Ireland riding the wave energy


A Western Australian company has recently signed off Ireland’s first commercial scale wave energy plant.


SBS’ Sergei Pianella investigates whether this technology will ever become commercially viable.

“We have the potential to produce, from wave alone, two or three times our entire consumption which will be maybe 15,000 megawatts,” the Head of the Ocean Energy Development Unit in Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) Dublin said.

“The challenge for us is whether we’re going to be among the players that unlock this technology,” Owen Sweeney added.

The Irish government has been an enthusiastic backer. It has helped fund a number of projects like this one– a prototype wave-power electric generator. It’s called the Ocean Energy Buoy.

“The principle that it operates on is that there is a large ducting, or chamber, inside this device which is open to the sea at the rear and inside the chamber there is an air volume,” Tony Lewis Director, Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre at University College Cork (UCC) explained.

“That air volume is compressed by the waves and as the waves go by that compressed air is forced through the turbine which spins to generate electricity,” he said.

After three years in a wave tank the buoy was tested in the open ocean with excellent results.

Professor of the Economics of Climate Change at the free University in Amsterdam Richard Tohl says the biggest hurdle for the sector remains the cost of generating this type of power.

“First, very few people live in the ocean, it’s simply a long way away from where we need the electricity and that increases its cost and the second reason is that the environment is so hostile”.

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