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Displaying items by tag: Meelick weir

The restored Meelick Weir and walkway on the River Shannon have been officially opened by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD and Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD. 

The weir was damaged in severe storms in 2009 and again in 2015/2016, when the walkway was also damaged and was subsequently closed.

The infrastructure links the historic village of Meelick in east Galway to Lusmagh in west Offaly and forms part of the Hymany Way and the Beara-Breifne Way walking trails.  The weir was built in the 1840s as part of the Shannon Navigation. More than 300 metres in length, it has a 12-sluice barrage and maintains and regulates the navigation level for the section of the waterway between Athlone (Lough Ree) and Meelick (Lough Derg).

Construction work on the €3.2m Waterways Ireland project began in 2019 and included the restoration of the weir, its 300m walkway and new tilting weir gates, along with other weir refurbishments. The new tilting weir system will be mechanised, meaning that staff will no longer have to manually install and remove the sluice boards in response to changing water levels.

Speaking at the official opening, Minister for Housing, Local Government, and Heritage, Minister Darragh O’Brien said: “I am delighted to be here today to officially open Meelick Weir and walkway after the completion of a hugely significant programme of work by Waterways Ireland on this state-of-the-art project. Recognising the importance of the weir and the walkway, I was pleased to support the project and to ensure funding was made available from my Department in the amount of €3.2m. It is great to see it brought to completion and ready for its official opening today.

“Meelick Weir has a dual purpose, not only is it a critical piece of infrastructure in maintaining the navigation level between Lough Ree and Lough Derg, it also serves to unite the communities of Meelick and Lusmagh and offers a fantastic amenity in the area. I know this is very popular with local people and also provides a wonderful tourism opportunity for Galway, Offaly and Tipperary – the three counties that it borders. The restoration of the weir and walkway opens the potential for these historic structures to play an important role in tourism in the future.”

The area surrounding Meelick Weir is also of huge historical significance, with Victoria Lock and its lock-keeper’s house, and Meelick Martello, located on Moran Island, all included on the Record of Protected Structures. Meelick Martello is a recorded monument in the care of Waterways Ireland. Nearby Meelick Church, meanwhile, dates back to the 1400s.

Minister for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan commented: “This whole area is hugely significant from a heritage perspective.  This project opens the walkway and allows people to travel its route to visit Victoria Lock, which was built in the 1840s also as part of the navigation system, and the famous landmark ‘the three counties Shannon view,’ where the counties of Galway, Offaly and Tipperary meet. In terms of wildlife, it is within both the River Shannon Callows Special Area of Conservation and the Middle Shannon Callows Special Protection Area.”

He added: “I am delighted to see the restoration of the connectivity between the communities of Lusmagh and Meelick and the reinstatement of the Hymany Way. This project will have a significant impact on the communities and the broader tourism opportunities in the area.” 

Waterways Ireland chief executive, John McDonagh said: “Meelick Weir is an iconic structure and I’m delighted that this restoration project is now complete. The weir is an extremely important piece of navigation infrastructure, enabling the management of water levels on the River Shannon for navigation, and also linking the counties of Offaly and Galway, and the provinces of Leinster and Connaught via the walkway. The systems built into the weir also ensure a safer working environment for our staff.

“This is the largest project Waterways Ireland has undertaken since we restored the mainline of the Royal Canal and I would like to commend my colleagues, who have worked diligently to deliver this ambitious project on budget in very challenging times.”

Published in Inland Waterways
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Waterways Ireland advises masters and owners of vessels that low water levels exist on the upstream approaches to Meelick and Victoria Lock, north of Portumna on the Shannon Navigation.

Water levels are currently up to 39cm below summer levels as the sluices are open at Meelick Weir, which creates a draw-down of water levels in the area.

Masters of vessels, particularly those with deep drafts, are advised to navigate with additional caution and to remain within the navigation at all times.

