Energy Valley plan launched for Shannon

The University of Limerick and NUI Galway announced plans early last week to partner with Shannon Development and the Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG) to create a new “Shannon Energy Valley”. Speaking at the announcement of the launch at a conference in Silicon Valley, NUIG Vice-President for Research Professor Terry Smith explained that the Shannon Energy Valley will act as a national green “energy hub” for research and development, industry and commerce while providing much needed employment and attracting foreign investment.
The initiative’s location is said to be influenced by Shannon’s history of renewable energy projects, with the 1920s Ardnacrusha project functioning as the world’s largest renewable energy initiative at the time. The area’s pre-existing grid infrastructure, alongside its coal, oil and gas generating stations and the construction of a liquid natural gas terminal, also made Shannon a convenient location for the energy valley.
Inspired by Silicon Valley, the initiative aims to develop alternative energy sources through the use of the area’s natural resources. Speaking at the conference Professor Brian Fitzgerald, Vice-President of Research at UL, commented on Ireland’s worrying present relationship with renewable energy, but highlighted the initiative’s aim to change this. “The European Wind Energy Association has estimated that the spending on importing energy in Ireland works out at almost €1,000 per annum for every man, woman and child. Ireland is surrounded by natural resources in the form of wind, wave, tidal, solar and local geothermal energy. This is a major opportunity for Ireland to become a leader in energy research.”
The two universities, UL and NUIG, are said to be at the head of this research objective. The initiative, Prof. Smith stated, is “the first major initiative in regional development to flow directly from the Strategic Alliance between NUI Galway and UL launched by An Taoiseach, Brian Cowen TD, on February 18th last”. Commenting on NUIG’s B.E. in Energy Systems Engineering and UL’s BSc. Energy courses, Prof. Smith remarked that both courses have been operating successfully since their launches in 2009. UL is also set to appoint their newly created Professorial position in Energy later his year.
Also noted at the conference were UL and NUIG’s aims to collaborate in offering more energy courses at undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD levels with the hopes of providing the continual knowledge and expertise needed for the Shannon Energy Valley. Other aims of the initiative include eventual self-sufficiency in energy, lowering Ireland’s carbon footprint and industrial costs to meet emission targets, and the creation of an Energy and Environment Park in which both businesses and the public can gain access and knowledge concerning Ireland’s renewable energy projects.
An estimated €10 billion will also be spent on the construction of wind-farms across Ireland with the majority of these located within a one hour range from the Shannon Energy Valley. Through these aims the initiative hopes to create both immediate short-term employment and skilled jobs by offering re-training and advanced training within the long-term project of the sustainable energy industry.