Wave Hub Construction Underway In South West England

Graphical representation of the Wave Hub project under construction in South West England
South West RDA’s Wave Hub project is now under construction.

The South West RDA (Regional Development Agency) has started construction on the pioneering Wave Hub project 10 miles off the north coast of Cornwall. The project will put South West England at the forefront of the global marine energy industry.

Wave Hub is a cornerstone of the RDA’s strategy to develop a world class marine energy industry in the South West. It is a large grid-connected socket on the seabed for wave energy devices to be tested on a scale not seen before. The £42 million project is fully funded, has planning approval and will be operational next year. It has already signed up its first wave device developer.

Stephen Peacock, Executive Director of Enterprise and Innovation at the South West RDA, said: “This milestone is the culmination of more than six years’ work by the RDA and its partners and will catapult South West England and the UK to the forefront of wave energy development. Our aim is to create an entirely new low carbon industry in the South West and hundreds of quality jobs.”

Wave Hub is being funded with £12.5 million from the South West RDA, £20 million from the European Regional Development Fund Convergence Programme, and £9.5 million from the UK government.

In July, South West England was designated the UK’s first Low Carbon Economic Area because of its strength in marine energy, attracting a further £10 million of UK government investment for projects that will support the industry.

With government, RDA and European funding, the total investment in the South West’s marine energy programme in the next two years is expected to top £100 million.

Energy and Climate Change Minister, Lord Hunt, welcomed the start of work on Wave Hub: “Clean green renewable energy is a central component of our response to climate change and ensuring future energy supplies. The scope for wave and tidal energy around the UK’s shores is massive and the Wave Hub will help marine energy developers test their cutting edge projects and help them reach commercial viability. The South West is the UK’s first Low Carbon Economic Area, building on its regional business opportunities and skills. The combination of its wealth of natural marine resource and its high level of expertise in marine technology makes it an ideal location for the Wave Hub.”

Carleen Kelemen, director of the Convergence Partnership Office for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “Global climate change is both a set of challenges and a real opportunity for new economic development. This ERDF Convergence investment in the Wave Hub is part of a suite of investments in environmental goods and services through new research and innovation, skills and business development being made by the Convergence programmes for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as we prepare for the new economy.”

The first phase of construction will be on shore. Civil engineers Dean & Dyball have been appointed to drill a 200 metre duct under and through sand dunes on the beach at Hayle in Cornwall between now and the end of the year. The narrow duct will be lined with a pipe as it is drilled and will eventually link Wave Hub’s subsea cable with a new electricity sub-station on the site of a former power station. Work on the sub-station will start in January and is expected to take six months to complete. Wave Hub will be deployed and the subsea cable laid in the summer of next year.

The South West RDA has also announced the appointment of Guy Lavender as General Manager for the Wave Hub project. After a comprehensive recruitment process Mr Lavender – who currently works at the RDA as Director for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games – emerged as the best candidate from a strong field. Guy will join Nick Harrington and the rest of the Wave Hub delivery team from January of next year as the remaining installation contracts are awarded and construction begins, and he will be responsible for leading the safe and efficient operation of Wave Hub.

Power Technologies' PowerBuoy wave energy converter out of the water
Power Technologies’ PowerBuoy wave energy converters will be the first to connect to the Wave Hub.

The South West RDA leads the development of a sustainable economy, investing to unlock the region’s business potential. It is helping companies respond to the economic crisis and charts a course for recovery. The RDA is developing or expanding initiatives which include: establishing a Business Loan Fund; coordinating the response to large companies in difficulty; preparing for economic recovery.

Wave Hub is a major marine renewables infrastructure project that will create an electrical ‘socket’ on the seabed in some 50 metres of water around 16kms (10 miles) off the coast of Cornwall in South West England and connected to the National Grid via a subsea cable. Groups of wave energy devices will be connected to Wave Hub and float on or just below the surface of the sea to assess how well they work and how much power they generate before going into full commercial production. There are four berths available at Wave Hub, each covering two square kilometres. Wave Hub will have an initial maximum capacity of 20 megawatts (enough electricity to power approximately 7,000 homes) but has been designed with the potential to scale up to 50MW in the future. The project will be built in the summer of 2010 with the first wave energy devices expected to be deployed in 2011.

An independent economic impact assessment has calculated that Wave Hub could create 1,800 jobs and inject £560 million in the UK economy over 25 years. Almost 1,000 of these jobs and £332 million could be generated in the South West.

Legal agreements have been signed with leading renewable energy company Ocean Power Technologies Limited to take the first berth at Wave Hub using its PowerBuoy wave energy converter.

JDR Cable Systems Ltd has been appointed to manufacture the armoured 26.5 km (16.5 mile) 33kV cable and hub assembly for Wave Hub at its factory in Hartlepool in a contract worth £7.6 million. The cable will weigh 1,500 tonnes. The hub will be about the size of a Mini car and sit on the seabed. It will split the main cable linking it to the National Grid on shore into four 300m cables to which groups of wave energy devices can be attached and monitored for how they perform.

Powermann Ltd of Poole in Dorset has been appointed to handle the £1 million onshore electrical works that will connect Wave Hub to the UK’s National Grid network. The remaining packages of work, including offshore cable laying, are expected to be let before the end of the year.

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