Published in Inland Waterways

Waterways Ireland has announced the closure of the walkway at Meelick Weir on the Shannon Navigation in Co Galway from today, Saturday 2 January until further notice.

The closure of the walkway is at the request of An Garda Siochana due to what is claimed are issues with compliance with social distancing protocols on and near the walkway along the inland waterway.

Published in Inland Waterways

Waterways Ireland advises masters and owners of vessels that low water levels exist on the upstream approaches to Meelick Weir and Victoria Lock, north of Portumna on the Shannon Navigation.

Water levels are currently up to 45cm below summer levels as weir boards are out at Meelick Weir, which creates a draw-down of water levels in the area.

Masters of vessels, particularly those with deep drafts, are advised to navigate with additional caution and to remain within the navigation at all times.

Published in Inland Waterways

#InlandWaters - Seán Kyne, Minister of State at the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, has announced a €3.2 million investment by Waterways Ireland infrastructure on the Shannon Navigation at Meelick Weir.

The funds will be used for the restoration and replacement of the Meelick Weir walkway, the installation of tilting weir boards and remedial works to the weir structure.

The minister was joined on site yesterday (Friday 1 March) by Éanna Rowe, regional manager with Waterways Ireland and by Ministers of State Seán Canney Ciarán Cannon, along with Anne Rabbitte TD and local community representatives.

Meelick Weir was originally built in the 1790s as part of the Shannon Navigation. The weir, which is over 300 metres in length with a 12-sluice barrage, maintains and regulates the navigation level for that section of waterway between Athlone (Lough Ree) and Meelick (Lough Derg).

The weir and its walkway link the historic village of Meelick in Co Galway to Lusmagh in Offaly, and also link into the Hymany Way walking trail. The weir was damaged during storms in 2009 and the walkway was closed following further storms in 2015 and 2016.

Speaking yesterday, Minister Kyne said: “I am fully aware of the importance of this restoration to the counties of Galway and Offaly and in particular to the local communities of Lusmagh and Meelick who have been without the walkway for a number of years now.”

He added: “Meelick Weir is not just a walkway but a hidden gem on the River Shannon and its restoration shows the Government’s commitment to supporting all aspects of rural Ireland`s economic development.”

Éanna Rowe of Waterways Ireland said: “The development and re-instatement is critical to the management of the navigation and regulation of water levels.

“Reopening the connectivity between the communities of Lusmagh and Meelick and the re-instatement of the link to the Hymanny is a hugely positive and significant development for both communities.”

Waterways Ireland initiated design work on the project in 2012, completed the statutory environmental assessment and submitted planning for the project to Galway and Offaly county councils, which was given in 2017.

The works will involve the restoration of the weir, its walkway and the tilting weir boards along with the other critical infrastructure requirements (replacement of lock gates, jetty replacement, embankment works and bridge strengthening).

The new tilting weir system is being touted as a significant improvement in health and safety for employees managing water levels on site.

Following an open tendering procedure, a contractor will be shortly appointed and the project will be completed mid-2020.

Published in Inland Waterways

#SHANNON FLOODING - Galway Bay FM reports that Galway county councillors have postponed making any decision on an Oireachtas report into flooding in areas adjacent to the River Shannon.

The move was taken on the suggestion of Cllr Dermot Connolly in the wake of a joint Dáil and Seanad committee report that highlights eight proposals for dealing with flooding issues along the longest of Ireland's inland waterways.

Cllr Michael Connolly has suggested that Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan and Minister for the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan should meet to discuss the report's findings from both a flooding and environmental stance.

Meanwhile, the Irish Independent reports that the Office of Public Works (OPW) has agreed to carry out tests at Meelick weir on the Shannon in Co Offaly after thousands of acres of farmland were flooded over the summer, ruining silage crops and summer grazing land.

Waterways Ireland has denied allegations that a failure to open sluices and lift boards at the weird contributed to the flooding.

Published in Shannon Estuary

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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