Some 7,000 miles separates Ireland and Hawaii but, as island peoples, both have always looked to their respective oceans for resources, inspiration and opportunity. Irish company Ocean Energy announced its pioneering wave energy convertor “OE Buoy” will be built by Oregon‐ based Vigor and deployed at the US Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site on the windward coast of the Hawaiian Island of O’ahu in the fall of 2018.
The contract value is $6.5m out of a total project value of $12m for this first of a kind grid scale project at the US Navy Wave Energy Test site.
The project underscores the increasing significance of the bilateral economic relationship between Ireland and the United States. In 2017, Irish businesses employed more than 100,000 people in the US, and the number of jobs created by partnerships such as that between Vigor and Ocean Energy pushes the Irish contribution to US employment multiples higher. Wave energy has a market potential of over $18billion1 to Ireland’s economy by 2050. Similarly, the US has a substantial wave energy resource, which could deliver up to 15 percent2 of its annual electricity demand. In Oregon, the estimated potential value to the local economy is $2.4 billion3 per annum with an associated 13,630 jobs4.
The sustainability aspects of this project are also indicative of the value that Irish innovation and entrepreneurship consistently provides US partners. The 826‐ton “OE Buoy” measures 125 x 59 feet with a draft of 31 feet and has a potential rated capacity of up to 1.25 MW in electrical power production. Each deployed commercial device could reduce CO2 emissions by over 3,6005 tons annually, which for a utility‐ scale wave farm of 100 MW could amount to over 180,000 tons of CO2 in a full year. It is estimated that a 100 MW wave farm could power up to 18,7506 American homes.
Commenting on their partnership with Ocean Energy, Vigor CEO, Frank Foti, noted that his company has been actively engaged in building wave energy devices and their components for the past ten years ‐” We are thrilled to be participating in this project with Ocean Energy toward the ongoing goal of a cleaner energy future for our planet. This project represents a solid step forward in developing a commercially viable product to help move us in that critical direction.”
Ocean Energy is a portfolio company of Enterprise Ireland, the Irish government agency for the advancement of innovation, entrepreneurship and international business by Irish firms. The organization provides important strategic and consultative support to Irish businesses and is also Europe’s third largest venture capital firm by deal‐count.
“With rigorous testing and scaling of OE Buoy over the past ten years, today’s announcement of the device being built in Oregon represents a truly major milestone for Ocean Energy,” said John McCarthy, Ocean Energy USA LLC Chief Executive Officer. “It’s the combination of Irish innovation and American manufacturing expertise and that’s always going to produce a world‐class result. We are delighted to be partnering with Vigor, a renowned US marine and industrial fabrication company, who have a track record of delivering cutting edge engineering projects. This internationally significant project will be invaluable to job creation, renewable energy generation and greenhouse gas reduction.”
Commenting on this positive development, Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney, said, “Building on the Irish‐US government MoU for collaboration on marine and hydrokinetic energy technologies’ research, Ocean Energy and its partners are demonstrating how transatlantic cooperation can yield immensely productive results.
Irish innovation coupled with US engineering is providing the US Navy Wave Energy Test Site with sustainable and logistical gains and a template for future large‐scale projects.”
The $12million project is part‐funded by the US Department of Energy’s office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), under an agreement committing the American and Irish governments to collaborating on Marine Hydrokinetic Technologies.
“SEAI invests in research and innovation to promote the development of new technologies. For a number of years, we have supported Ocean Energy and are delighted to see them reach the significant milestone of full scale sea trials. It is also great to see Irish companies benefitting from continued US Ireland collaboration in sustainable energy, and using the wave energy facilities and resources to best effect.” stated Jim Gannon, CEO, SEAI.