UK pledges massive marine power investment

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Exeter, UK - The world's largest wave farm is to be built off the coast of south-west England under plans announced today.


Pledging an investment of £9.5 million ($15.6 million), Business Secretary Lord Mandelson dubbed the region the first "Low Carbon Economic Area".


The Wave Hub project - a giant, grid-connected socket on the seabed off the coast of Cornwall for wave energy devices to be tested on a huge scale - will be commissioned next summer.


The Wave Hub in action


Renewable energy company Ocean Power Technologies will take the first "berth" at Wave Hub, and has placed its first equipment order - for 16.5 miles of subsea cable - this week.


The project is being led by the South West Regional Development Agency (RDA), and also includes plans to evaluate schemes for generating tidal power from the river Severn estuary. "Bristol already boats world-leading expertise, especially around tidal stream technology," said Stephen Peacock, Enterprise and Innovation Executive Director at the South West RDA.


This is a rather more controversial project, however, as locals and environmentalist groups fear its effect on wildlife habitats. The South West RDA is pledging to look at three embryonic Severn proposals that have "potentially less impact on the estuary environment than conventional technologies".


What with government, RDA, European and private sector funding, total investment in the South West's marine energy programme in the next two years is expected to top £100 million.


Regional Minister for the South West, Jim Knight, said: "We are a region that is rich in natural renewable energy resources such as wind, wave, tidal and solar and this makes us well positioned to capitalise on this great opportunity."