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A five-day continuing professional development (CPD) course has been successfully delivered in person to over 70 primary school teachers in Waterford, Kerry, Galway and for the first time in Cork.

Plus, a further 40 teachers are completed the Explorers Education Programme course online.

The programme, approved by the Department of Education and Skills, provides primary school teachers with the ocean knowledge and skills to introduce marine themes through cross-curricular teaching such as science, maths, geography, English and arts in classroom, as well as conducting field trips to the seashore.

Exploring sand dunes and rock pools, creating art pieces from flotsam and jetsam, conducting beach-clean games on the shore as well as learning about the seashore animals and the different types of seaweeds are all ways to teach children how to interact with the natural world.

Congratulating the Explorers team involved in the delivery of the programme nationwide, Patricia Orme, corporate services director with the Marine Institute said: “These courses are key to introducing teachers to ocean concepts, environmental awareness and climate change.

“We are delighted to see in-person CPD courses back in full swing and the Explorers first online course is also doing extremely well. The expansion of the CPD summer teachers training courses reaching over 100 teachers this year is testament to the hard work of the Explorers team and the ongoing support also provided by the education centres in Galway, Waterford, Tralee–Kerry, West Cork and Mayo.”

Cushla Dromgool-Regan, Explorers strategic education and communications manager with the Camden Education Trust thanked the teachers for their enthusiasm in teaching marine subjects in their classrooms.

Rory McAvinney from Galway Atlantaquaria delivers the Exploring Ireland’s Seashore course tho primary school teachers in Galway | Credit: Maria Vittoria MarraRory McAvinney from Galway Atlantaquaria delivers the Exploring Ireland’s Seashore course tho primary school teachers in Galway | Credit: Maria Vittoria Marra

“We were delighted with the positive feedback and especially where a number of teachers said that the skills learned during the training have also provided them with far reaching skills beyond the classroom and within their communities,” she said.

“One teacher explained that she had recently seen a mother finding it difficult to answer her child’s questions about what they were seeing on the shore in the rock pools, and unfortunately quickly pulled the child along.

“The teacher said at the time she felt disappointed she couldn’t help, but now after completing the Explorers course, she feels confident to help potential seashore explorers in this situation. She is now looking forward to paying it forward and encouraging children and parents to keep exploring over the summer, as well as when she gets back to school.

“The teacher's positive feedback and enthusiasm is very encouraging and highlights the importance of sharing our knowledge about the ocean. The idea of ‘paying it forward’ to inspire a new generation of ocean advocates is key to helping children develop a greater appreciation of the importance of the ocean and an understanding of the significant impact it has on our daily lives.”

The CPD course, Exploring Ireland’s Seashore through Science, Maths, Geography, English and Art, is still open for teachers to complete online. Registration closes on Wednesday 17 August. For further information see elearning.mayoeducationcentre.ie.

The Explorers Education Programme is managed by the Camden Education Trust and support services are provided by Galway Atlantaquaria. Explorers teams involved in the CPD training include Leave no Trace - Ireland (Waterford), Lifetime Lab (Cork), Sea Synergy (Kerry) and Galway Atlantaquaria (Galway).

The Explorers Education Programme is funded by the Marine Institute, Ireland’s State agency for marine research, technology development and innovation. For further information about the Explorer Education Programme see www.explorers.ie.

Published in Marine Science

The Marine Institute has shared a video documenting the key milestones in the build of Ireland’s new marine research vessel, the RV Tom Crean.

Delivered on time and on budget, the €25 million vessel was officially handed over to the Marine Institute on Friday 8 July and set off from its builders in Vigo, Spain for Galway Bay a week later.

The state-of-the-art ship is due in its new home port in the City of the Tribes early this week, and in the meantime you can watch the video below that charts the timeline of its build since the contract for its design was signed in January 2019.

