THE FINDINGS of a recently published report which forecast that wave energy would not develop significantly in Ireland “for at least a decade” due to investment difficulties and the “unproven nature” of the technology, have been challenged by a leading ocean energy developer.
The energy audit of Co Mayo by the Sustainability Institute, headed by former Green Party member Andy Wilson, said that investors were “pulling out of renewable energy projects, blaming the global recession and world energy prices”.
The audit suggested that biomass from existing forestry resources and biogas from waste and silage offered a more secure long-term alternative energy future as fossil fuels depleted.
The audit, the first of its type in Ireland, suggested that Mayo’s existing coniferous resource could be used up over a 20-year period. It points out that medium-term rotation coppicing of broad-leaved woodland over an eight to 20-year period is most promising and does not require large injections of outside funding.
However, the negative findings have been challenged at a marine energy conference in Washington where John McCarthy, chief executive of Ocean Energy Ltd, called on the Government to “fast track key development issues”. The State’s ocean energy development unit also needs “sufficient resources”.
Mr McCarthy, who heads one of several companies involved in the State’s research on wave energy, says he believes Ireland can still become the world leader in the sector, creating up to 20,000 jobs by 2020.
Mr McCarthy told the conference that the renewable power potential of the ocean energy sector was comparable with that of wind, which currently employs over 400,000 worldwide.
“Ireland has the potential to seize the initiative and become the world leader,” he said. “Germany, Spain and Denmark have cornered the jobs in wind industry with over 75 per cent of the sector’s jobs . . . They are the main manufacturers of wind turbines and it is this manufacturing which accounts for over 70 per cent of the jobs.
“The solution in our opinion is to develop ocean technology in Ireland where we have the resource, the research and development facilities, the people and the initiative to make it happen . . . While the Irish Government’s stated commitment to the ocean energy sector and its development plans are welcome, the industry needs to see some real headway made to back up the Government’s stated objectives of 75MW installed by 2012 and 500MW by 2020,” he said.
Development of ocean energy was a stated objective in the Government’s “smart economy” document published last December, and the sector would like to see these aspirations being implemented before other countries achieve “first mover” advantage, Mr McCarthy said.
“The potential economic opportunity has not been lost on the US either. President Barack Obama has already met American advocates of ocean energy,” he said.