Despite some 7,000 miles separating Ireland and Hawaii, the two islands have a lot in common. The islands’ peoples have always looked to their respective oceans for resources, inspiration and opportunity.
Today, Irish company Ocean Energy announced its wave energy convertor OE Buoy will be built by Oregon-based Vigor and deployed at the U.S. 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 $6.5 million out of a total project value of $12 million for this first of a kind grid scale project at the U.S. Navy Wave Energy Test site.
The project underscores the increasing significance of the bilateral economic relationship between Ireland and the U.S. In 2017, Irish businesses employed more than 100,000 people in the U.S., and the number of jobs created by partnerships such as that between Vigor and Ocean Energy pushes the Irish contribution to U.S. employment multiples higher.
Wave energy has a market potential of over $18 billion
to Ireland’s economy by 2050. Similarly, the U.S. has a substantial wave energy resource, which could deliver up to 15 percent
of its annual electricity demand. In Oregon, the estimated potential value to the local economy is $2.4 billion
per annum with an associated 13,630 jobs
The sustainability aspects of this project are also indicative of the value that Irish innovation and entrepreneurship consistently provides U.S. 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. According to Ocean Energy, each deployed commercial device could reduce CO2 emissions by over 3,600 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. Ocean Energy estimates that a 100 MW wave farm could power up to 18,750 American homes.
Commenting on the 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 10 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 U.S. 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-U.S. 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 U.S. Navy Wave Energy Test Site with sustainable and logistical gains and a template for future large-scale projects.”
The $12 million project is part-funded by the U.S. 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 U.S. Ireland collaboration in sustainable energy, and using the wave energy facilities and resources to best effect,” stated Jim Gannon, CEO, SEAI.