Published in RV Tom Crean

Our Shared Ocean, a collaboration between Irish Aid-Department of Foreign Affairs and the Marine Institute, was launched in Lisbon yesterday by Irish Ambassador to Portugal, Ralph Victory, on board the Irish Naval Service Vessel, L.E. George Bernard Shaw, during the 2022 UN Ocean Conference.

Our Shared Ocean will provide €3.8 million over the next five years to facilitate partnerships on ocean-related issues between research institutions in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and their counterparts in Ireland.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Niall McDonough, Director of Policy, Innovation and Research Services at the Marine Institute, said, "we are proud to launch the Our Shared Ocean programme on the occasion of the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon. This flagship programme will support the development of new knowledge and new partnerships between researchers in Small Island Developing States and Ireland. As island nations, Our Shared Ocean can help us work better together to address the common challenges presented by climate change and to find solutions to sustainably benefit from the enormous potential of our ocean and its resources."

Our Shared Ocean aims to:

  • Build the Irish capability and knowledge base in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals related to sustainable ocean management as set out in Global Ireland and the SIDS Strategy;
  • Support capacity building in eligible SIDS partner countries and in Ireland in Oceans and Climate Action, Inclusive and sustainable blue economy and Marine Policy and ocean governance.
  • Establish and grow research partnerships between Irish institutions and international counterparts, providing research and technical support to assist eligible SIDS in addressing specific ocean and climate related challenges and opportunities.

The Marine Institute have developed a suite of research funding instruments in order to achieve these objectives, via Mobility and Travel Grants; Fellowships and Research Projects; and direct contribution to international programmes supporting ocean capacity building in eligible SIDS, with the first calls being launched this month. The programme is a key element of Ireland's contribution to the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

The launch of Our Shared Ocean in Lisbon also provided the opportunity to celebrate 80 years of relations between Ireland and Portugal. It recognised the strong marine links between the two countries, including through the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between the Marine Institute and the Instituto do Mar e da Atmosfera.

As Afloat reported earlier, The Fair Seas campaign has welcomed Ireland’s contribution of almost 10 million euro to address ocean challenges faced by developing countries, including small island developing states. The funding was confirmed earlier this week by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney on the eve of the UN Ocean Conference.

Published in Marine Science
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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue today (Tuesday 28 June) announced the launch of Phase 1 of the new state-of-the-art Aquaculture Information Management System (AQUAMIS).

The online viewer was developed as part of Phase 1 of this project, which will develop an overall aquaculture management information system for aquaculture licences in Ireland.

Commenting on the launch, the minister said: “I’m delighted to deliver on the Government’s commitment to the further implementation of the recommendations of the Aquaculture License Review Group. This is the first step in digitising our aquaculture licensing application process.

“I’d like to acknowledge the excellent work of the department in digitally mapping this activity and integrating datasets from the Marine Institute and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This innovative portal will for the first time provide a valuable online search facility for licensed aquaculture activity available to the general public and all our stakeholders.”

The online viewer will allow members of the public to freely access and view licensed aquaculture sites and mapping information through a public portal and was developed in collaboration with the Marine Institute.

Speaking at the announcement, Marine Institute chief executive Dr Paul Connolly said: “The Aquaculture Licensing Sites Viewer provides an important digital tool to facilitate the management of aquaculture in Ireland’s marine and fresh waters. The system will assist with the licensing and management of aquaculture operations throughout the country.

“This new digital application enables high-quality marine data and information to be more readily available for all, and is part of the Marine Institute’s service delivery to government, industry and the public.”

The viewer can be accessed at dafm-maps.marine.ie/aquaculture-viewer/

Published in Aquaculture
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The Marine Institute (MI - Ireland) and the Instituto Português do Mer e da Atmosfera (IPMA - Portugal) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Lisbon today. The MoU will enhance cooperation in the Atlantic Ocean area between the two organisations, particularly in relation to strategic cooperation on marine research.

