Students ‘Shooting the Breeze’ as a sustainable new world from west coast wind is showcased in Shannon Foynes Port competition

Innovation, team-work and hard work of students stand out as eyes are opened wide to Shannon Estuary and west coast wind potential

Winning captain says we can make the future better with wind

Monday 29 April 2024 : The future is in safe hands and very much about sustainability, Shannon Foynes Port Chief Executive Pat Keating stated as he applauded students from across the Shannon Estuary for their vision for the future at the 4th Compass schools competition final.

Hosted at the newly renovated Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum at the weekend, the competition, themed ‘Shooting the Breeze’, saw five schools shortlisted for the grand final set out their vision for a future entirely powered from renewable energy by harvesting our infinite wind supply off the west coast through floating wind energy.

Some 250 plus attendees, including students and teachers, poured into the venue as four finalists from Limerick – two from Salesian College Pallaskenry and one each from Ardscoil Ris and Laurel Hill Secondary School – battled it out with the sole Clare finalist, St. Joseph’s Secondary School Spanish Point.

And it was the most westerly school in the competition, St. Joseph’s Secondary School Spanish Point, that walked away with the top prize and a €2,000 cheque for the school, a school facing right into the teeth of the very offshore winds that inspired the competition and that will drive Ireland’s transformation into an international renewable energy hub.  The winning team members each received an iPad for their efforts and a Gold Commemorative Medal. Each of the runners up also received a silver medal and a days’ sailing on the Shannon Estuary sponsored by Foynes Yacht Club.

The port authority organised competition tasked TY students in counties Clare, Kerry and Limerick to envisage, through a short film and presentation, what realising the unprecedented renewable energy opportunity on the Shannon Estuary can do for the region and nation’s future.

The status of the competition was also reflected by the attendance of two cabinet ministers Minister for Education Norma Foley and Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Patrick O’Donovan, as well as Minister of State at the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Niall Collins, Member of European Parliament Sean Kelly, Dail Deputies Richard O’Donoghue and Michael McNamara and Senator Ned O’Sullivan. 

Commenting following the announcement of the winner, Shannon Foynes Port CEO Pat Keating said that the participation rate amongst schools and students and the standard of presentations suggest that the competition objective of raising the awareness of the immense opportunities afforded by Shannon Foynes Port Company and the Shannon Estuary is being achieved.

“It’s hugely important that the wider public understands what the opportunity from the Shannon Estuary and offshore winds is and that includes our younger generation as it’s their future. The exciting piece is that their ambitions and ours, as the competition showed, are aligned around sustainability. So, this competition enables us to share with them that the world they want to emerge, a sustainable world, is a world that can be enabled by the Shannon Estuary becoming a truly international renewable energy hub.”

Captain of the winning team Róisín Molohan said that the school was both delighted and surprised by the win and the experience had certainly heightened understanding of the immense offshore wind resource that the school looks out onto every day. And she expressed the desire of all the participants in the event for offshore wind energy to be realized.

“We’re all very shocked. We saw the other teams’ presentations and they were all amazing so we’re just so happy and we’re so shocked that we won it.  But it’s great and we’re so happy because we worked really hard on it,” she said.

“We weren’t aware at all of the offshore wind opportunity. But this competition really opened our eyes. It’s our kids and our grandchildren’s world that is going to be affected by this. So, we’re just trying to make the world the best we possibly can.

“Whoever out there is responsible for making this happen, as young people, we want this to happen, and we need it to happen.”

Education Minister Norma Foley said that competition reflects the wishes of young people today. “I think the Shannon Estuary is a magnificent backdrop for today’s competition. The competition is very much focused on an opportunity for young people to appreciate the potential of the ports here. These young people are beacons if you like. Not just for today, but for tomorrow and generations to come. So, as we hear their voice today, I urge people to listen to their voice. It is a voice of truth and honesty and investment into the future,” she said.

Minister for Higher Education Patrick O’Donovan said great credit is due to the Shannon Foynes Port Company for running the competition. “In my role now as Minister for Further and Higher Education, what I am trying to encourage young people to do is to look at alternatives to the traditional route into third level. There’s no doubt about it, but here in the southwest of Ireland, the big opportunity will be in the capturing of the energy that’s out in the North Atlantic,” he said. 

Minister of State at the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Niall Collins noted that it was “future of our country talking about the future of our country”.  He said, “This is a really great day because it’s allowing our students to tell us exactly what they want for their future. The younger generation absolutely want to see the Shannon Estuary turning green. They want the West Coast offshore energy projects. This is exactly what the younger generations want.”

Chairman of the Judging Panel, Shannon Foynes Port Harbour Master Michael Kennelly said that the panel was struck by the understanding of the students around the floating offshore wind opportunity. “I think that it was evident that the students certainly now have a great understanding, if they didn’t have before the competition, of what the potential is from the estuary, from offshore wind and, indeed, the opportunity from all of this for their future. It really was an excellent event and we were so impressed with the innovation shown by the schools, their imagination and their teamwork, which was something we were certainly looking out for.”

The judging panel also included Assistant Engineer at Shannon Foynes Port Tom Treacy, CEO of Shannon Chamber Helen Downes; CEO of Tralee Chamber Colette O’Connor, Skillnet Manager at Limerick Chamber Michael MacCurtain and Theatre Producer, Film/TV Co-Ordinator and Arts Consultant Marketa Dowling.

In addition to the schools’ presentations the attendance was also treated to a motivational questions and answers session, compered by MC Seamus Hennessy, with Irish hockey star Róisín Upton, Performance Psychologist with Limerick Hurling Academy and Lecturer on Psychology of Exam Preparation & Performance Pat McCarthy, and Kerry footballer Jason Foley.

Shannon Foynes Port partnered on this year’s competition with the Hunt Museum, leveraging off its ‘Nights Candles are Burnt Out’ exhibition, which charts the previous renewable energy revolution off the Shannon system via the development almost a century ago of the Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme at Ardnacrusha.