Through the combined effort of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), the Marine Institute, Commissioners of Irish Lights and Smartbay Ireland, the final piece of equipment has been deployed to give researchers and ocean energy developers unique insight into the Galway Bay marine environment.
The observatory is now entering into a commissioning period and is expected to be operational in the coming months.
The ocean observatory will enable the use of cameras, probes and sensors to permit continuous and remote live underwater monitoring. Data from the equipment will be fed via an underwater cable, which was deployed last April, to the Marine Institute where analysis will take place.
Data from the observatory will also be available online through the Digital Ocean Platform under development by the Marine Institute.
The equipment has been installed in the Galway Bay test site, an area 1.5km off Spiddal pier used primarily to test small scale ocean energy devices.
This observatory equipment will allow ocean energy developers to monitor how their devices are performing in the ocean as well as give ocean researchers unique real-time access to monitor ongoing changes in the marine environment.
Also deployed at the test site this weekend was a novel mooring tether developed by an Irish company Technology From Ideas. This technology reduces the impacts of rough seas on moored devices, thus making them cheaper to design and construct. It also reduces need for excessive ropes and chains for moorings, which reduces impact on the seabed and the environment. The development and testing of the mooring tether is being grant supported by the SEAI.
"We are seeing lots of great developments in Ireland's marine and ocean energy research facilities," said Declan Meally, head of emerging technologies at the SEAI. "The new Galway undersea ocean observatory will strengthen our offering and greatly assist the testing of new ocean energy technologies.
"Also, in helping the development of support structures, such as moorings, SEAI is ensuring that the supply chain for the offshore energy renewable sector is simultaneously progressing."
Peter Heffernan of Marine Institute added: "It has been great to get the support of the SEAI and Commissioners of Irish Lights in deploying this equipment.
"While the Marine Institute team has been driving this project, we have greatly benefitted from the close collaboration of all partners including SEAI, SmartBay Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and Marine Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI).
"This collaboration places Ireland on a stronger footing internationally as we work together to advance our marine research and development capabilities."
Yvonne Shields, chief executive of the Commissioners of Irish Lights, who provided the ILV Granuaile for deployment of the equipment, confirmed that the lighthouse authority "is delighted to step in and provide support where required for this project. The Granuaile is a world class service vessel that is primarily used to service Ireland's network of offshore navigation and safety aids.
"The vessel and crew are experienced in handling difficult sea conditions and is ideally placed to assist renewable energy deployment around the coast."
The Galway Bay ocean observatory is part of a larger collaborative project between the SEAI, the Marine Institute, University College Cork (Marine Renewable Energy Ireland - MaREI), SmartBay Ireland and Dublin City University to upgrade existing facilities at the Galway Bay test site. The overall project has been funded by the Science Foundation Ireland and is due to be completed this year.