IBM and The Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI) are working together to understand and minimize the environmental impact of converting wave energy into electricity. This project, the first to use real-time streaming analytics for monitoring underwater noise generated by wave energy conversion devices, represents a significant step toward the ability to successfully and sustainably utilize the ocean as a new renewable energy resource.
The ocean contains vast quantities of untapped renewable energy, but the environmental impact of collecting this energy is not fully understood. While underwater noise limits have been established by the European Union's marine environmental policy, there are no established global standards for the noise impact of wave energy collection devices on the marine ecosystem, and noise emissions from these devices have not been assessed for environmental impact. This collaboration seeks to accelerate methods and technologies that enable environmental impact assessment of these devices to ensure an environmentally friendly, sustainable approach to wave energy collection.
"Underwater noise is a global environmental issue that has to be addressed if we are to take advantage of the huge potential of ocean energy," said European Union Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Maire Geoghegan-Quinn.
The system will consist of sensing platforms, a communications infrastructure, and advanced stream analytics that utilize cloud computing. The first test site, located in Galway Bay, has been part of the SmartBay collaboration involving IBM Research and the Marine Institute Ireland to monitor wave conditions, acoustics, marine life and pollution levels in and around the bay. Development of a full scale, grid connected test site on the west coast of Ireland near Belmullet, County Mayo, is underway. Teams from IBM Research & Development – Ireland and SEAI will work closely with Ireland's Marine Institute, which is providing extensive technical marine services support at both sites.
"Ireland has one of highest concentrations of wave energy in the world, presenting a significant opportunity to expand its renewable energy portfolio and develop new industry capabilities," said Professor J. Owen Lewis, CEO SEAI. "This project supports Ireland's commitment to the development of sustainable energy resources and the range of industrial technologies and services that will underpin their utilization."
When fully operational, the system will produce one of the largest continuous collections of underwater acoustic data ever captured. This data will be made available to marine researchers and regulatory agencies to further advance knowledge of natural and man-made underwater sound, and help develop standards and reporting, benefitting marine environmental agencies as well as industries including renewable energy, shipping, and offshore oil and gas.
Ultimately, the team hopes to establish foundational platforms for comprehensive ocean energy monitoring with deep analytics that will tie in to smartgrid technologies.
This project is supported by a grant issued under the Ocean Energy Industry Prototype fund, administered by the Ocean Energy Development Unit in SEAI.