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The role of the marine environment in the push towards “net zero” carbon emissions is the theme of an international marine engineering conference running online later this month.

The challenges involved in using offshore wind energy and the feasibility of “floating nuclear reactors” to reduce emissions will also be discussed at a fortnight-long online conference opening later this month.

The conference from June 28th to July 9th is hosted by the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) - an international body for marine engineering, science and technology professionals which has charitable status and is based in Britain.

Clean energy and transport in relation to ship-based research expeditions will be addressed by National Oceanography Centre associate director of national marine facilities Leigh Storey.

Setting a benchmark for decarbonising operations and maintenance vessels attached to offshore wind farms is the focus of a talk by economic analyst Dr Anthony Gray of ORE Catapult.

Using asset leasing models to encourage energy-saving technologies in reducing carbon emissions from shipping with be discussed by BMT naval engineer Nick Williams.

Soon Heng Lim, founder of the Society of Floating Solutions will focus on the controversial topic of floating nuclear plants – as in small modular reactors to reduce carbon emissions.

“We have an exceptional roster of speakers for this year’s annual conference, exploring many of the most pertinent subjects across marine engineering, science and technology,” IMarEst chief executive Gwynne Lewis said.

Attendees can register for the event via the IMarEST’s website here

Published in Power From the Sea
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Concerns about the environment have been raised about cruise liners that dock in Cobh, Cork Harbour. 

Local councillors were invited aboard one of the largest ships in the world, the ‘Norweigan Getaway’, by the Port of Cork to see how the ship operates.

However, one councillor told the EchoLive.ie, he “came away with an existential angst over the scale of the environmental problems we face.”

Green Party Cllr Alan O’Connor says he sees environmental concerns, both in the immediate effect such vessels have on Cobh and Cork Harbour, as well as the impact in terms of the worldwide large-scale effect of the industry.

Internationally there is growing concern about the environmental impact that cruise ships have.

By the end of 2019, according to Cllr O’Connor around 100 cruise liners will dock in the Port of Cork, with up to 110 expected in 2020. Those figures have been on the rise since 2014 when 53 cruise liners docked there, bringing more than 142,000 passengers and crew to Cork.

Cllr O’Connor acknowledges that many people's livelihoods depend on the tourists coming from the cruise liners, with many buses taking people to locations all across Cork including Blarney Castle, while others stay around the Cobh area.

“For Cobh, I got an estimated figure of €30,000 total spend by visitors from this boat,” he said. However, he’s questioned the sustainability of it: “At what stage must the environment come first?” he asked.

For further reading click here

Published in Cork Harbour

Dun Laoghaire Marina took home the Green Business Environment gong in the 2019 DLR County Business Awards, which took place this past Thursday night (3 October).

Speaking on the award, the marina commented on social media: “Wonderful to receive recognition for our efforts to reduce our impact on the environment and promote clean seas.”

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‘Marine litter: are there solutions to this global environmental challenge?’ is the title of a free public lecture at 7pm tonight (Thursday 10 January) in the main concourse of GMIT’s main Galway campus.

Prof Richard Thompson from the School of Biological and Marine Sciences at Plymouth University will deliver the lecture ahead of the second Ecology and Evolution Ireland Conference at GMIT and NUI Galway this weekend.

Prof Thomson will discuss issues surrounding the widespread distribution of plastic debris at the sea surface, on the sea bed and on shorelines.

Nearly 700 marine wildlife species are known to encounter marine litter, with many reports of physical harm resulting from entanglement in and ingestion of plastic.

At the same time it is very clear that plastic items bring many societal benefits. Can these benefits be achieved without emissions of waste to the environment?

Progress requires systemic changes in the way we produce, use and dispose of plastic. Prof Thomson will suggest that a key solution to two major environmental problems, our non-sustainable use of fossil carbon (to produce plastics) and the accumulation waste, lies in recycling end-of-life plastics into new products.

While the two days of the conference on Friday 11 ad Saturday 12 January are now fully booked, attendance at this evening’s lecture is remains open and free to all.

Published in Coastal Notes

#Aarhus - Environment Minister Denis Naughten has launched the public consultation for a second implementation under the UN's Aarhus Convention on community participation in environmental issues.

Ratified in June 2012 after a long call by environmental and coastal community campaigners, the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters lays down a set of basic rules to promote citizens’ involvement in environmental matters and improve enforcement of environmental law.

Its provisions are broken down into three pillars: Access to Information on the Environment; Public Participation in Environmental Decision-making; and Access to Justice.

In what his department says is an effort to keep with the spirit of the convention, Minister Naughten has called on the public, including environmental NGOs, to submit comments on the implementation of the Aarhus Convention in Ireland prior to finalising Ireland's second National Implementation Report to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

The purpose of this consultation is to provide the UNECE as well as the Aarhus Convention Secretariat and Compliance Committee with the widest possible range of views and opinions on issues related to the implementation and promotion of the convention in Ireland.

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment website has the draft report and details of the consultation, for which comments should be submitted no later than 5pm on Friday 28 October.

Published in Coastal Notes

#GalwayPort - Business leaders have welcomed the news that the €126 million Galway Port extension project will be proceed under the IROPI section of the EU Habitats Directive.

