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Minister English announces approval of Galway Bay Marine and Renewable Energy Test Site

Published on Tuesday, 19 Dec 2017
Aire Stáit Damien English TD

The Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, Damien English, T.D., has approved a foreshore lease under Section 2 (1) of the Foreshore Act, 1933 to the Marine Institute for the installation of a ¼ scale renewable energy test facility, test site infrastructure and specified devices at the proposed Galway Bay Marine and Renewable Energy Test Site, at Spiddal, Co. Galway.

The test site is required to meet one of the key initiatives set out in the OREDP and Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth, the Government’s Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland.  It will help to underpin the Government’s stated objective of producing 50GW from ocean energy by 2050, by providing a test facility where devices can demonstrate their ability to survive our open ocean conditions.  This testing is a necessary phase before commercial scale ocean energy development can proceed.

The aim is to assist ORE energy developers to move from the drawing board/model testing in UCC, through the quarter scale testing at the Galway Bay Test Site. This presents the opportunity at a future date to deploy an up-scaled device at the consented full scale, pre-commercial, grid connected Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS) in County Mayo. There are currently 13 projects at various stages of development waiting for access to the site.

The Minister commented “this lease is not part of any future commercial offshore renewable energy generating facility. I have consented to this application on the basis that there is no provision to export power from the test site to the National Grid.” 

The concerns raised by the public in their submissions under the public consultation process were fully considered throughout the detailed assessment of the application and supporting documentation by the Marine Licence Vetting Committee. The concerns raised by the public are reflected in the final lease which includes robust site specific conditions that must be adhered to by the Marine Institute.

The Minister commented “I took into account the concerns of the public when making my decision to consent to the lease application. The conditions of the lease reflect concerns from the public regarding communication and specify that the Marine Institute must provide a communications centre and community liaison officer to keep the public informed of activities at the site. I have also decided to restrict the number of floating wind energy devices to one at any one time and I am restricting the time period by which the specified devices must be tested to the first 10 years of the 35 year lease. This will help to assure the public that this site is purely for testing of devices and will not result in an offshore electricity generating station in Galway bay.” 

Restricting the testing period to the first 10 years and to the devices as described in the current application, means that applications to test a device after the first 10 year period has expired and applications to test devices not specified in the current application at any time, will require a separate foreshore licence application and will be subject to the full consultation process including a period of public consultation.  

Further information including the Notice of Determination and the basis on which the Minister made his decision, together with the application and supporting documentation can be viewed on the website of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government at: Department website link:



Note to Editor

The test site has operated as a national ¼ scale test facility for the testing of wave energy devices for 10 years under a foreshore lease granted in 2006 in accordance with plans and drawings submitted at that time. That lease expired in March 2016 but to ensure continuance of the test site to meet one of the key objectives set out in the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP) and Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth, the previous Minister consented to a lease extension of 12 months bringing the expiry date to March 2017. 

The consent to extend the lease allowed the Marine Institute to operate and utilise the test facility to the extent permitted under the original granted lease, only until such time as a new application to extend the scope and nature of the facility had been determined or March 2017, whichever was the earliest.  In March 2017 a Decommissioning Plan for the original test site was agreed between the Department and the Marine Institute. The decommissioning works and monitoring under the Plan were completed in September 2017.

A foreshore licence under Section 3 of the Foreshore Act 1933 was granted to the Marine Institute on 16 March 2015 to install a fibre optic telecommunications submarine power cable in Galway Bay.  The purpose of the cable is to provide a power supply and data transmission from Spiddal Pier to the Galway Bay Renewable Energy Test Site.  The term of the licence is 35 years.  Planning permission for the change of use of a store to a plant room serving the telecommunications and power cable landfall was granted by Galway County Council on 29 October 2013 (Planning Ref.13/947). 

With respect to the current consented development, the Marine Institute have confirmed that the Galway Bay Marine and Renewable Energy Test Site will not be connected by a power export cable to the national grid.  The Galway Bay Marine and Renewable Energy Test site is a quarter scale test site and therefore very limited amounts of electricity would be generated by any energy devices being tested on the site.  Therefore, there is no provision to export power from the test site to the grid.

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