Marine energy investment

The south west is set to become a global centre for marine energy following a £10.3m investment in the development of equipment and expertise to harness energy from the sea.

The investment will be used by the Peninsula Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy (PRIMaRE), which was set up two years ago by Exeter and Plymouth universities with financial support from the South West Regional Development Agency (RDA).

According to PRIMaRE, the funding will support five academic staff, 60 researchers and a technology transfer team to work with businesses and create jobs across the region.

The money will also provide new equipment including wave and tidal measuring devices, wave-making facilities, subsea electrical equipment, collision avoidance and monitoring devices.

PRIMaRE will support the South West RDA’s pioneering Wave Hub project, which will create the world’s largest wave-energy farm 10 miles off the Cornish coast and is on course to be built next year.

Stephen Peacock, enterprise and innovation director at the South West RDA, said: ‘PRIMaRE and Wave Hub are central planks in the RDA’s drive towards a low-carbon economy in south-west England. We want our region to be one of the best places in the world to build a low-carbon business and a global leader in the development of environmental and renewable energy technologies.’

Local businesses are today viewing the South West Mooring Test Facility (SWMTF) buoy at an event at Falmouth’s Maritime Museum.

The buoy, which has been developed by Exeter University’s PRIMaRE team, is able to obtain detailed data to show how moored structures respond to changes in wind, wave, current and tide. This information will be used by developers to test their mooring designs.

Nigel Howells, head of competiveness in the south west, said: ‘Climate change presents many challenges but there are also great opportunities for new low-carbon goods, services and energy production. It is only through investment in top quality scientific research and knowledge transfer to businesses that we will successfully tap these new markets. This ERDF Competiveness and Convergence investment will stimulate the creation of a whole new industry and related business opportunities.’

The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) has contributed £5.3m to the project, with additional support from the Convergence Programme in Cornwall and the ERDF Competiveness Programme. The South West RDA is also contributing £4.3m, with a further £200,000 from Plymouth University and £466,000 from Exeter University.