Wave converter off Cornish coast is important step for marine energy
An ambitious plan to harvest energy from the power of waves has taken a major step forward.
The first device which will plug into the Wave Hub off the coast of Hayle has been granted a three-year licence from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).
Ireland-based OceanEnergy is now expected to deploy the one-megawatt wave energy converter later this year.
Claire Gibson, general manager at Wave Hub, which is the world's largest grid-connected offshore marine energy test site, said she was delighted.
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She added: "We look forward to assisting them with their deployment later this year."
The Wave Hub consists of a giant socket on the seabed ten miles from the coast which is connected to the national grid on shore by an underwater cable.
Devices for gathering energy from the waves will be plugged into the socket and tested on a scale not witnessed anywhere else in the world.
The project has four berths available and a capacity of 20 megawatts – equivalent to the electricity needs of more than 7,000 homes.
It is hoped the news will bring an employment boost to West Cornwall as OceanEnergy hopes to operate from the newly refurbished North Quay in Hayle Harbour and is currently in discussion with local companies about support with fabrication and deployment.
OceanEnergy has been testing a quarter-scale prototype of its buoy in Galway Bay, off the coast of Ireland, for three years.
The company's device generates electricity by waves entering a sub-sea chamber, which forces air through a turbine on the surface.
As the waves recede they create a vacuum which sucks air back through the turbine. OceanEnergy says its technology means the turbine rotates continuously regardless of the direction of the airflow.
The firm says their turbines are ultra-efficient because they only have one moving part and maintenance costs are kept to a minimum.
John McCarthy, chief executive and co-founder of the company, said he was looking forward to work getting underway.
"Having completed successful trials of a scale device for over three years in Galway Bay we are delighted to be the first developer to be awarded a marine licence to deploy at Wave Hub. This will enable us to proceed with our anchor trials at the Wave Hub site and test the proposed system prior to a full-scale deployment."
A delegation from the MMO will be visiting Wave Hub and other marine energy facilities which make up the South West Marine Energy Park later this month.