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ESB partners with UL to support world-leading research for a clean energy future

Installation incorporating original Shannon Scheme turbine unveiled

8 May 2018

ESB today announced a new partnership with the University of Limerick to support  the brightest energy researchers in the University over the next four years.

The partnership was announced this morning at the unveiling of a new art installation which is created around the runner of an original Francis Turbine from Ardnacrusha Power Station. It generated clean electricity continuously for 66 years, before being decommissioned and replaced in 1995 and donated by ESB to UL in 2010.

The installation is located in the courtyard of the Bernal Institute at UL,  where over 260 world leading researchers in the fields of Science and Engineering are based, including three PhD students, Cian Murphy, Hamid Hafizi and Indraneel Roy Chowdhury, whose energy related research will  receive funding from ESB through the new partnership.

“I was a curious child, always asking ‘why’ and wondering about the world we inhabit, and it was that curiosity that led me to science,” said Cian Murphy, speaking at today’s launch of the partnership.

“My research focuses on the use of smart materials in composite structures and my vision is that one day we will all be generating our own clean electricity, just by walking down the street. I’m excited that my curiosity might now lead to a real benefit to our society, and this funding support from ESB will greatly assist me in this goal.”

In addition, ESB will be an industry partner to Science Foundation Ireland-funded projects with the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy at UL, with particular focus on real-time remote monitoring of substations and the remote operation of drones for inspection of transmission lines and wind turbines. (further details below). 

ESB will also fund an annual visiting lecture which will bring international experts to UL to share insights and the latest international thinking on research to tackle climate change.

Speaking at the announcement, Dr Desmond Fitzgerald, President of UL, said: “Ireland’s energy challenges are current. In UL we are involved in a race against time to develop novel, more sustainable, more efficient means of energy generation and use. The fact that ESB is supporting three PhD student scholarships in energy and sustainable development is testament to the urgency of this research. It is also a vote of confidence in UL, particularly our people in the world class Bernal Institute who are well placed to lead in this field.”

Pat O’Doherty, Chief Executive of ESB, added: “The Turbine Installation at University of Limerick is a fitting reminder of the important role played by the Shannon Scheme in triggering major social and economic change in Ireland.  One of the most visionary projects of the last century, it helped to change a way of life that had existed for generations.  We at ESB continue to see electricity as a force for positive change, particularly in the context of tackling climate change. We are delighted to partner with UL to fund research that will help to make energy more sustainable, more efficient and ultimately provide customers with a better alternative to power all aspects of their lives.

“The transition to a low carbon future will require creative and innovative solutions, and the work currently being carried out in the Bernal Institute at UL will support this.”

ESB is leading the transition to a low carbon future by investing in low carbon and renewable generation, pioneering smart grid technologies to connect intermittent renewable generation with technology enabled customers and  by supporting the electrification of heating and transport as a way of reducing Ireland’s dependence on carbon intensive fossil fuels. 

Photos from the art installation this morning (Photos available for download via the ESB Flickr page - Credit: Press 22)

PhD Project Details:

1) Student: Cian Murphy
Supervisors: Dr Emmet O’Reilly, Dr. Micheal Scanlon,
Title: Piezoelectric Polymers for Energy Harvesting Applications
This proposal aims to develop the low cost technologies for the incorporation of energy harvesting piezoelectric polymers into reinforced composite laminate structures thereby providing the next generation of composite structures that are not only capable of providing  a specific function but also energy generation and energy harvesting through day to day operation. 

2) Student: Indraneel Roy Chowdhury
Supervisors: Dr Anthony Comer, Prof. Noel O’Dowd
Title: FibreBlade
The overarching objective is to develop new wind turbine design concepts using novel material constituents which are compatible with automated manufacturing processes. This will be achieved by a combination of experimental and modelling activities.

3) Student: Hamid Hafizi
Supervisors: Professor Gavin Walker Dr. Denise Croker
Title: Obtaining high value-added chemicals using heterogeneous catalytic conversion of biomass and its derivatives
The main aim of this research plan is to design some catalytic processes (such as dehydration, hydrolysis, esterification, oxidation, etc.) for the conversion of biomass and its derivatives (such as carbohydrates,...) to fuels and value-added chemicals (such as furan compounds, levulinic acid,...) using core-shell nanoparticles as heterogenous catalysts. 

MaREI Partnership
ESB supports SFI’s MaREI (Marine & Renewable Energy Ireland, ) Centre research at the Centre for Robotics and Intelligent Systems ( ) that leads a research strand in Operations Support Engineering for Marine Renewable Energy within MaREI.  This research project at CRIS led by Prof Daniel Toal has two significant aspects, one is focused on the real-time remote monitoring of substations in the energy distribution network and the other focuses on developing marinised UAV technology for close quarters inspection of energy infrastructure including transmission systems / power lines and marine renewable energy infrastructure offshore. The drone technology developed in this project will facilitate remote operation of drones capable of take-off and landing on mobile and marine platforms and used for inspection of transmission lines and wind turbines.     

About ESB

ESB operates across the electricity market: from generation, through transmission and distribution to the supply of customers with an expanding presence in the Great Britain generation market. In addition we extract further value through supplying gas, energy services and using our networks to carry fibre for telecommunications. ESB is the owner of the distribution and transmission networks in the Republic of Ireland (via ESB Networks) and Northern Ireland (via Northern Ireland Electricity Networks Ltd).  In 2017 it had a 42% share of generation in the all-island market (via Generation and Wholesale Markets) and a 34% share of electricity supply in the all-island market (via Electric Ireland) with 1.4 million customer accounts.

ESB has been a leading independent energy company in the UK for over 23 years where the company has invested almost £2bn in generation and power network assets. This year, ESB Energy was launched in Britain, offering very competitive electricity and gas offerings to residential customers.

ESB contributes almost €2 billion annually to the Irish economy through dividends, investments, taxes and jobs. ESB provides significant employment both directly, with over 7,790 employees, and indirectly through contractors and service providers. See for more details.