The South West England Regional Development Agency has kicked off a smart new program: the Wave Hub Project. Wave Hub will be an offshore facility for the testing and operation of wave energy generation devices, giving manufacturers a "plug-and-play" system to demonstrate how well their hydrokinetic energy generators work. This combines a couple of trends we've been watching for awhile: the growth of wave/tidal/ocean power as a viable renewable energy technology; and the emergence of green technologies as a path for regional differentiation and growth.
The Agency is explicit in its desire to make the region a leader in the development and deployment of renewable energy; they estimate that ocean power could be a £27 million a year industry for the region. Given that the UK's west coast has the potential to provide a significant portion of the nation's energy through ocean/wave power, it's a smart move for the South West RDA to emphasize this technology. The industry's clearly interested in the region's potential, too: three ocean power companies have signed on to do large-scale testing of their technologies, as well as to show how well they work to potential buyers, and another 13 companies have expressed interest in doing so.
The Wave Hub aims to create the world's first wave energy farm off the coast of Cornwall by building an electrical 'socket' on the seabed around 10 miles out to sea and connected to the National Grid via an underwater cable. [...]
The three companies shortlisted for Wave Hub are:
Ocean Prospect Ltd - a Bristol-based company and subsidiary of the Wind Prospect Group. Ocean Prospect 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 which drive electrical generators to produce electricity. [...]
Ocean Power Technologies - based in Warwick and listed on the London Stock Exchange, the company plans to install a 5MW project at the Wave Hub based on its PowerBuoy(TM) 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. [...]
Fred. Olsen Ltd -The origin of Fred. Olsen Ltd. dates back to 1848 when Fred. Olsen & Co. first entered the ship owning business. Over the years associated companies have diversified and expanded into other activities [...] Renewable energy projects 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 which 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. A 1:3 scale research platform, named "Buldra", has been in operation and performed tests since 2004.
The Wave Hub site provides documentation about what it will take to bring ocean/wave power technologies to the region, useful for those thinking about further development of ocean/wave power.
SWRDA itself is an impressively forward-looking agency. In 2004, they conducted a foresight exercise resulting in a set of scenarios for the future of the region. The set of four scenarios from the Looking Forward to the Future exercise can be downloaded from the SWRDA website (PDF).