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#Fishing - The Marine Institute’s annual Irish Groundfish Survey (IGFS2016) began off the North West Coast on Sunday 25 September, continuing till Thursday 6 October, in fulfilment of Ireland’s Common Fisheries Policy obligations.

IGFS2016 is a demersal trawl survey consisting of a minimum of 45 fishing hauls each of 30 minutes’ duration. Fishing in 2016 is taking place within a two-nautical-mile radius of positions indicated in Marine Notice No 41 of 2016, available to read or download HERE.

The survey is being conducted by the RV Celtic Explorer (Callsign EIGB), which will display all appropriate lights and signals throughout and is also listening on VHF Channel 16.

The Celtic Explorer will be towing a high headline GOV 36/47 demersal trawl during fishing operations. The Marine Institute requests that commercial fishing and other marine operators keep a two-nautical-mile area around the tow points clear of any gear or apparatus during the survey period outlined above.

While there is no statutory provision for the loss of gear at sea, the Marine Institute will make every effort to avoid gear adequately marked according to legislation that may be encountered in the notified areas.

In the event that an operator has static gear or other obstructions within 2nmi of the haul points, it is the responsibility of the owner to notify the survey managers or vessel directly.

This should be communicated by identifying specifically which ‘Prime Station’ is of concern using the appendix and contact details provided.

It is not required to provide positional details of commercial operations beyond 3-4nmi of the survey points provided. Specifics of any fishing gear or other obstructions that are known and cannot be kept clear of these survey haul locations can be notified using the contact details provided in the Marine Notice.

Published in Fishing

The Marine Institute held the second bi-annual research vessel users conference today at its headquarters in Oranmore, Galway to discuss the vast range of capabilities of both the RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager after their 2015 refits, as well as the use of the remotely operated vehicle, ROV Holland 1.

Director Mick Gillooly of Ocean Science and Information Services, Marine Institute, welcomed the attendance of over 70 marine scientists and researchers who will go to sea on the national research vessels this year. He said: “The demand for survey time on the national research vessels and the quality marine research being carried out across the country shows that Ireland’s scientists are answering the call to better understand our oceans.”

“At a time when we can all see the impacts of climate change, it’s more important than ever to carry out research at sea, including oceanography, fisheries, and environmental monitoring.”

The conference provided information about using high resolution multi-beam mapping, the capabilities of the ROV Holland 1 on surveys as well as key speaker’s experiences using the equipment.

Dr Florian Le Pape of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) spoke about the deployment of an Ocean Bottom Seismometer (OBS) network off the Irish shelf as far as the Rockall Trough. Dr Le Pape recently deployed 10 Broad Band OBSs from the RV Celtic Explorer as part of an innovative research program between DIAS, the Helmholtz Centre GFZ Potsdam, Germany and instruments provided by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany, which uses the noise from ocean waves to generate seismic images of the earth’s crust.

Over 70 marine scientists attended the Research Vessel Users Conference at the Marine Institute. Deep sea mud volcanoes off the gulf of Cadiz and the high resolution multi-beam mapping of World War 1 shipwrecks in the Irish Sea highlighted the advanced capabilities of the research vessels for deep sea exploration.

The workshop was organised by the Marine Institute’s research vessel operations team also highlighted the value of ship time. Mr Aodhan Fitzgerald, Research Vessel Operations Manager, spoke about the future vessel availability, the ship-time competition for 2017, and how to prepare a strong research survey proposal.

The Marine Institute’s ship-time programme will provide €3 million funding in 2016 supporting 256 research days onboard the national research vessels, RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager. The programme gives researchers access to the national research vessels, as well as the remotely operated submarine ROV Holland I to carry out surveys that further our understanding of the ocean, support policy and development, as well as providing essential training to young researchers and undergraduates.

The programme is part of a busy schedule of research vessel programmes that includes statutory fish stock assessment, environmental monitoring, and seabed mapping surveys in Irish Waters and across the Atlantic basin to Newfoundland.

You can follow the surveys of the research vessels on the blog http://scientistsatsea.blogspot.ie where scientist on-board the national research vessels blog about their research at sea

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - Marine scientists on board the RV Celtic Explorer have posted their first blog entry from this year's blue whiting acoustic survey voyage.

Setting sail from Cork on St Patrick's Day last week, the team – comprising acousticians, biologists and marine wildlife observers – are preparing to cover a massive area between the West of Ireland and the west coast of Scotland, including Rockall, as part of a flotilla of international research vessels from the Netherlands, Norway and the Faroe Islands.

