Global experts in the field attended the opening day yesterday of the two-day Lewis Symposium, hosted by the MaREI Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy in Ringaskiddy, to mark the immense contribution of Professor Tony Lewis to the sector.
Among the attendees was Stephen Salter, Emeritus Professor of Engineering Design at the University of Edinburgh who invented the Salter duck wave energy device.
Prof Lewis, who has dedicated his entire career to marine renewable energy, spearheaded the development of the MaREI Centre, based in the new state-of-the-art €15m Beaufort Building, which now houses more than 130 researchers across six institutions working with 45 industry partners.
He was also instrumental in the development of the Lir national ocean test facility, also based in the Beaufort building. The 2,600 sq m tank hall houses four different wave tanks and a suite of electrical test infrastructure.
The entire five-storey Beaufort complex, which was officially opened last July, is a major extension of University College Cork’s Environmental Research Institute, and is viewed as a critical piece of national research infrastructure.
MaREI and the Lir wave tank are also part of the IMERC cluster, a strategic initiative by UCC, Cork Institute of Technology, and the Irish Naval Service, which is positioning Ireland as one of the world’s top ocean energy research hubs.
Prof Lewis, who was recently awarded Professor Emeritus status in UCC, described Prof Salter as “a real inspiration” to him.
“I am honoured that he, and so many of others, have travelled to Cork to celebrate what we have achieved so far,” he said.
“With a sea to land ratio of over 10:1, Ireland is one of the best locations in terms of marine renewable energy resources, but it is only in the last 10 years that we have started to get serious about the potential of marine renewable energy.
“I am honoured to have played a part in that and I look forward to the continued collaboration with my colleagues in Ireland and across the world.”
The director of the MaREI centre, Prof Jerry Murphy, said Prof Lewis, through his teaching, research, industrial, and ambassadorial roles, has been one of the great influencers in marine renewable energy.
“Which is why so many of his contemporaries have travelled to Cork for this event honouring him,” he said.
“Tony saw the potential of our marine resource before many others and was instrumental in developing the sector here.”
Recent figures show that Ireland’s maritime economy grew by 9% between 2010 and 2012 — almost double that of the general economy. Employment in the sector increased from 17,425 to 18,480 full-time equivalents.
Research indicates that a fully developed Irish ocean energy sector could be worth up to €9bn to the economy by 2030 and could sustain thousands of jobs.