The agreement was signed by Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute, and Dr Jorge Miguel Alberto de Miranda, President of the IPMA, at the latter’s headquarters in Lisbon today (23rd June 2022). The Secretary of State for Maritime Affairs, Jose Maria Costa and the Irish Ambassador to Portugal, Ralf Victory attended the signing ceremony.

The MoU recognises the importance of cooperation to enhance marine sciences and technology, and will focus on collaborations that build up our knowledge base for the Atlantic Ocean. The IPMA is a public institution and an equivalent marine science organisation to the Marine Institute.

Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute, said, “I am delighted to be signing the MoU with the IPMA today. This strategic alliance will tap into the scientific talent pools in both organisations, develop research partnerships in the Atlantic area and build up our ocean of knowledge base for the benefit of our coastal communities”.

Dr Miguel Miranda, President of IPMA, said “Ireland and Portugal have been working together for many years on marine science issues and we know each other and work well together. It is very important for us to continue to cooperate and be a strong voice for marine science and the Atlantic into the future”.

Both organisations agreed to pursue an MoU in 2020, but the Covid 19 pandemic stalled progress. The duration of the agreement is five years, with an option to renew for a similar period. A joint MI-IPMA Working Group will be set up in September to implement and steer the MOU.

Irish ambassador Ralph Victory echoed the importance of marine science and highlighted that next week, a UN conference on the “Decade of the Ocean”, organised by Portugal and Kenya, would be held in Lisbon and see many countries discussing the ocean and marine research.

Jose Maria Costa, (Portuguese Secretary of State for Maritime Affairs) was very supportive of the MOU and stressed the importance of growing the relationship between Ireland and Portugal in relation to the Atlantic.

 

The implementation of cooperation within the MoU’s framework will include capacity building, training and exchange of expertise and staff, and developing strategic alliance to build research proposals. It will also include conducting joint research projects, co-organisation of conferences, seminars and workshops, and more.

The broad areas covered by the MoU are multi-faceted and will focus on:

  • Marine environmental monitoring
  • Harmful algae bloom, toxins and forecasting
  • Aquaculture and farmed fish/shellfish health
  • Marine Spatial Planning
  • Benthic Mapping, Biodiversity, Climate and Ocean Change
  • New seafood products
  • New approaches to improve seafood quality and safety
  • Fisheries and marine science cooperation within in the framework of International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES)
  • Marine research infrastructures.
  • Renewable energy science and technology
  • Promotion of joint, high-level scientific publications
  • Promote common and joint leadership opportunities in the All-Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Alliance
  • Cooperate on building mutually beneficial strategic research alliances that build research proposals that target funding under the EU Mission Starfish, the EU Horizon Europe and Atlantic Strategy programmes

Many of the scientific leaders in IPMA were present at the signing of the MOU. During informal conversations after the ceremony, they all mentioned the current cooperation with the Marine Institute in areas such as research vessel operations, monitoring of harmful algal blooms, fisheries and aquaculture and the need to grow this cooperation into areas that ensure the health of our ocean such as Marine Spatial Planning and the monitoring of biodiversity and the ocean environment.

There are very exciting times for marine science in the Atlantic. There is a great opportunity to address many important societal and government questions on the health of our oceans and how to achieve a sustainable blue economy for our coastal communities.

Published in Marine Science
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The Marine Institute and the Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU) at NUI Galway are conducting a survey of marine and marine-related businesses as part of the regular reporting on Ireland’s Ocean Economy.

Although the CSO and other State organisations provide some data on marine related economic activity, the Marine Institute says there is a need to supplement this data with company surveys across a number of sectors in the growing blue economy.

These include advanced marine technology products and services, offshore renewable energy, marine commerce and legal services, marine manufacturing, construction and engineering.

The survey began this month and will continue in July, with the results published later this year. In addition to general economic figures collected, this year’s survey includes a section on the impact of COVID-19 and other external factors effecting marine businesses.