The [email protected] blog has more on the mission HERE.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - The research vessel operations team at the Marine Institute are hosting a workshop for research vessel users at the institute's Oranmore headquarters on Thursday 28 April.

The aim of the workshop is to give marine scientists across a range of disciplines the opportunity to discuss their research, and their experience on both the RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager, as well as using the ROV Holland 1.

It will also allow the research vessel operations team to highlight the capabilities of both research vessels post 2015 refits, and to gather feedback about how the service could be improved.

The meeting will commence at 9am and it is planned to finish at 6pm. There will be an opportunity to have a Q&A session around the talks and gather feedback from both the user and the service provider. Contact [email protected] with any queries.

The research vessel users workshop will be followed by a SMARTSkills day workshop also in Oranmore on Friday 29 April with training sessions on the following:

  • MaxSea plotting software.
  • Shipboard Computer System (SCS) training.
  • IxBlue Echoes Sub Bottom Profiler training: practice and processing.
  • CTD training.
  • ADCP training.
  • Kongsberg Multibeam operating system (SIS).

All of the above equipment will be available for hands-on training and there will also be a wide selection of other scientific equipment on display on the day. See the SMARTSkills website for further information. A draft agenda for the SMARTSkills training can be found HERE.

Published in Marine Science

The Marine Institute’s Ship-Time Programme will fund 256 days at sea this year for marine science researchers to carry out surveys that will further our understanding of the ocean, support policy development, and provide essential training opportunities to young researchers and undergraduates. This is the tenth consecutive year of the Ship-Time Programme and it will provide €3m Euro in funding. The initiative provides access to the national research vessels, RV Celtic Explorer, and RV Celtic Voyager, as well a the ROV Holland I (remotely operated vehicle ). It represents just part of a very busy schedule of research vessel programmes that includes statutory fish stock assessment, environmental monitoring, and seabed mapping surveys.

Dr. Peter Heffernan, Marine Institute CEO, said the demand for ship-time and the quality of the applications was an indication of the standard of marine research being carried out in Ireland.

“Marine research in Ireland is being carried out to the highest standards and the strong demand for ship-time shows that Ireland’s scientists are answering the challenge to better understand our oceans”, said Dr. Heffernan. “At a time when we can all see the impacts of climate change, it’s more important than ever to carry out research at sea, including oceanography, fisheries, and environmental monitoring. We know that the ocean plays a key role in controlling the earth’s climate and we know that the microscopic plankton in the ocean produce half of the oxygen we breathe. The ocean is the life support system for the planet and therefore it is essential that we understand its impact on us, as well as our impacts on the ocean.”

The Ship-Time Programme funds surveys across three broad categories – research, policy support services and dedicated training programmes. The RV Celtic Voyager will be the platform for 15 Higher Education Institute led training programmes over 73 days throughout 2016. Last year over 390 students participated in training onboard the Celtic Voyager through this programme. The opportunity to spend time at sea on a working research vessel, planning, designing and carrying out research at sea is essential and invaluable experience for young scientists.

The RV Celtic Explorer will be the platform for eight research surveys under the Ship-time programme, while the RV Celtic Voyager will support ten research surveys under the initiative. Marine Institute scientists will lead seven of these surveys on both vessels in areas that support policy development and implementation.

Among the surveys taking place this year are a survey by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies monitoring part of the Irish shelf using ocean bottom seismometers in an innovative research program which uses the noise from ocean waves to generate seismic images of the earth’s crust (January 13-22); identifying the location of Sea Bass spawning areas (MI – March 16-29); exploring submarine canyon ecosystem services (NUI Galway June 1-20); and mapping and creating high resolution images of World War I ship wrecks (University of Ulster –September 3-9 ).

The provision of access to ship-time is identified as a key priority in Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth- An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland. The Ship- time programme is funded under the Marine Research Programme 2014-2020 by the Irish Government. Applications for Ship Time funding are evaluated by a panel of 15 independent international experts (UK, European and US) and each application was reviewed by two or three evaluators.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - Marine scientists from four countries will set off from Galway tomorrow on a three-week expedition to explore the deep ocean off southern Spain.

As Galway Bay FM reports, the 13 experts will voyage on the RV Celtic Explorer to investigate the likes of "mud volcanoes, sponge gardens and cold-water corals" up to a mile below the surface.

It's only a few months after the same vessel took an international team to map undersea mountains on the Atlantic seabed off eastern Canada.

