Ocean is future for energy needs, anti-wind farm campaigners claim
CAMPAIGNERS against wind farms say the Government should look to the ocean for our energy needs.
Amid stark warnings that we have two decades to stave off hugely dangerous climate changes, there remains staunch resistance to certain types of renewable energy.
Wind farms have been particularly contentious while ocean power has "massive potential" as a renewable energy source for Ireland, campaigners claim.
Andrew Duncan, from the Lakelands Windfarm Information Group, which has members in Meath, Laois, Offaly and Kildare, says it could become a "real alternative" to wind energy.
Mr Duncan – whose organisation is strongly opposed to the introduction of wind farms – insists that wave, tidal and ocean energy technologies are advancing rapidly.
"There is massive potential there with ocean technologies, and we need to have an informed debate in terms of this being the most effective renewable energy for Ireland. It should be examined more closely," Mr Duncan said.
The debate on climate change has intensified following a new UN report saying the need for renewable energy production is crucial to halt global warming.
"We're told we don't have a rich tidal resource, but I don't see how that is the case," he added.
"We need something consistent. Even if wave power were to work and be 35pc or 40pc efficient, it would be a long way ahead of wind power.
"Wind is so intermittent and only operates in a very limited way."
He said the group is "as concerned about the environment as anybody else'' and there is an urgent need for "meaningful'' solutions in this area.
The first wave energy farm in Europe will begin operating off Killard in Co Clare, near Doonbeg, in 2018.
The ESB says the West Wave project – costing between €40m and €50m – will see five wave energy devices deployed in the Atlantic.
It is hoping to prove the fledgling technology is capable of producing reliable power on an ongoing basis.
It is part of the ESB's objective to produce 26pc of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and become 'carbon neutral' by 2050.
Tony Lowes, a director with Friends of the Irish Environment, agreed that ocean technologies are the "most promising" energy option currently available.
He also said with the right investment Ireland has the potential to become a "world leader" in the area.
"It's certainly one of the most sustainable sources of energy in Ireland," he said.
"Technology indicates that it is not necessary to float anything on the surface. There may be sufficient movement underneath to generate power in a way that is sustainable, and long term, without causing any damage to the environment."
Ray Conroy, from the Laois Wind Energy Awareness Group (LWEAG), believes the focus should now shift away from wind farms towards energy harnessed from the power of water.
"In just the past week the European Union has said that the future of energy dependence for the whole of the Continent lies in the ocean.
"The technology doesn't exist at the moment but things are progressing all the time and it's the way forward
"The European Commission said 90pc of Europe's needs could be provided by the ocean."
Industry experts say technological development in this area is advancing rapidly and, in certain circumstances, has huge potential for generating power.
But research also shows wave energy can be highly vulnerable to the extremes of the Atlantic weather system – such as gales and heavy storms.