The hub of a power revolution

The developer of a planned wave power farm in Cornwall has named a trio of renewable energy specialists whose technology will underpin the £15m project.

The three companies will provide the energy generation systems at the core of the first phase of Wave Hub, which aims to deliver electricity to the national grid via an ‘offshore power socket’ located 10 miles from the Cornish coast.

Large-scale tests

The South West RDA (SWRDA), which is behind the initiative, said Ocean Power Technologies (OPT), Ocean Prospect and Fred Olsen, would each carry out large-scale testing at the Wave Hub site during the next year.

SWRDA said each had developed ‘very different technologies’, but all had reached a sufficiently advanced stage to be involved in the ambitious project.

Wave Hub will mark a UK debut for OPT, the world’s first publicly-listed wave power company.

Its wave energy systems are based on modular, buoy-like structures called PowerBuoys. These are intelligent devices which are capable of responding to different conditions. Submerged a metre or more beneath the water, a piston-based system within each unit is moved through the rise and fall of the waves, driving a generator on the sea bed that produces electricity for transmission to the shore via a standard small-diameter submarine cable.

The PowerBouys being installed as part of Wave Hub will be based on those deployed elsewhere in Europe and the US, including a system for the US Navy in Hawaii.

An offshore plant is created by connecting an array of PowerBuoys to generate the required energy.

The OPT Wave Hub power station will generate 5MW of power, and will initially comprise 150kW PowerBuoys, but in the final stage it may include 250kW devices .

Further projects

Overall there will be approximately 30 PowerBuoys deployed from 2007-2008, and the company hopes this initial project will open the door to further projects in the UK wave energy market.

With £2m already committed by SWRDA, it is hoped that Wave Hub will act as an economic boon for the region, directly creating 100 jobs and acting as a catalyst for the creation of a new renewables industry building on the south west’s traditional strengths in engineering.

The project’s backers have said there could be 450 new jobs and an annual £15m boost to the regional economy by 2010, increasing to 700 jobs and £27m by 2020, with at least 40 per cent of the jobs being realised in Cornwall.