According to the Galway Independent, the decision by An Bord Pleanála to proceed under IROPI – or Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest – is a first for Ireland.

Progress will involve establishing replacement habitats for those that would be adversely affected by the port extension. As previously reported on Afloat.ie, it was determined that a number of reef, mud and sand habitats would be destroyed by the 24 hectares of land reclamation required.

But there's better news for those with environmental concerns, as planners have determined that two nearby Natura sites – the Inner Galway Bay Special Protection Are and the Lough Corrib Special Area of Conservation – will see no impact, while priority habitats at Lough Atalia and Renmore Loughs will not be "negatively affected".

The board has also recommended "tight co-operation" between the Galway Harbour Company and local authorities to ensure conservation is made top priority throughout the project.

The Galway Independent has more on the story HERE.

Published in Galway Harbour

#DublinBay - "How many capital cities can boast such a rich marine megafauna?" asks the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's Dr Simon Berrow.

It's an important question as Dublin last week celebrated 300 years of profound change since the decision to build the Great South Wall.

Along with the Bull Wall that followed in the 1800s, it was a project intended to solve dangerous silting in the main channel to Dublin Port.

But together, they completely reshaped the environment around Dublin Bay into a habitat for hundreds of species of marine wildlife - including the aforementioned megafauna like dolphins and porpoises that frequent Dublin's waters.

And it's an environment that's still reshaping today, as the Irish Independent reports - using the example of a toilet block built on Bull Island's Dollymount Strand in the early 1970s but which today, only 44 years on, is nestled deep in the dunes some distance from the beach.

Bull Island itself, which did not exist before the building of the Bull Wall two centuries ago, is now home to nine distinct habitats among the many important sites that round the bay from Howth's sea cliffs to Seapoint's rocky shoreline.

And its biosphere status is one that Dublin City Council wants to extent over an area from Malahide down to Killiney to ensure the bay's proper protection and management.

The Irish Independent has more on the story HERE.

Published in Dublin Bay

#Fracking - Northern Ireland's inland and coastal waterways could be at risk from contamination by fracking activity, warns an environmental group.

The Belfast Telegraph reports on Friends of the Earth's poor assessment of Stormont's regulatory powers, with the group citing an array of illegal landfills and quarries across the North as a worrying precedent for any future fracking operations to extract shale gas.

In particular, FoE spoke out about licences for oil exploration granted for areas that cover wetlands, river catchments and marine zones - including Loughs Erne and Neagh, Belfast Lough and the Causeway Coast.

The Belfast Telegraph has more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update
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#Sewage - Clonshaugh in North Dublin has been chosen as the location for the city's new water treatment 'super plant' which has long faced objections from local campaigners.

As The Irish Times reports, a meeting of Fingal County Council yesterday afternoon (10 June) saw the site near Dublin Airport chosen over Annsbrook and Newtowncorduff, both near the coastal towns of Rush and Lusk.

Part of the plan includes the construction of a 26km orbital sewer to collect waste from parts of Dublin, Kildare and Meath, and an outfall pipeline that will eject waste near Ireland's Eye.

Project managers have described the Clonshaugh option as "ecologically and environmentally better" than the alternatives, but campaigners such as Reclaim Fingal chair Brian Hosford argue that "the potential for environmental disaster [with a single large plant] is enormous".

In January 2012, Minister for Health James Reilly raised his own concerns that any potential malfunction at the large-scale facility - second-only in scale to the new water treatment plant at Ringsend - could see huge amounts of raw sewage pumped into the Irish Sea.

Meanwhile, The Irish Times also spoke to a farming family who may lose as many as 40 acres if the 'super plant' gets the go-ahead adjacent to their land.

"I would have to change my whole system of farming if this goes ahead," said 77-year-old PJ Jones, who added that his biggest concern was the smell.

Published in News Update

#Festivals - "Tens of thousands" of visitors are expected to flock to the City of the Tribes later this month for the first Galway Sea Festival over the June bank holiday weekend, according to the Galway Advertiser.

Dubbed the 'Mini-Volvo' by locals, the four-day event from 31 May till 3 June is hoped to recreate the celebratory atmosphere of last summer's successful Volvo Ocean Race finale, with a wide range of events both on and off the waters of Galway Bay.

Highlights include the festival regatta led by the Galway Bay Sailing Club's parades of sail on the Friday and Saturday evenings, and a traditional boat regatta by Badoiri na Cladaigh.

Watersports enthusiasts can get a taste of canoeing, diving, sea kayaking and windsurfing over the weekend, which also coincides with World Oceans Day - with family-friendly activities at the Galway Atlantaquaria on Sunday 2 June - and the International Canoe Polo Championships at Claddagh Basin.

Preceding the festival on Thursday 30 May will be the Bright Blue Sea Conference, a major international symposium on marine science, renewable energy, the environment and the 'blue economy'.

Last month it was reported that the Galway Sea Festival received the financial backing of Galway City Council, spurred by its aims to promote Galway as a maritime destination or commerce and tourism.

The Galway Advertiser has much more on the festival HERE.

Published in Maritime Festivals
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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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