David Ehrlich, cleantech.com on January 16, 2008
The country jumps on the ocean power bandwagon with $38 million for research and facilities and a new feed-in tariff.
Ireland announced a big push for wave energy with a major program of activity, grants and support for the nascent renewable industry.
The initiative calls for €26 million (US$38 million) to go toward research and facilities, and establishes a new feed-in-tariff for wave and tidal power in the country.
There are probably fewer than 10 full-scale ocean power prototypes in natural waters right now, but the technology is growing.
“If you actually look at the number of device developers in the world that have websites that have at least done some experimentation in small test tanks or whatever, then it’s like 40 wave and 40 tidal. It’s huge,” Roger Bedard, of the Electric Power Research Institute, told Cleantech.com.
Bedard is head of ocean power research at the Palo Alto, Calif.-based think tank.
The project in Ireland includes €2 million to go toward a grid-connected test site for full-scale prototypes to be located on the Mullet Peninsula in County Mayo in northwest Ireland.
“They currently have a sub-scale test facility in the Bay of Galway,” said Bedard. “They’ve been testing a couple of wave energy generators there for the past couple of years.”
The sub-scale location has smaller waves than in the open ocean, and tests smaller-scale devices.
Scotland is home to what is currently the only full-scale wave and tidal power testing site, in Orkney.
OpenHydro Group, an Irish tidal turbine company, has been testing one of its tidal generators at Orkney for the past few months.
The U.K. is also planning to build a large wave test facility off the coast of Cornwall (see U.K. plugs into Wave Hub).
“The wave center in Orkney is intended to be for single prototype testing devices,” said Bedard.
“A company would have to graduate from there to make it into the Wave Hub, whose purpose is more of an array of devices testing in a commercial way, interconnected to the grid.”
The news out of Ireland comes just a week after Nova Scotia, Canada, announced plans for what would be the first tidal power testing facility in North America (see Bay of Fundy to get three test turbines).
OpenHydro plans to be a part of that project as well.
In addition to the Irish, U.K., and Canadian projects, there could be more government-backed initiatives in the works.
“For the first time, the U.S. Department of Energy was appropriated money this fiscal year to start an ocean energy program,” said Bedard.
He said an omnibus appropriations bill signed into law in late December included $10 million for the new DOE program.
The U.S. government made another first in December when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission handed out the first license ever issued for a wave, tidal or current energy project in the country.
That license went to Vancouver, British Columbia’s Finavera Renewables for a wave power project in Washington (see Finavera gets federal approval for Wash. wave power).
Over in Ireland, the new program calls for the funding to go into the ocean power sector over the next three years.
A small-scale test facility at the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre at the University College Cork will be getting €1 million to support an upgrade of equipment, and €2 million will go toward grants which the government said would help developers commercialize their devices.
The feed-in-tariff of €220 per megawatt hour, or 22 cents per kilowatt hour, for wave and tidal power looks like it will take the biggest chunk of cash in the initiative.
But it may be a few years before ocean power gets to a commercial scale.
New York’s Verdant Power pulled its turbines out of the water last year after they took some damage from the rougher-than-expected East River tides.
“When wind turbines started, blades were breaking, ejecting all the time,” said Bedard. “So that’s not an unexpected thing. They just need to go through some engineering development.”
Ireland has set a target to produce 33 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.