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Perfect waves may provide key to powering the nation

The stormy seas around the Blasket Islands in Kerry and Broadhaven Bay in Co Mayo, could become the nation's powerhouse.

The ESB has made an application for three foreshore exploration licences to test the power of the waves off the west coast.

It represents a step forward in the green energy revolution, which aims to ensure that Ireland is carbon neutral by the year 2035.

ESB International has confirmed to the Sunday Independent that as part of its Ocean Energy Strategy to develop 150MW of ocean energy by 2020, it will carry out significant research near the Blasket Islands, as well as at Broadhaven Bay near Belmullet and at Blacksod Bays around Achill.

A team of researchers will undertake wave measurements and follow-on sea-bed surveys of each site.

Ireland has among the best wave power potential in the world. It sits in the path of the Gulf Stream and, in terms of wave production, benefits from cold air masses flowing from Greenland, as well as from strong winds travelling without obstruction across the Atlantic.

The three potential wave sites were identified following a review using admiralty charts and published material including the Irish Wave Atlas, which was developed by ESB International on behalf of Sustainable Energy Ireland and the Marine Institute.

Applications are being made for exploration licences to enable ESBI to deploy wave measurement buoys for at least 12 months to assess the wave climate at each site. ESBI will also undertake hydrographic surveys at each site to assess the sea-bed conditions depending on the results of the wave measurements.

The wave climate investigations and hydrographic surveys are required to acquire baseline data on wave and current resources on each site, to determine cable design and installation methodologies and to inform route selection for electricity cables associated with a wave energy project.

The survey work will also enable ESBI to gather baseline information for environmental studies of the area.

Ireland has some 220 million acres of underwater continental shelf.

Recently a spokesman for Sustainable Energy Ireland pointed out that the average wave energy off the Irish coast is 70 kilowatts per wave metre -- 30 kilowatts per wave metre more than found off the coast of Portugal.

Some experts suggest that waves could potentially provide up to 70 per cent of Ireland's electrical power.

Europe's accessible wave power resource is calculated to be about 320,000MW, with the highest resource available near the west of Ireland.

Sunday Independent