Sea energy showcase

Friday, 28 September, 2007

A plan to test new wave-power devices off the coast of south-west England will create what claims to be the world's largest wave farm and establish the area as a global leader in the technology's development.

The Wave Hub project is being promoted by the area's regional development agency, which will seek to establish the globe's first large-scale wave-energy farm in a bid to pioneer an industry that would provide hundreds of jobs and generate many millions of pounds.

Wave Hub could be operational by the middle of 2008 and is expected to be capable of generating up to 20 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to meet the demands of 7500 homes, saving 24,300 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year when displacing fossil fuels. This would support south-west England's target of generating 15% of the region's power from renewable sources by 2010.

Already, 16 wave-device developers from Norway, Australia and the United States have shown interest in the Wave Hub and four of these companies have been chosen to deploy their own particular wave-energy converters on a scale not seen before anywhere in the world.

Recent data from a wave buoy located at the site has shown it has an average wave height of 2.3 m and a maximum height of 8.8 m. Hayle already has a direct connection to the UK national grid with a total capacity of up to 30 MW and would allow the Wave Hub machines to be connected to it by a 25 km undersea high-voltage cable linked to a new electricity substation at Hayle.

Wave Hub will offer an electrical "socket' on the seabed and will be able to accommodate at any one time four companies that are seeking to move into full-scale pre-commercialisation testing of life-size device arrays.

Developers will be given a five-year lease of a sea area of two square kilometres in which to test their devices over several years, and a sub-sea transformer will be provided with capacity to deliver up to 5 MW of power into the distribution network. Groups of wave-energy devices will be connected to the Wave Hub socket and float on or just below the surface of the sea to assess how well they work and how much power they generate.

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