Ireland has a first-rate ocean energy research base. It is acknowledged that Ireland has some centres of excellence with world class levels of expertise in project design, testing and mooring design. This academic and commercial base represents a sound stage upon which to develop a new ocean energy industry in Ireland.
Ocean Energy Research Centres in Ireland
1. Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre – University College Cork
The Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre (HMRC) is a centre of excellence based in Cork for Ocean Renewable Energy and Coastal Engineering providing support to the maritime industry as well as fundamental Research and Development. The centre is a semi-autonomous unit within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in University College Cork. It provides infrastructure and research facilities to developers of ocean energy devices. The staff at the HMRC come from a wide range of engineering backgrounds; including civil, environmental, electrical and electronic, mechanical, aeronautical, naval and oceanography.
The HMRC houses the only facilities for wave simulation in the Republic with a Wave Flume and the Ocean Wave Basin. It has been responsible for producing a development and evaluation protocol standard that has been adopted as part of Ireland’s Ocean Energy Strategy, which is the standard to which all devices are tested. The HMRC has expertise in instrumentation and data acquisition at various scales from tank testing through to full-scale deployment.
The HMRC offers independent advice and support to developers through model testing, concept design, computer modelling, design performance validation, resource assessments and offshore data recording.
2. Wave Energy Research Team, Mobile & Marine Robotics Research Centre – University of Limerick
The Wave Energy Research Team (WERT) headed by Dr Ajit Thakker was established in 1990 in the University of Limerick. The goal of the team is to develop turbine technology for wave energy power plants for the Irish, European and International markets. WERT has attracted funding from EU, National and Industrial organisations and is involved in a number of projects with national and international collaborations. It brings together the expertise of staff within the College of Engineering, the Department of Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering and the Department of Manufacturing and Operations Engineering. Collaboration has taken place with Queens University Belfast, Institute Superior Tecico, Portugal, Saga University, Japan and the Pacific Society, Japan.
During the last 12 years, WERT has been actively involved in the design, manufacture and analysis of Wells and Impulse turbines. It has developed expertise in the design of turbines using Computer Aided Design techniques, the manufacture and testing of turbines using a Concurrent Engineering approach to both. A state of the art 0.6m diameter test facility has been designed and manufactured by WERT with financial and technical support from the Marine Institute and Saga University, Japan. The test rig has been designed to be capable of testing both Wells and Impulse turbines over a wide range of uni-directional steady flow conditions.
WERT was also the turbine technology Task Leader in the EU-Joule contract for the design, analysis and manufacture of a 2.3m diameter second generation Wells turbine for the wave energy pilot plant at the Azores. Other collaborating Universities included The Queens University of Belfast and Institute Superior Technico, Portugal. Along with the research on the Wells turbine, WERT is actively involved in blade design, optimisation, experimental analysis and manufacture of an Impulse Turbine for WEPP. WERT is also working on the mechanical design and matching an impulse turbine for a floating OWC. This research has been supported by the Electricity Supply Board International (ESBI) together with technical collaboration with HMRC.
The Mobile & Marine Robotics Research Centre has been established in the University of Limerick under the leadership of Dr Dan Toal. Dr Toal’s research interests include:
- Robotics, land-based and marine robots, (both ROV’s and AUV’s)
- Industrial robots, autonomous mobile robotics,
- Controller design, electronics and hardware,
- Automation, sensor integration and motion control
- Artificial intelligence, neural networks, fuzzy logic, Subsumption control and the application of these technologies to autonomous mobile robotics.
There will be a growing need for underwater ROV and AUV surveys etc. as the ocean energy sector develops.
3. Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences – National University of Ireland, Galway
A nucleus of specialists is being assembled in NUI-G. Professor Sean Leen, the new head of Mechanical Engineering is taking a keen interest in the opportunities that are starting to appear associated with the development of ocean energy and is keen to develop a new team. This team will include people with experience in mooring systems and other technologies. The University is closely associated with the well known riser specialist company MCS. This company was originally spun-off from the University.
4. Department of Electronic Engineering – National University of Ireland, Maynooth
The control of wave energy devices is being investigated under the direction of Professor John Ringwood. This project involves the development of control systems technology for optimal control of point absorber wave energy devices. The essential idea is to control device damping, ballast, and ballast position in order to absorb the maximum amount of wave energy, while maintaining the integrity of the device in storm conditions. It is aimed to produce an accurate validated mathematical model of the device, which can be used for both model-based control design and also as a simulation test-bed. Ultimately, prototype control will be developed and tested on a full-scale wave energy device.
5. School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering – Queens University of Belfast
The Queen’s University of Belfast, (QUB) under the direction of Professor Trevor Whittaker have developed wave energy modelling expertise and considerable experience on Wells turbine research over a 35 year period. In this respect they have also collaborated with the University of Limerick. The tank test facilities in QUB include the main tank in Belfast with dimensions 20m long by 4.5m wide and 0.8m adjustable bed depth. This tank uses six displacement wave paddles with force feedback so that waves of up to 0.55m in height and 3.0s period may be generated. A second new tank in Portaferry at the mouth of Strangford Lough is 18m long by 16m wide and has a variable depth from 0.3m – 0.8m depth. This tank is equipped with 24 displacement wave paddles with force feedback to absorb reflected waves and waves up to 0.35m in height may be generated at 2s maximum period.
Both wave tanks can produce random sea states while the new tank can include spreading in two wave directions simultaneously.
During the last 35 years the team in Belfast has provided device research and development support to development teams associated with the following:
- Tank testing and performance validation
- A basic open ocean test site for scale models
- Development support for scale models in the open ocean
- Deployment support for scale models in ocean test sites
- Prototype design and build
- Prototype development and monitoring
In addition the team has tested five full scale prototypes at sea, including remote monitoring of two navigation buoys and two shoreline wave power devices. The University has also established a 1/10th scale tidal turbine test facility at Portaferry and has provided support to the monitoring of the full scale MCT tidal turbine. The Portaferry facility was also used to test a floating 1/10th scale tidal energy device in 2008. There are many strong arguments in favour of developing a full scale tidal test facility in Portaferry to serve all developments on the east and north-east coasts of Ireland.
The department has the WAMIT hydrodynamic modelling computer program which has been used in-house to develop the Oyster device. It also has extensive experience of modelling both Wells turbines and hydraulic power take-off systems. Mooring designs and hydrodynamic interactions have been studied as part of the Supergen Marine 2 programme.