The Cornish grid-connected site for testing wave energy devices – the Wave Hub – is exploring other marine renewable energy options amid reports that it failed to deliver any electricity to the UK National Grid despite being operational for years.
Located 16 kilometers offshore Hayle on the north coast of Cornwall, at the eastern edge of the Atlantic Ocean, the Wave Hub site received its necessary consents from the UK government in the autumn of 2007 and was fully commissioned in 2012.
However, the £42 million wave energy project has not yet generated any electricity to the UK grid and had only one developer test its device so far, according to BBC.
Wave Hub’s offshore site hosts a ‘socket’ sitting on the seabed where a total of four developers can plug in their converters to extract the energy produced from the devices on trials to the grid.
The UK government has invested £9.5 million in the project, which also received £20 million of European funding. The South West of England Regional Development Agency (RDA) also provided £12.5 million to the sea-powered electricity generator.
Wave developers’ interest in Wave Hub takes a nosedive?
At the beginning of the year, the site had two potential customers in line to test their devices in 2018 at Wave Hub – the Australian developer Carnegie Clean Energy, and American company GWave.
Backed by £9.6 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Carnegie’s Wave Hub project was planned to introduce the company’s latest wave energy prototype – the CETO 6 – off UK.
However, in February 2018 Carnegie announced it had shifted the plans for first CETO 6 installation from Cornwall to Albany in Western Australia, where it now intends to deploy the device during the 2019/2020 summer weather window.
Furthermore, it has now emerged that GWave also decided to push back its plans for the installation of a giant 9MW wave energy device – originally scheduled for summer 2018 – for another two years, according to local news provider Cornwall Live.
Responding to the latest developments, Wave Hub issued the following statement: “We are disappointed that Carnegie have decided to focus on their CETO 6 deployment in Australia. We have agreed to continue collaborating on areas of common interest and Carnegie remains interested in progressing development for an array at Wave Hub following the Albany project.”
To remind, the first and only developer to test the device at Wave Hub was Falmouth-based company Seatricity with its Oceanus wave energy converter.
Seatricity planned to continue the trials on the second iteration of the Oceanus wave energy device in 2017, but due to delays with the ERDF grant funding, and the infrastructure decommissioning deadline, the testing of Oceanus 2 device at Wave Hub was brought to an end.
Floating wind to the rescue
Earlier in March, Wave Hub published a tender for the provision of wind resource data for the Wave Hub site in Cornwall.
The procurement is said to be part of a wider program of work to diversify the site to support the demonstration of floating wind in addition to wave energy.
“The wave sector is unfortunately taking longer to develop than all parties originally anticipated. In response, we are diversifying our approach through actively exploring all marine renewable technologies, including the option of utilizing the Wave Hub infrastructure for the deployment of floating wind,” Wave Hub said in a statement.
The UK is already home to the world’s first floating wind farm – the 30MW Hywind Scotland – located offshore Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
Operated by Statoil in partnership with Masdar, and capable of powering approximately 20,000 households, the Hywind Scotland floating wind farm started delivering power to the Scottish grid in October 2017.
Over the next decade, floating wind is expected to follow a cost reduction path similar to that of onshore and bottom-fixed offshore wind, making floating wind cost competitive with other renewable energy sources – the leading news provider for offshore wind sector, Offshore WIND, has reported citing Statoil as the source.
More recently, the group composed of ten technology developers and associations with a mutual aim of promoting the interests of floating offshore wind in Scotland and the UK – Friends of Floating Offshore Wind – called the UK government to commit to a target of 1GW of floating offshore wind by 2025 and 5GW by 2030.
According to the group, the support of floating wind projects would offer local employment and the development of local supply chains for export markets, especially in deprived areas or where the transition and diversification from oil & gas are needed the most.
Moreover, Wave Hub Limited, the operating company for the Wave Hub test site in Cornwall, which also manages the The Pembrokeshire Demonstration Zone in Wales, has recently filed an environmental scoping report which considers a mix of wave energy and floating wind technology for the Pembrokeshire site.
At the time, the Project Manager for the zone, Madeline Cowley, said that sharing the site with floating wind would enable broader access to finance for the project, bring forward development of the site and enable a phased installation of technology that will support commercialization of both the wave and floating wind sectors.
The scoping opinion will determine which key issues the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should focus on and what environmental surveys need to be undertaken.
A consent application could be submitted in 2020, consent granted in 2022 and the first electricity could be generated by 2024, according to Wave Hub.