The project is being developed by South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) at an estimated cost of $42m and has been undertaken as part of the company’s strategic plan to develop world-class marine energy industry in South West England.
The plant will have an initial capacity of 20MW, sufficient to provide electricity to 7,000 homes, with a provision to increase it to 50MW in the future.
It was approved in 2007 after seven years of planning, and is now in the final phase of laying the hub and sea cable offshore. It is scheduled to begin testing by the end of 2010, after which the hub will be used for the production of wave energy.
According to an independent economic assessment, the project will create 1,800 jobs and will provide ยฃ560m to the UK economy over a period of 25 years.
“The Wave Hub marine project will be the world’s largest test site for wave energy.”
SWRDA has invested ยฃ12.5m in the Wave Hub and the project has received financial backing of ยฃ15m under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Convergence Programme. In addition, the Government of the UK and the Peninsula Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy (PRIMaRE) have granted ยฃ9.5m and ยฃ20m respectively.
Wave Hub project
The project involved construction of grid-connected sockets 50m deep in the water, and consists of a hub structure assembled on the seabed, which will connect the main cable on the shore and the tails of the wave energy devices.
An underground sub-sea cable, which is currently being laid, will connect the Wave Hub to the National Grid. On 26 July 2010, the cable laying ship Nordica began sailing towards the hub to lay the under ground cables. The cable is being being laid 50m deep in the sea with the help of the on-board crane.
It will take about four to five days to reach the hub, after which the ship will head to the port of Falmouth on the south coast of Cornwall to pick up the 45t underwater tractor.
The underwater tractor will bury the cables a further 5km offshore.
Excavation work on Hayle beach began on 14 June 2010, and was completed within two weeks. A pit was dug to house a connecting block that would join the Wave Hub offshore cables with the onshore cables linked to the new substation.
Construction of the substation building is now complete and the electrical equipment worth ยฃ1m is also installed.
Wave Hub plant details
The hub on the seabed is a steel structure which is 2m high and 6m long. It is covered with resin to ensure it remains watertight. It weighs 12t and is designed to last for 25 years.
The four tails are 300m long and will connect the wave generation devices on or below the surface of the sea to the Wave Hub.
The underground cable is a 25km long, 33kV, three-phase power cable weighing 1,300t.
All the contracts were awarded based on competitive bids.
“The hub on the seabed is a steel structure which is 2m high and 6m long.”
A contract for the manufacture of sub-sea cable was awarded to Hartlepool’s JDR Cable Systems who also supplied four additional 300m cables in the second quarter of 2010.
On 19 May 2010, JDR subcontracted CTC Marine Projects to install the cable and the hub in the sea for ยฃ7m.
The onshore construction contract was awarded to Dawnus Construction.
The UK power market
The United Kingdom was one of the few countries that was self-sufficient in energy until 2000. With large coal reserves and oil extraction from the North Sea, the UK was an exporter of oil and gas. However, due to the decline in North Sea production, high mining costs and demand to use clean coal, it is now expected to become an importer of oil and natural gas by 2015, making it vulnerable to unstable electricity prices.
Electricity generation accounts for 30% of the UK’s carbon emissions. In 2006, 39% of electricity was produced through gas and 4.2% through renewable energy. In order to keep up with the Kyoto Protocol the UK government has set targets to generate 10% of electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2010 and to reduce 60% of carbon emissions by 2050.