#MarineScience - A subsea cable laid from the RV Celtic Explorer in Galway Bay this week marks a major milestone in the development of Ireland's national marine research and development infrastructure.
The four-kilometre cable and a frame to which sensors and monitoring equipment will be attached are part of the development of an ocean observatory in Galway Bay connecting the Galway Bay Ocean Energy Test Site to the shore at Spiddal, Co Galway.
The cable will supply power to the site and allow unlimited data transfer from the site for researchers testing innovative marine technology including renewable ocean energy devices.
The Marine Institute and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) have been working together to promote and develop Ireland's ocean energy potential, and this project – with partners SmartBay Ltd, UCC (MarEI - Marine Renewable Energy Ireland), and Dublin City University – is part of a programme to enhance the Galway Bay Ocean Energy Test Site.
A suite of sensors and environmental monitoring equipment will be installed on the cable end frame this summer, as well a floating 'sea station' which will give developers real-time data on how their devices are performing in the ocean.
"Ireland's sea area is around 10 times the size of our land area and with one of the best offshore renewable energy resources in the world, the opportunities to harness the power of the ocean are immense," says Marine Minister Simon Coveney.
"The new facilities at the Galway Bay Ocean Energy Test site will attract companies and researchers developing marine technology and renewable ocean energy equipment, and will position Ireland at the forefront of these emerging sectors by developing an expert indigenous supply chain that will expand as these sectors grow.
"The ocean observatory will also enhance our ability to monitor the ocean and better understand how it works, which is critical to tackling issues such as climate change."
Energy Minister Alex White adds that "offshore renewable energy has the potential to be a major component of Ireland's future energy mix and it is vital that we facilitate developments like this one in Galway Bay.
"Over time, the introduction of ocean energy into Ireland's renewables portfolio will enhance the security of Ireland's energy supply, deliver green growth, and add to the 47,000 jobs already supported by our energy sector.
"Government support for ocean research, development and demonstration has been increasing with €16.8 million added to my department's multi-annual ocean energy development budget between 2013 and 2016, bringing the total cumulative funding to over €26 million."
Instrument nodes and sensor packages to be installed at the Galway Bay Ocean Energy Test Site this summer will contribute to marine sectors including environmental monitoring, shipping, maritime security and education.
Extensive historical wave and weather data is also available for this site since 2008 and is available to potential device developers.
The new research infrastructure is expected to position Galway Bay as a unique world-class ocean energy test site.
The addition of a cabled ocean observatory means Ireland will also play an important role in the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance between Europe, the USA and Canada under the Galway Statement signed at the Marine Institute Galway in May 2013 – and under which the RV Celtic Explorer will undertake the first transatlantic mapping survey between Galway and Newfoundland this coming June.
The cable project is funded in part by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) under its Research Infrastructure Call 2012 which contributed €2.2m to the project. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine contributed an additional €600,000 to the project in 2014. The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources will fund additional infrastructure and the ongoing operations of the Galway Bay test site through the SEAI Ocean Energy Programme.