The idea for the Wave Hub, which lies on the sea bed, 16km off the north Cornwall coastline was ahead of its time. But it was this innovative forward thinking, supported by investment from the Convergence Programme’s European Regional Development Fund that has placed Cornwall at the cutting edge of testing renewable wave energy technology. Many predict this will be an important part of the green energy mix and a commercial opportunity in the future.
The South West of the UK, and in particular, Cornwall, has excellent potential for renewable energy utilisation. The first wind turbines were installed in Delabole in North Cornwall 25 years ago and more recently solar farms and geothermal energy installations have been developed, but it was the harsh, energy rich seas which are home to one of the best wave climates in Europe that Wave Hub would help to unlock.
The Wave Hub project received £18m of European Regional Development Funds as well as attracting a combined total of more than £15m of investment from the South West of England Regional Development Agency, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department of Energy and Climate Change to complete the construction of this huge engineering challenge. This was after more than £1.95m of funding had been secured during the development phase of Wave Hub. In the autumn of 2007 the UK Government issued the necessary consents and the wave test site was fully commissioned in 2012.
During the Convergence Programme, Wave Hub was just one of 539 environmental technologies and renewable energy enterprises that were assisted; an impressive 94% of the Convergence Programme target during a period of recession when many were turning their backs on such bold ideas. A further 1,043 businesses were advised on environment through the Convergence Programme, 49% above the contracted figure.
Wave Hub is now attracting more interest than ever. Australian based Carnegie Wave Energy has recently secured £9.5m of ERDF investment whilst contributing more than £5m of their own private investment to establish a UK based subsidiary company which is looking to commercialise their renewable wave energy device called CETO 6. Carnegie selected the Wave Hub in Cornwall as it is the only place in the world to deliver what they required at this time. They have moved into the ERDF funded Hayle Marine Renewables Business Park and they are creating highly skilled jobs to facilitate the delivery of their project.
The pace of development is quickening, with many wave energy developers moving towards testing multiple devices having completed single prototype projects. Wave Hub has been specifically designed to help accelerate this process and overcome the challenges to deployment, and remains the world’s largest and most technologically advanced site for the testing and development of large scale wave energy arrays. By providing purpose-built infrastructure within an excellent wave resource, backed by a professional team that can assist with permitting, installation, commissioning and operation of arrays, Wave Hub can significantly reduce project costs, lead times and risk for developers and investors. What few doubt is the potential of the market. Europe alone could have up to 100 GW of wave and tidal energy installed capacity powering 66 million homes by 2050. And with more than half the world’s population said to live within 120 miles of the coast and increasing all the time, generating endless amounts of clean, renewable electricity from the power of the sea is a compelling proposition.
Wave Hub provides a global focus on Cornwall which is great for companies in the maritime renewables supply chain based in Cornwall like Mojo Maritime and Large Diameter Drilling. A global reputation also ensures inward investment from companies like Carnegie and Seatricity. Wave Hub has led to the creation of high quality maritime workspace in Halye and whilst Wave Hub was ahead of its time, developers are increasingly confident of their devices and we will see more deployments in 2017. Wave Hub has also led to the Government award of the marine enterprise zone in Hayle, Falmouth and Tolvaddon which will create new jobs.
The future of Wave Hub is an exciting one. Its world class facilities will continue to attract innovators and investors that will provide opportunities for the people and prosperity of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as well as contributing to the protection of the fragile and beautiful landscape by advancing our understanding of clean energy.