Published in Marine Science

#SeaforSociety - An open day saw more than 150 children from five schools from Dublin, Cork, Galway, and Mayo visit the Marine Institute's research vessel, the RV Celtic Explorer, as well as Galway Atlantaquaria, as part of the EU FP7 Sea for Society project to raise awareness of our ocean, this week in Galway city.

The Sea for Society collective action aims to shape the concept of a "Blue Society" and improve Europe's understanding on the relation between the ocean and our daily life activities. "As part of the Sea for Society FP7 project in Ireland, we provided the opportunity for children to see and take part in a wide range of activities including meeting with marine scientists, researchers and the Captain of the RV Celtic Explorer, as well as the team from AquaTT and marine experts at the aquarium," explained Cushla Dromgool-Regan, Marine Institute.

On the vessel the children meet with the fisheries research team who showed a wide range of fish from the deep ocean. The seabed mapping researchers showed bathymetry mapping images of key shipwrecks around Ireland as well as the newly discovered submarine mountain ranges mapped by the RV Celtic Explorer on its latest expedition from Newfoundland to Galway.

The remotely operated vehicle ROV Holland I, which is to be used in the vessels next expedition filming cold water corals on the Porcupine bank, was also on display. This
provided a key opportunity for the children to learn about marine history, marine technology well as taking part in some simple experiments demonstrating pressure.

AquaTT also asked the teachers and children to think about the small changes we can make in our lifestyle which have a significant impact on the ocean, such as using less water, eating fish that has been caught sustainably, disposing plastics in a responsible way, to taking part in beach cleans.

Galway Atlantaquaria provided tactile learning opportunities where the students got to touch and see marine animals native to Irish seashores and ocean.

Teachers and pupils alike described the event as a unique and wonderful experience. "I've attended many trips with the school, but this one really stood out. We learned so much, ranging from how phytoplankton in our ocean provide up to 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe, to how to tell the age of a fish using their ear bones - otoliths. Raising awareness of our ocean and the impact that the ocean has on us is so important," said Maire Ni Fhoghlu, from Gaelscoil Uileog de Burca, Claremorris.

The children who attended the open day had taken part in the Marine Institute's Explorers Education Programme which is run by Galway Atlantaquaria, Blackrock Education Centre, SeaLife – Bray and Lifetime Lab in Cork, and is also supported by other education centres in Mayo and Galway.

"The excellent marine activities and projects completed this year by the schools were evident by the enthusiasm and knowledge of the children who visited the Celtic Explorer. For an island nation it is heartening to see that the children are learning about our ocean, understanding the importance of scientific marine research as well as taking personal responsibility for caring for our marine environment," Cushla Dromgool-Regan further said.

The Explorers Education programme also provides a range of cross curricular teaching resources and lesson plans for all primary schools to freely download at www.explorers.ie 

In addition for more details on the programme details click HERE.

Published in Marine Science

#mapping – The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD today joined with Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, and Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries in Brussels, along with Canada's Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea, to announce the first trans-Atlantic mapping survey to take place under the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance.

The Irish research vessel, RV Celtic Explorer will undertake a mapping expedition between St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada and Galway in Ireland in June of this year, as scientists from the Marine Institute, Ireland will be joined by a multi-national team made up of USA, Canadian and European ocean mapping experts. This is an important step following the agreement reached at Galway in May 2013 and is an example of scientific diplomacy in action.

Speaking from Brussels, Minister Coveney said "Information from the sea-floor is vital to the sustainable management of the Atlantic as well as to important industries such as fisheries, aquaculture and tourism. Ireland has developed a world-leading reputation for sea-bed mapping and is also very committed to the implementation of the Galway Statement and so I am delighted to put at the disposal of the team, Ireland' state-of the art research vessel-RV Celtic Explorer."

Commissioner Moedas stated "I am committed to harnessing the societal and economic value of our oceans, while protecting fragile marine ecosystems. Under Horizon 2020 we have invested just under €70 million to support the Galway Statement follow-up. The first calls delivered excellent project proposals involving international teams. I am glad that this investment is being leveraged to make our transatlantic vision a reality."

Commissioner Vella welcomed the announcement, stating. "One of the priorities of my mandate is Ocean Governance. Our wish is that the EU continues to be fully engaged on this subject. The sea-bed mapping expedition announced today illustrates the EU's capacity as a global leader and partner. The 'Celtic Explorer's' mission across the north Atlantic will be undertaken by crew from 'both sides of the pond'. This embodies the spirit of cooperation that we need in the field of Ocean Governance. Their work will help inform the mapping of the European seabed, which is set to be completed by 2020. I congratulate all those involved".

