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United States and Ireland collaborate in $12m deal to advance marine energy


The U.S. subsidiary of Irish-based Ocean Energy Ltd., together with Vigor, a shipbuilding and manufacturing company based in Portland, Oregon, have signed a $6.5 million agreement to design and construct the 35-meter hull of Ocean Energy’s wave energy converter buoy at Vigor’s fabrication facility.

The contract value is $6.5 million out of a total project value of $12 million which 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.

The agreement between Ocean Energy and Vigor not only sets the construction and testing timeline in motion for the new wave energy device, but also demonstrates the value of ocean energy to marine manufacturing and coastal economies.

Ireland’s Sustainable Energy Authority and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) are both providing research funding that will support the in-water testing of the new OceanEnergy Buoy being manufactured by Vigor. Ocean Energy received WPTO funding in 2013 to research alternative manufacturing methods for its OceanEnergy Buoy hull.

The OceanEnergy Buoy is a wave energy converter comprising new reinforced composites, aluminum, and stainless steel to negate corrosion and survive in uncompromising ocean environments. Ocean Energy’s technology has been subjected to over 10 years of R&D coupled with several rounds of scaled testing at the Galway Bay Ireland Test Site.

The device being manufactured in Oregon will also have a much larger 500-kilowatt HydroAir turbine designed by U.S. manufacturing company, Dresser Rand. A critical component of the OceanEnergy Buoy, the Dresser Rand turbine has its own controls system and has already been successfully tested at sea in Galway Bay, Ireland.

Planned testing operations for both devices include a full year of deployment at the U.S. Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) in Hawaii. Beginning in August of 2018, both turbine and buoy performance will be measured on a grid-connected scale never before seen in the United States. Ocean Energy then intends to redeploy their device with a 1-megawatt turbine design at the European Marine Energy Centre in 2020.

Wave energy has a market potential of over $18 billion to Ireland’s economy by 2050. Similarly, the US 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.

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.

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