Queries regarding the survey should be directed to Marie-Christin Lanser, scientific technical officer with the Marine Socio-Economic and Social Data Programme at [email protected] or Prof Stephen Hynes, director of SEMRU at NUIG at [email protected]

Published in News Update

It is “on time and on budget”. That’s the Marine Institute’s new 25 million euro research ship, RV Tom Crean, due for delivery this autumn.

Named after the Kerry polar explorer who worked with both Ernest Shackleton and Sir Robert Scott, the vessel has been designed by Norwegian consultants Skipsteknisk AS and has been built by Spanish shipyard Astilleros Armon in Vigo, Spain.

It will be at sea for 300 operational days each year – heading to sea for at least 21 days at a time - and aims to accommodate up to 3000 scientist days annually.

It also aims to be a “silent vessel”, meeting the ICES 209 noise standard for fisheries research, while also being capable of handling harsh sea conditions.

The RV Tom Crean replaces the Celtic Voyager, which Aodhán Fitzgerald has fond memories of during his early research days as a student.

Aodhan Fitzgerald is the Marine Institute’s research vessel managerAodhan Fitzgerald is the Marine Institute’s research vessel manager

Fitzgerald is the Marine Institute’s research vessel manager, and project manager for the new build.

He is recently back from sea trials and spoke to Wavelengths about how they went (below).

You can read more about the RV Tom Crean on the Marine Institute’s website here

Published in Wavelength Podcast

The Marine Institute welcomes 13 undergraduate students who will expand their knowledge of marine science as part of the 2022 Marine Institute Summer Bursary Scholarship Programme. Their 8 to 12 week placements will be based at the Marine Institute’s Headquarters in Oranmore Co. Galway, and at the Burrishoole facility in Newport Co. Mayo. They will gain valuable, practical experience across a broad range of marine science and related areas.

The programme enables students to obtain work experience in a number of broad service areas in the Marine Institute focuses on Fisheries, Molecular Chemistry, Aquaculture, Marine Infrastructure Asset Management, Oceanographic analysis, Ocean Economics, Research Office, Human resources, Library and Marine Communications.

“The summer bursary programme has been in place since the 1960s, with previous bursars going on to secure positions with the Marine Institute at all grades up to and including the current CEO,” said Helen McCormick, Senior Laboratory Analyst, and co-ordinator of the bursary programme at the Marine Institute. “This highly sought after work experience programme enables students to further their knowledge in marine science, while also expanding their professional networks,” she added.

As part of the Bursary Scholarship Programme, the students will prepare presentations about their work experience and the skills and knowledge they have learned during the placement. They will then present these presentations to their colleagues and other students at the Marine Institute.

Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute, welcoming this year’s students, said “The bursary programme is for students who are passionate about the ocean and the marine sector, and supports the development of their skills, capabilities and networks. It equips students with the skills that will help them become ocean leaders of the future.”

The Marine Institute Summer Bursary Programme is available annually to undergraduate students from Universities, Institutes of Technology, and National Institutes for Higher Education, who have completed at least two years of study in a relevant discipline.

Published in Marine Science
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Tune into a live chat with Ireland’s marine scientists to celebrate World Oceans Day next Wednesday 8 June.

The conversation will be broadcast live on the Marine Institute’s socials — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube — at 10.30am.

Join Marine Institute scientists David O’Sullivan, Claire Moore, David Stokes and Caroline Cusack to hear what it’s like to survey our seas on Ireland’s national marine research vessels.

The RV Celtic Explorer and the RV Celtic Voyager are among the most intensively used research vessels in the world, and have played an essential role in fisheries surveys, seabed mapping, and oceanographic research.

Expeditions on the RV Celtic Explorer in Irish and international waters have resulted in many exciting discoveries — from deep-water shark nurseries and cold-water coral reefs to to hydrothermal vents fields in the mid-Atlantic.

The panel of scientists will share what they enjoy about their work at sea and some of their most memorable experiences while on board. They will also talk about their career paths and offer advice for those interested in pursuing marine and maritime careers.

