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Displaying items by tag: NPWS

A new joint initiative between the Marine Institute and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) aims to revitalise the freshwater pearl mussel through a pilot captive breeding programme.

Pearl mussels are capable of surviving for up to 140 years, making them Ireland’s longest living animal.

But environmental changed have put them on the verge of extinction. The species is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and is one of the 365 most endangered species in the world.

In Ireland, 19 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) have been designated in an effort to conserve the pearl mussel in its native habitats.

‘We are hopeful that over time this joint project will lead to a positive outcome for the freshwater pearl mussel in Ireland’

And the new programme — to be based at the Marine Institute’s Newport Research Facility in Co Mayo, close to one of the last remaining reproducing populations of freshwater pearl mussels — is hoped to safeguard the survival of the rare species into the future.

“Captive breeding programmes are already well established in several countries, and we are hopeful that over time this joint project between the Marine Institute and the National Parks and Wildlife Service will lead to a positive outcome for the freshwater pearl mussel in Ireland,” said Dr Áine O'Connor of the NPWS.

One of the reasons for the decline of the freshwater pearl mussel is the low survival rate among juveniles, which are extremely sensitive to slight changes in environmental conditions. This is leading to an ageing population, not capable of replenishing itself.

Juvenile survival is dependent on a clean riverbed, with little silt, sediment or algal growth. These mussels also have a very unusual life cycle, in that they are dependent on the Atlantic salmon and brown trout to host their larvae, called glochidia, for about 10 months. The captive breeding programme is targeted at this crucial life stage.

‘This small experimental population will be given a year to see if the juveniles grow to the stage where they can settle themselves in a suitable habitat’

Work on the programme began this past June when a tank in the Marine Institute’s hatchery was set up with 300 juvenile salmon. In July, 30 adult mussels were removed from the Newport River and transported to the tank.

The project team are currently waiting to see if mussels will release glochidia and whether these will naturally attach themselves to the gills of the salmon.

If successful, the Marine Institute and NPWS will maintain this small experimental population for a year to see if the juveniles grow to the stage where the mussels can detach from the fish and settle themselves in a suitable habitat.

“Historically, we know the Burrishoole catchment [in the area around Newport] contained pearl mussels, which gives us some confidence that the water supply to the hatchery on Lough Feeagh is suitable for long-term maintenance of the mussel populations,” said Marine Institute zoologist Dr Elvira de Eyto.

The pilot captive breeding programme is a partnership between the Marine Institute and NPWS in conjunction with freshwater pearl mussel specialists Evelyn Moorkens and Ian Killeen.

Published in Marine Wildlife

To celebrate Cruinniú na nÓg 2020 this Saturday 13 June, the National Parks and Wildlife Services and Galway Atlantaquaria are inviting 6-18 year olds to become marine broadcasters.

All you have to do is record a short video about a marine topic, such as an animal or plant from the seashore, and send to [email protected] before 5pm tomorrow, Friday 12 June. The first 50 entries will also receive a free beginner's guide to Ireland's seashore.

Videos should be no longer than two minutes and your videos will be uploaded onto a Marine Broadcaster playlist on the Galway Atlantaquaria YouTube channel, with a selection to be showcased as part of Cruinniú na nÓg this Saturday.

The channel also provides some inspiration to help you make your own broadcast. For more information on how to enter, see the Galway Atlantaquaria website HERE.

Published in Marine Science

#Flooding - Galway county councillors have blamed the National Parks and Wildlife Service for blocking flood prevention measures.

Galway Bay FM reports on a special sitting of Galway County Council, which heard a number of members take the NPWS to task over what they perceived as putting protections for wildlife over those of hundreds of families in the county affected by the recent severe flooding along the Shannon.

Cllr Michael Connolly claimed relief works planned for Meelick were halted over concerns with a single fish species – while Cllr Michael Fahy scoffed that digging emergency channels was more important than "bats and the bees".

Galway Bay FM has more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update
Tagged under

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.

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