The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) is funding the Ireland division of U.S.-based Ocean Renewable Power Co. (ORPC) to identify feasible tidal energy sites in the coastal waters of County Donegal.
The funding amount for this specific project is not immediately known, but a 2014 report released by the Ireland Wave Energy Association estimates Ireland has US$29 million in the 2013 to 2016 budget for its Ocean Renewable Energy Development Plan.
Based in Maine, ORPC is an in-river, tidal and deep-water ocean current power generation systems and projects developer. In May 2015, ORPC established its Ireland division in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal at the Letterkenny Institute of Technology.
County Donegal is home to the largest fishing port in Ireland, Killybegs, and County Donegal has 703 miles of mainland coastline, more than any county in Ireland.
According to a press release, ORPC Ireland will conduct a feasibility assessment during which time the company will “review existing resource data, evaluate grid accessibility, identify existing marine users and sensitive environmental areas, assess supply chain viability, and conduct community engagement activities.”
“SEAI is committed to facilitating the development of new technologies and projects that will harness Ireland’s rich ocean energy resource,” said Brian Motherway, SEAI’s chief operating officer.
“County Donegal has been identified as a region of high potential for tidal energy in Ireland’s Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan. We are delighted to support ORPC Ireland in conducting this feasibility study in partnership with Donegal County Council to identify development opportunities and form a critical first step in realizing this potential.”
If conditions warrant, ORPC Ireland could continue the County Donegal project in phases similar to its parent company’s program in Alaska.
ORPC is based in Maine and according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, in July, ORPC successfully deployed its RivGen hydrokinetic energy device in the Kvichak River at Igiugig village in Alaska.
The RivGen device consists of a turbine generator unit (TGU) supported by a chassis incorporating a pontoon support structure that acts as a foundation when the device is deployed on the riverbed and provides its self-deployment and retrieval capabilities. Each TGU has a capacity of up to 25 kW in a current flowing 2.25 m/sec and 95 kW in a 3.5 m/sec current.
Since its deployment, more than 1.5 million adult sockeye salmon have migrated past the turbine area, estimates the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The first day of turbine operations happened to be the second largest escapement day of the salmon season, where 600,000 fish were not captured by fisheries and, in turn, migrated past the turbine to return to their freshwater habitat to spawn.
Downstream cameras show fish able to swim freely after passing through the turbine area and ORPC said there has been no observed evidence of fish injury or mortality to date.