Wave Energy Companies Selected for UK Ocean Test Site

The South West of England Regional Development Agency (RDA) has just named three development partners for the first phase of the proposed GBP 15 million [USD $26 million] Wave Hub project, which will be the world’s first wave energy farm.

The Wave Hub, like an electrical socket, would be located on the seabed off the coast of Cornwall approximately 10 miles out to sea and connected to the National Grid via an underwater cable. It will act as a real-world testing ground for wave energy devices hoping to become a commercial success. “We have chosen three companies that are sufficiently advanced with their devices, have the resources to deliver their projects and are committed to working with stakeholders in Cornwall through the Cornwall Sustainable Energy Partnership,” said Nick Harrington, Wave Hub Project manager at the South West RDA, “to capture the economic benefits of Wave Hub for Cornwall and the South West region.” The three companies, Ocean Prospect Ltd., Ocean Power Technologies, and Fred. Olsen Ltd. will help work commence next year on building Wave Hub, with their wave devices deployed soon after. Once wave-energy converter devices are connected to the Wave Hub, device manufacturers can carry out large-scale testing of their machines before going into commercial production. Ocean Prospect Ltd., a subsidiary of the Wind Prospect Group based in Bristol, UK, intends to trial up to 10 Pelamis P750 devices developed by Ocean Power Delivery of Edinburgh. The Pelamis is a semi-submerged, articulated structure composed of cylindrical sections linked by hinged joints. The wave-induced motion of these joints is resisted by hydraulic rams, which pump high-pressure oil through hydraulic motors that drive electrical generators to produce electricity. “Wave Hub makes it economic for us to develop our first wave energy project. Without it we would have to wait a long time for the market conditions to be right for a large scale, stand-alone project,” said Colin Palmer, Director of Ocean Prospect. “Wave Hub has the potential to become a wave energy showcase for the world.” Ocean Power Technologies, based in the U.S., plans to install a 5 MW project at the Wave Hub based on its PowerBuoy wave energy converter. The PowerBuoy is free-floating and loosely moored to the seabed; the buoy’s float moves up and down on the central spar as the waves pass. This mechanical movement drives a hydraulic pump that forces hydraulic fluid through a rotary motor connected to an electrical generator. PowerBuoys are currently deployed off the coasts of New Jersey and Hawaii. The origin of Fred. Olsen Ltd., based in Oslo, Norway, dates back to 1848 when Fred. Olsen & Co. entered the ship-owning business. Over the years associated companies have diversified to include renewable energy projects that comprise the development, ownership and operation of wind farms mainly in the UK, small hydro and, most recently, investment in wave devices. The objective in that area is to develop a wave device to generate electricity at a cost per kilowatt-hour that is less than the equivalent for offshore wind farms. The company has developed a unique multiple point-absorber system for energy extraction from the waves. A number of floating buoys attached to a light and stable floating platform manufactured in composites converts the wave energy to electricity. “In the future we will all have significantly increased need for energy from renewable sources. Governments need to facilitate and support the development of technologies and systems for wave power extraction,” said Fred. Olsen, chairman and owner. “Establishment of the Wave Hub in Cornwall is an important milestone supporting developers to make wave energy a commercially attractive source of renewable energy. Government support in this respect would be very much appreciated.” This announcement comes on the heels of a report published last week by the Carbon Trust that found wave and tidal stream resources could provide up to 20 percent of the UK’s current electricity needs, given the right level of investment now from the public and private sector. Research quoted in the report indicates that marine energy resources are strongest around the South West of England and to the west and north of Scotland. The South West of England Regional Development Agency (South West RDA), which has already committed GBP 2 million [USD $3,500,000] to the Wave Hub project as part of its strategy to develop environmental technologies in the South West, will be seeking a private sector partner that would own and operate Wave Hub. As further funding becomes committed, consents will be secured from the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
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