Permit granted to test tidal energy off Westcountry coast
A proposal to establish a tidal energy test facility could see the Westcountry move closer to establishing itself as a centre of marine energy excellence.
Although the South West has two major wave energy test sites – the FabTest site at Falmouth and the Wave Hub device off the coast of Hayle – there are so far no facilities to test tidal technologies, which offer huge potential to generate power.
Now, the Crown Estate, which owns the seabed around the UK, has granted an agreement for lease to Pulse Tidal for a test site off the coast of Lynmouth, North Devon.
The permit was announced by Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker during a visit to Plymouth University yesterday.
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Pulse must still seek permission from the Marine Management Organisation and the local authority to progress the proposal, but the lease is seen as an important first step in the process.
It is also seen as a step forward for the South West's Marine Energy Park status.
The Sheffield-based developer is working on a scheme for a 1.2MW device off Foreland Head with a grid connection coming ashore at Lynton. It would be the largest such device in England.
Pulse chief executive Bob Smith said: "The chosen site off Lynmouth is a very attractive location for us with a great tidal resource and a nearby grid connection. It was the site for an earlier consented tidal power project so we already know a great deal about it."
Pulse wants to deploy the test device, known as Pulse-Stream, in 2014 subject to consultation and approvals.
It has previously considered other sites in the UK, but the coming introduction of Renewables Obligation Certificates – incentives to generate green power – to England and Wales meant that the South West became its location of choice.
Johnny Gowdy, programme director at renewables group Regen SW, said: "It's the missing link. We need to have a tidal test site because of the potential that is there.
"This is the first step to opening up some of the tidal resources we have off the North Devon and Somerset coast.
"Pulse is taking a collaborative approach and they are keen to work with Plymouth and Exeter universities – they have already had discussions with them – and Plymouth Marine Laboratories."
Pulse has previously carried out tests in the Humber Estuary and has been awarded a European grant of eight million euros to upgrade its current demonstration model into the device that would be deployed off Lynmouth. It is seeking permission to use a site that was previously home to a prototype tidal turbine.
"We are delighted to see the potential return of tidal energy technology off the coast of North Devon," said Malcolm Prowse, lead member for economy and regeneration at North Devon Council. "The lease award is the start of the planning process – the council will be working closely with Pulse Tidal and local stakeholders to ensure that the project meets our objectives to support sustainable energy projects for the benefit of the North Devon economy."