 2011 at 00:00
A "fully developed” all-Ireland ocean energy sector could be worth about €9 billion and fuel the home and global market by 2030, a new report says.
 
Up to 52,000 jobs could be created in wave energy and 17,000 posts in tidal energy if the Government’s 2020 renewable targets were met, according to the report by a British consultancy firm.
 
The SQW Energy economic study for ocean energy development in Ireland was commissioned by the Government’s Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland.
 
It says that if there was an “appropriate level of investment” in the sector, it could provide “long-term sustainable growth and wealth creation”. Such investment would need to be matched by “ocean energy development and deployment”, it warns.
 
The report studied wave and tidal power, both of which are the focus of research involving five universities here to devise the best technology. Tidal energy operates on the same principle as hydroelectricity or “underwater windmills”, in using tidal power to drive turbines that generate power.
 
However, suitable tidal power sites here are limited and systems are subject to damage in harsh environments. Similarly, wave energy technology is subject to the force of the sea, but is based on drawing energy from surface waves, using a number of different “rise and fall” capture systems.
 
Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan has set a target of 500mw of ocean energy to be installed by 2020 and a State full-scale test site is being developed off north Mayo – a location regarded as having the best potential on an Atlantic margin, which is one of the world’s most energetic wave resources.
 
The SQW report acknowledges that there is still “much to learn” in developing the best device and concept, and says the “local capacity of research organisations” will be “critical”.
 
However, the upside is that the research also attracts international finance or companies interested in investing in the sector. It says that for a direct State subsidy of about €60 million, the island of Ireland could provide both the domestic and export markets with renewable energy. The most suitable wave sites are located in the Republic, while the North has the most suitable sites for tidal energy, the report states.
 
With “sufficient learning rates, encouraged and proven through initial subsidy”, it is possible that an island of Ireland wave energy industry meeting the 500mw target by 2020 could produce 1,431 additional full-time jobs and a net present value of €0.25 billion. This would increase to between 17,000 and 52,000 jobs and a net present value of between €4 billion and €10 billion by 2030, it forecasts.
 
Similarly, a tidal industry providing 200MW of capacity by 2020 may deliver about 600 full-time jobs and a net present value of €111 million, increasing to between 8,500 and 17,000 full-time jobs and a net present value of between €1.5 billion and €2.75 billion by 2030.
 
The marine renewables industry is known to be frustrated by the lack of sufficient Government commitment to the sector, and fears that this could drive away interested international investors.
 
This article was kindly reproduced from The Irish Times