An early study of the European wave energy resource was performed which indicated that the average wave power in Europe is highest near the west of Ireland with an average wave power of 76kW occurring of the Irish coast.
A more detailed assessment of Ireland’s wave energy resource was performed in 2005. This study looked at the theoretical and accessible levels of wave energy in Irish waters. The study indicated that a theoretical wave energy resource of up to 525TWh exists within the total limit of Irish waters. For comparison, in 2006 the Total Electricity Requirement for the Republic of Ireland (ROI) was 27.8TWh of electricity.
The SEAI/MI Wave Energy Atlas and associated report are available here
When considering how much of this theoretical energy could be captured and converted into electricity, it is important to consider the physical engineering constraints likely to be associated with Wave Energy Converters (WEC). Firstly the energy capture efficiency of a single machine is considered. In this case the test case machine selected for the study was the Pelamis WEC which is under development by Ocean Power Delivery (www.oceanpd.com). Next a suitable spacing and layout of devices was considered. Exclusion areas such as shipping lanes, conservation areas etc were removed from the resource calculation. Finally, the resource was limited to a distance of 100km from the shoreline which was selected in order to define the economic limit for a cable network to deliver power ashore from the generators. Following this approach, the accessible wave energy resource was therefore estimated to be 21TWh which would be sufficient to supply 75% of ROI’s 2006 electricity requirement. In terms of power, this would be equivalent to an average power output of 2.4GW of generation. This number is not intended to be a final definitive estimate of Ireland’s potential, for example, improvements in technology performance will cause this number to rise.
The amount of this accessible resource which Ireland ultimately realises will depend on the:
- The cost effectiveness of the wave energy technology.
- The amount of power which can be practically connected to the network from the western seaboard locations.
- The amount of capacity available on the network when other intermittent generation sources such as onshore/offshore wind energy are considered.
(Source: European Wave Energy Atlas, Average Theoretical Wave Power (kW))
For more information on Wave Energy Research in Ireland please click here.