If Michael Whelan's dream comes true, the Atlantic ocean will soon help keep the lights on in Ireland.

And if it does, it will complete a circuit for Whelan: 30 years ago he was a commercial diver working on North Sea oil and gas installations.

Returning to Ireland in the 1980s, he started a marine towing and salvage company. After selling that business, he opened a quayside hotel in Cobh near Cork. But now he has returned to the sea - to generate electricity from wave power. His enthusiasm for the project, a wave energy converter called an Ocean Energy Buoy, knows no limits.

While everyone else was celebrating Christmas Day last year, Whelan was mooring his 28-tonne prototype in Galway Bay. Over the next eight months, the quarter-scale model was battered by storms. Whelan felt like a fish out of water when he opened The Waters Edge Hotel on the quayside at Cobh - and the lure of the sea soon grew irresistibly strong.

"Building a hotel was great fun but when I started selling food and beds to people, I knew I was in the wrong business," Whelan says. "I had an interest in renewable energy and I needed to get my feet back into the water."


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