This live broadcast is part of the Marine Institute’s Oceans of Learning series, which aims to remind everyone of the major role the ocean has on our everyday lives and to inspire a new generation of ocean champions.

More about the scientists taking part in the live chat:

David O’Sullivan, Advanced Mapping Services
David is part of the Advanced Mapping Services team at the Marine Institute and Ireland’s national seabed mapping programme, INFOMAR. David was offshore chief scientist for the SeaRover surveys (2017-2019) which mapped sensitive marine habitats at depths of up to 3,000 metres in Ireland’s offshore territory using the ROV Holland 1. The SeaRover team mapped cold-water coral reefs, documented new species within Irish waters and discovered a rare shark nursery 200 miles west of Ireland.

Claire Moore, Fisheries Scientist
Claire is a fisheries ecologist, and says she feels more like a detective then a biologist. She works on solving biological puzzles around the health and productivity of our oceans, piecing together valuable information collected at sea, in ports and labs, to produce statistical models that inform our decisions for a sustainable future.

David Stokes, Fisheries Scientist
David is an enthusiastic fisheries scientist with over 25 years’ experience in data collection and analysis, both in marine and freshwater. David has worked with the Marine Institute for the last 22 years to run the Irish Groundfish Survey programme on the RV Celtic Explorer, which originally started on the RV Celtic Voyager combined with chartered commercial fishing vessels.

Caroline Cusack, Biological Oceanographer
Caroline leads the Marine Institute’s annual ocean climate survey on the RV Celtic Explorer. She is also involved in ocean observation projects that monitor the health of our ocean. Recently she has carried out research related to developing marine ecosystem climate services.

Published in Marine Science

In the lead-up to World Oceans Day next Wednesday 8 June, this week the Marine Institute’s Oceans of Learning series looks to the future of marine research with the arrival of Ireland’s new research vessel, the RV Tom Crean.

Sea trials have commenced on the new 52.8m state-of-the-art research vessel in the Ría de Vigo estuary in Spain, which is one of the final stages before its delivery to Ireland.

The vessel build was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and on completion the RV Tom Crean shall replace the RV Celtic Voyager, which came into service as a marine research vessel in 1997.

The RV Tom Crean will provide a year-round service for expanded fisheries surveys, seabed mapping, deep-water surveys, oceanographic and environmental research. The multipurpose research vessel will enable 300 operational days at sea each year and up to 3,000 scientist days per year.

“We are delighted with the progress on the build of the RV Tom Crean, and it’s heartening to see the vessel build entering into these final stages on schedule and on budget,” Marine Institute chief executive Dr Paul Connolly said.

“The new vessel will be a huge asset in continuing to lead and support high-quality scientific surveys that contribute to Ireland’s position as a leader in marine science, far into the future.”

The vessel is designed to incorporate the latest proven technologies to ensure that it operates as efficiently as possible, with reduced fuel consumption and minimising the vessel’s environmental impact and carbon footprint.

It will be a silent vessel, capable of operating throughout the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and will be able to go to sea for at least 21 days at a time.

Based in Galway, the vessel will be used by the Marine Institute, other State agencies and universities to undertake research and surveys and it will also maintain and deploy weather buoys, observational infrastructure and the institute’s Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Holland I. It will accommodate up to 26 personnel on board, including 14 scientists.

The new vessel is named after Tom Crean, the renowned seaman and explorer who undertook three major ground breaking expeditions to the Antarctic in the early years of the 20th century. These sought to increase scientific knowledge and to explore what were, at the time, unreached areas of the world.

Key milestones in the ship’s build include the laying of the ship’s keel in November 2020 and the completion of the ship’s hull in September 2021. This latter phase of the project involved upwards of 70 personnel working during some of the stages, which included the joining of the 32 individual hull units, installation of the vessel generation sets, electric propulsion motor, dock equipment and the vessel’s unique silent seven-bladed propeller.

