Peter Mandelson, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, named the South West as the UK’s first Low Carbon Economic Area at the launch of the Government’s Low Carbon Industrial Strategy in London earlier this week. The news comes despite the South West having the poorest record of renewable energy delivery against targets.
Stephen Peacock, Director at the South West Regional Development Agency said: “This is about a new industry and new jobs, and the South West’s critical role in building a greener global economy. Being identified as the UK’s first Low Carbon Economic Area is a tremendous accolade and recognition of our commitment to develop this unprecedented economic opportunity. We want to forge a new industry from the seas around our shores and today’s announcements cement our position as a global leader in wave and tidal technologies”.
The South West Regional Development Agency’s (RDA) renewable baby is The Wave Hub. The South West RDA wants the hub to be the UK’s first offshore facility with the ability to demonstrate the operation of wave energy generation devices.
Different wave energy devices are being developed in the UK and abroad to generate electricity from the energy created by waves. After the devices have been tested as prototypes, the Wave Hub provides an area of marine environment with grid connection and planning consent where arrays of devices can be operated over several years.
The Wave Hub has however had a difficult ride with the South West RDA struggling on with the project after the EU and Westminster pulled out. The UK government will now however give the project new life with £9.5m ($US 15.5m) investment. A further £20m ($US 32.5) for Wave Hub will come from the European Regional Development Fund and £12.5m ($US 20.5) from the South West RDA itself.
The project is now expected to cost £29m ($47.5) more than originally envisaged but the RDA defended the rise saying it still represents value for money.
The infrastructure involves a sub-station building at Hayle adjacent to a connection point to the distribution network. From there, a cable will be taken via a duct beneath the sand dunes and then across the sea bed to an eight square kilometre area within which the devices will be moored. This area will be identified by floating markers.
The system will operate initially at 11kv and orders have now been placed for the sub-sea cable with installation expected in the spring and summer of 2010.
The RDA is currently inviting approaches from wave energy developers wanting to take leases to install devices from 2010 onwards. Ocean Power Technologies is set to test its PowerBuoy at Wave Hub but no other developers have yet been confirmed.