A full-scale national wave energy test site off Annagh Head near Belmullet in County Mayo was first proposed in 2010 by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, touted as a way to determine how much potential Ireland has to generate electricity from its ocean resources.
Irish Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte told the International Conference on Ocean Energy in Dublin Wednesday the project would be granted a "foreshore license" to proceed, Mayo Today reported.
Rabbitte said the license will allow ESB International of Dublin and the agency to ramp up research efforts there with the deployment of wave measurement buoys for at least a year.
At the Dublin conference, Rabbitte declared Ireland was committed to developing its wind and wave resources and promised to deliver an updated ocean energy strategy by the end of the year, The Irish Times reported.
The energy minister also indicated he would introduce legislation to streamline the country's foreshore licensing process for future tidal energy farms.
He also said the upcoming Irish EU presidency would focus on marine renewables early next year.
The SEAI says the idea behind a wave energy test site is to provide an installation to examine the performance of generation devices over as long as 20 years in all types of open sea conditions.
"We have already made progress in terms of technology development, test facilities and infrastructure planning," agency Chief Executive Brian Motherway told the Dublin gathering. "This energy resource will be worth billions if properly exploited for electricity generation in the years to come."
There have only been a handful of full-scale wave energy devices tested in the world, the agency says, and the development of such a test site near Belmullet "will be a major international success for Ireland."
The proposed test site would operate for up to 20 years and include three separate test locations at near-shore, mid-water and deep-water depths, depending on the specific devices being tested.
Four submarine electricity cables would be installed at least 3 feet below the seabed and will come ashore at Belderra, where a small electricity substation would be built.
The International Conference on Ocean Energy drew 900 delegates from Australia, Europe and the United States to Dublin, where they were addressed by government ministers from Canada and Scotland, as well as Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster of Northern Ireland.
Foster cited the British Crown Estate's announcement last week it had granted seabed lease development rights for a total of 200 megawatts of marine tidal projects at Torr Head and Fair Head in County Antrim, calling it a "significant milestone."
"Northern Ireland's strategic aim is for a more sustainable energy system where much more of our energy is generated from renewable sources," she said, adding it highlights "the vast innovation and growth opportunities for local businesses."