In November 2021, the RV Tom Crean made its momentous first splash when its hull was launched at the Astilleros Armón shipyard in Vigo, Spain.

Work continued on the ship build during winter 2021 and spring 2022 with sea trials beginning last month. The Marine Institute website has a handy timeline of the ship’s build process.

Oceans of Learning is also celebrating the legacy Ireland’s other marine research vessels, the RV Celtic Voyager and RV Celtic Explorer, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in RV Tom Crean
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Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy

Because of Ireland's location at the Atlantic edge of the EU, it has more offshore energy potential than most other countries in Europe. The conditions are suitable for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.

Offshore Renewable Energy FAQs

Offshore renewable energy draws on the natural energy provided by wind, wave and tide to convert it into electricity for industry and domestic consumption.

Offshore wind is the most advanced technology, using fixed wind turbines in coastal areas, while floating wind is a developing technology more suited to deeper water. In 2018, offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand strongly in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that turbines are growing in size and in power capacity, which in turn is "delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms".

The global offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, according to the IEA, due to rapid technology improvements, It calculated that about 150 new offshore wind projects are in active development around the world. Europe in particular has fostered the technology's development, led by Britain, Germany and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018.

A report for the Irish Wind Energy Assocation (IWEA) by the Carbon Trust – a British government-backed limited company established to accelerate Britain's move to a low carbon economy - says there are currently 14 fixed-bottom wind energy projects, four floating wind projects and one project that has yet to choose a technology at some stage of development in Irish waters. Some of these projects are aiming to build before 2030 to contribute to the 5GW target set by the Irish government, and others are expected to build after 2030. These projects have to secure planning permission, obtain a grid connection and also be successful in a competitive auction in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The electricity generated by each turbine is collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm. Seabed cables connect the offshore substation to an onshore substation on the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland. The offshore developer works with EirGrid, which operates the national grid, to identify how best to do this and where exactly on the grid the project should connect.

The new Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will create a new streamlined system for planning permission for activity or infrastructure in Irish waters or on the seabed, including offshore wind farms. It is due to be published before the end of 2020 and enacted in 2021.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE. Is there scope for community involvement in offshore wind? The IWEA says that from the early stages of a project, the wind farm developer "should be engaging with the local community to inform them about the project, answer their questions and listen to their concerns". It says this provides the community with "the opportunity to work with the developer to help shape the final layout and design of the project". Listening to fishing industry concerns, and how fishermen may be affected by survey works, construction and eventual operation of a project is "of particular concern to developers", the IWEA says. It says there will also be a community benefit fund put in place for each project. It says the final details of this will be addressed in the design of the RESS (see below) for offshore wind but it has the potential to be "tens of millions of euro over the 15 years of the RESS contract". The Government is also considering the possibility that communities will be enabled to invest in offshore wind farms though there is "no clarity yet on how this would work", the IWEA says.

Based on current plans, it would amount to around 12 GW of offshore wind energy. However, the IWEA points out that is unlikely that all of the projects planned will be completed. The industry says there is even more significant potential for floating offshore wind off Ireland's west coast and the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a long-term plan for at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind in our deeper waters.

There are many different models of turbines. The larger a turbine, the more efficient it is in producing electricity at a good price. In choosing a turbine model the developer will be conscious of this ,but also has to be aware the impact of the turbine on the environment, marine life, biodiversity and visual impact. As a broad rule an offshore wind turbine will have a tip-height of between 165m and 215m tall. However, turbine technology is evolving at a rapid rate with larger more efficient turbines anticipated on the market in the coming years.

 

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is designed to support the development of renewable energy projects in Ireland. Under the scheme wind farms and solar farms compete against each other in an auction with the projects which offer power at the lowest price awarded contracts. These contracts provide them with a guaranteed price for their power for 15 years. If they obtain a better price for their electricity on the wholesale market they must return the difference to the consumer.

Yes. The first auction for offshore renewable energy projects is expected to take place in late 2021.