Welcoming the initiative, the Honourable Gail Shea, Canada's Minister of Fisheries and Oceans said "Canada recognizes the importance and complexity of Atlantic Ocean science. Our nations' cooperation is key to broadening our scientific understanding of the Atlantic Ocean and helping to ensure it remains healthy, resilient and productive. This is why our scientists are collaborating through the Galway Statement to pool resources, share expertise and advance our science goals."

The announcement was made at the European Commission hosted event, 'The Atlantic- Our Shared resource. Making the Vision Reality' which was a follow up to the May 2013 signing of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Research Cooperation between the EU, Canada and the United States of America.

This event is the launch pad for all the Galway Statement follow-up projects funded with the first Horizon 2020 Blue Growth calls - the main financial instrument on the EU side implementing the Galway Statement commitments.

With a view to translating commitments into investments, the European Commission has earmarked around € 70 million in calls under Horizon 2020, the EU Research and Innovation Programme for the period 2014-2015.

Background:
The Galway Statement – The Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance
In May 2013, an Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance between Canada, the European Union and the United States of America was launched in Galway, Ireland, with the high level signature of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation.
The goals are to join forces to better understand the North Atlantic Ocean and to promote the sustainable management of its resources. Together we can build a capacity to understand and predict major Atlantic and Arctic processes, as well as the changes and risks they carry in relation to human activities and climate change.

The Galway Statement contributes to the implementation of the EU's Atlantic Strategy and its related Atlantic Action Plan. The Action Plan considers responses to the challenges of delivering growth, reducing the carbon footprint, using the sea's natural resources sustainably, responding effectively to threats and emergencies and implementing an "ecosystem" management approach in Atlantic waters.

The lead on the side of the Commission for the Ocean Research Alliance lies with DG RTD – the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, in close coordination with DG MARE -the Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, which leads on the overall Atlantic Strategy.
Areas identified for cooperation under the agreement include:
· Ocean Stressors (e.g. ocean acidification)

· Aquaculture

· Interoperability and coordination of observing systems and infrastructures, including vessels

· Seabed and benthic habitat mapping

· Marine Microbial Ecology and

· Ocean Literacy

A series of regular Stakeholder Meetings to operationalise the Galway Statement started in Brussels in April and June 2014 with high level participation from Europe, US and Canada, bringing together a variety of existing networks already active on both sides of the Atlantic. Other Stakeholder Meetings were organised in 2014 in Washington D.C. and Ottawa. In December 2014 the first seabed mapping event took place in Dublin (Ireland), which was followed by another meeting in February 2015 in Brussels.

The Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance has been recognised as an example of how we can join efforts in research and innovation in the Joint Statement of the EU-US Summit on 26 March 2014, during President Obama's visit to Brussels. Also, the importance of this initiative was acknowledged in the EU-Canada Summit Declaration from September 2014, as a contribution to the strategic partnership in the field of research and innovation.
Since the signature of the Galway Statement, the expansion of this cooperation to the Southern part of the Atlantic, particularly towards Brazil and South Africa, has been evoked regularly. Brazilian and South African partners have been invited to several Atlantic Ocean Alliance events.

The event "The Atlantic – our Shared Resource: Making the Vision Reality" to launch research projects which constitute a clear follow-up of the Galway Statement and which were selected under the first Blue Growth call for proposals of Horizon 2020, takes place on 16-17 April 2015 in Brussels. Representatives from Brazil and South Africa are partners in some projects and will join representatives from Europe, the US and Canada in order to celebrate the translation of the political commitments taken in Galway into real investments which will boost the Atlantic Ocean Research Cooperation initiative.

Published in Marine Science

#deepsea – An international research team, led by scientists from NUI Galway, is currently exploring the Whittard Canyon deep-sea submarine canyon system in the North East Atlantic onboard the Marine Institute's RV Celtic Explorer.

Researchers from Ireland, the UK, the USA and Germany are using the Institute's ROV Holland I to study the diversity of deep-water animals and relate this to geology and ocean currents.

The Whittard Canyon system is at the continental margin approximately 250 miles SW of Cork, covers an area of 2000 square miles, and is home to vulnerable marine ecosystems of cold-water corals, deep-water oysters and file clams. But new research is also revealing a remarkable diversity and abundance of rare black corals, which are protected under international legislation.