Cost is one difference, and technology is another. Floating wind farm technology is relatively new, but allows use of deeper water. Ireland's 50-metre contour line is the limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind farms, and it is also very close to population centres, which makes visibility of large turbines an issue - hence the attraction of floating structures Do offshore wind farms pose a navigational hazard to shipping? Inshore fishermen do have valid concerns. One of the first steps in identifying a site as a potential location for an offshore wind farm is to identify and assess the level of existing marine activity in the area and this particularly includes shipping. The National Marine Planning Framework aims to create, for the first time, a plan to balance the various kinds of offshore activity with the protection of the Irish marine environment. This is expected to be published before the end of 2020, and will set out clearly where is suitable for offshore renewable energy development and where it is not - due, for example, to shipping movements and safe navigation.

YEnvironmental organisations are concerned about the impact of turbines on bird populations, particularly migrating birds. A Danish scientific study published in 2019 found evidence that larger birds were tending to avoid turbine blades, but said it didn't have sufficient evidence for smaller birds – and cautioned that the cumulative effect of farms could still have an impact on bird movements. A full environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before a developer can apply for planning permission to develop an offshore wind farm. This would include desk-based studies as well as extensive surveys of the population and movements of birds and marine mammals, as well as fish and seabed habitats. If a potential environmental impact is identified the developer must, as part of the planning application, show how the project will be designed in such a way as to avoid the impact or to mitigate against it.

A typical 500 MW offshore wind farm would require an operations and maintenance base which would be on the nearby coast. Such a project would generally create between 80-100 fulltime jobs, according to the IWEA. There would also be a substantial increase to in-direct employment and associated socio-economic benefit to the surrounding area where the operation and maintenance hub is located.

The recent Carbon Trust report for the IWEA, entitled Harnessing our potential, identified significant skills shortages for offshore wind in Ireland across the areas of engineering financial services and logistics. The IWEA says that as Ireland is a relatively new entrant to the offshore wind market, there are "opportunities to develop and implement strategies to address the skills shortages for delivering offshore wind and for Ireland to be a net exporter of human capital and skills to the highly competitive global offshore wind supply chain". Offshore wind requires a diverse workforce with jobs in both transferable (for example from the oil and gas sector) and specialist disciplines across apprenticeships and higher education. IWEA have a training network called the Green Tech Skillnet that facilitates training and networking opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

It is expected that developing the 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy identified in the Government's Climate Action Plan would create around 2,500 jobs in construction and development and around 700 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Programme for Government published in 2020 has an enhanced target of 5 GW of offshore wind which would create even more employment. The industry says that in the initial stages, the development of offshore wind energy would create employment in conducting environmental surveys, community engagement and development applications for planning. As a site moves to construction, people with backgrounds in various types of engineering, marine construction and marine transport would be recruited. Once the site is up and running , a project requires a team of turbine technicians, engineers and administrators to ensure the wind farm is fully and properly maintained, as well as crew for the crew transfer vessels transporting workers from shore to the turbines.

The IEA says that today's offshore wind market "doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential – with high-quality resources available in most major markets". It estimates that offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 Terawatt hours per year (TWh/yr) worldwide – as in more than 18 times the current global electricity demand. One Terawatt is 114 megawatts, and to put it in context, Scotland it has a population a little over 5 million and requires 25 TWh/yr of electrical energy.

Not as advanced as wind, with anchoring a big challenge – given that the most effective wave energy has to be in the most energetic locations, such as the Irish west coast. Britain, Ireland and Portugal are regarded as most advanced in developing wave energy technology. The prize is significant, the industry says, as there are forecasts that varying between 4000TWh/yr to 29500TWh/yr. Europe consumes around 3000TWh/year.

The industry has two main umbrella organisations – the Irish Wind Energy Association, which represents both onshore and offshore wind, and the Marine Renewables Industry Association, which focuses on all types of renewable in the marine environment.

©Afloat 2020

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