"The extreme shape of submarine canyons seems to affect the water flow within them in such a way as to deliver nutrient rich waters to particular parts of the canyon system. This allows diverse ecosystems to flourish. Our research is attempting to understand these processes so that we can predict where the most vulnerable ecosystems are likely to occur and therefore ensure the environment is protected," explained Dr Martin White of NUI Galway's Ryan Institute, and the expedition's chief scientist.

According to Dr Louise Allcock, also of NUI Galway's Ryan Institute, "Black corals are particularly vulnerable to any sort of impact. They grow extremely slowly and dating studies have shown that some species live for thousands of years."

The Whittard Canyon system is huge, with meandering branches extending over an area of more than 80 by 20 miles. Mapping the system, much of which is in depths below 1500m, to detect vulnerable species is difficult. Therefore the team hopes that the new data will reveal the factors that determine which species occur where.

ROV Holland I provides a way of sampling deep-sea animals without impacting the ecosystem. The team is also providing deep-sea sponge samples to scientists searching for novel pharmaceutical compounds. If the chemists find interesting compounds such as antibacterial and other pharmaceutical properties in the sponges, they will aim to work out how to synthesize them in the laboratory. This is the first step in the production of new drugs.

The scientists are blogging about their experiences and discoveries aboard RV Celtic Explorer throughout the survey (June 6th – 21st) on the blog scientistsatsea.blogspot.ie and on twitter via the hashtag #ce14009

The research survey is carried out under the Sea Change strategy with the support of the Marine Institute, funded under the Marine Research Sub-Programme by the Irish Government.

Published in Marine Science

#marinescience – The RV Celtic Explorer leaves Galway today (12th April) for Newfoundland and Labrador, on its fourth multi-institution transatlantic survey. The 13 day expedition across the Atlantic to St Johns, Newfoundland will involve four scientists from NUI Galway, as well students from UCC and GMIT. A team of six of scientists lead by Dr. George Rose from the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University, Newfoundland, will work alongside nine Irish scientists during the voyage.

The collaboration with Newfoundland and Labrador builds on the strong relationship established since the first Newfoundland survey on the Celtic Explorer in 2011.

"Such cooperation is key to improving our ocean wealth and promoting the sustainable management of its resources. It's hugely important for Ireland and brings us closer to achieving the goals of the 'Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation' signed here at the Marine Institute Galway last May by the EU, USA and Canada ", said Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO Marine Institute.

Irish scientists onboard will study the rich and diverse pelagic ecosystem across the Atlantic Ocean. "Marine scientists from NUI Galway will study the oceanography and the deep scattering acoustic layers of the water columns using multi-frequency acoustics. This is then related to zooplankton abundance and ultimately to fish abundance, providing us with a better understanding of the ecosystem," explained Dr. Louise Allcock from NUI Galway.

Scientists from Galway Mayo Institute of Technology will study plastics found in the ocean. Micro-plastic debris is made up of tiny plastic granules, fibres and fragments less than 5mm in diameter. Although plastics are beneficial materials, micro-plastics appear to be pervasive in the ocean and scientists do not yet fully understand the impact that small plastic particles can have on the food chain. Ingesting the tiny particles may be toxic to the animals, and may prevent them from consuming their natural prey.

"We hope this research will help to raise awareness of the effects of plastics in the ocean and provide better ecosystem assessments across the Atlantic," said Ms Amy Lusher from Galway Mayo Institute of Technology who is completing a PhD on this topic.

Seabird and marine mammal observations will also be conducted by Aoife Foley from Galway Mayo Institute of Technology and Ashley Benison from University College Cork. These animals are considered top predators in the pelagic environment and the abundance of fish and zooplankton, their prey, ultimately affects their distribution and survival.

The Newfoundland team of scientists will continue their strong collaboration with the Irish scientists. "This collaboration is now into its 4th year with a major paper based on linking acoustic, biological and oceanographic data from 2011-2013 presented at the recent international Marine Science Conference in Hawaii," explained Dr Rose.

Sharing information and experiences with scientists from both sides of the Atlantic allows Irish researchers to forge strong links with our Newfoundland and Labrador – Canadian counterparts.

"Being the western and eastern bookends of the North Atlantic, and given our shared history, it seems only right that Newfoundland and Ireland scientists should work together on problems of mutual interest, and this has indeed proven to be very enjoyable and highly productive" Dr. Rose further stated.

Published in Marine Science
Page 6 of 7

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