Wave Hub subsea marine energy project set for summer deployment

Source: Wave Hub

Wave Hub, the pioneering marine energy project, is on course to be deployed this summer with fabrication of subsea cables and the hub itself nearing completion.

Wave Hub will create the world’s largest test site for wave energy technology by building a grid-connected socket on the seabed, 10 miles off the coast of Cornwall, to which wave power devices can be connected and their performance evaluated.

The £42 million project has been developed by the South West RDA (Regional Development Agency) and is a cornerstone of its strategy to develop a world class marine energy industry in South West England.

Hartlepool-based JDR Cable Systems is constructing the armoured 25km subsea cable that will connect Wave Hub to the National Grid, and the hub structure that will sit on the seabed.

JDR is well advanced with the cable manufacture, a process which involves twisting together copper and fibre optic cables and covering with two layers of steel armouring and an outer sheath.

When complete, the 1,300 tonne cable will be spooled directly onto a cable laying vessel from JDR’s deepwater quayside facility at Hartlepool Dock.

The company is also making four 300-metre ‘tails’ that will connect wave energy devices on or just below the surface of the sea back to Wave Hub.

Work is also well underway on the hub assembly. This is a rigid steel structure which is the size of a van (around two metres high and about six metres long) that will sit on the seabed in 50 metres of water and be covered in several metres of rock.

It will provide a connection between the main cable from the shore and the tails leading to the wave energy devices, and will weigh around 12 tonnes when completed. A connection block inside will be filled with resin to ensure it remains watertight and the whole structure is designed to last at least 25 years.

Guy Lavender, Wave Hub’s general manager at the South West RDA, said: “After seven years of planning it’s hugely satisfying to see the cable and hub actually taking shape.

“We’re on course for deployment this summer and extensive testing will take place before we welcome our first wave energy devices at Wave Hub, which we expect in 2011.

“The announcement in March by the Crown Estate of the first commercial licenses for wave energy deployment off the north coast of Scotland makes Wave Hub more relevant than ever because we can provide the industry with a grid-connected test facility on a scale not seen before, that it can use before commercial deployment.”

Patrick Phelan, managing director of JDR Cable Systems, said: “We are delighted to be taking a leading role in the design and manufacture of the Wave Hub cable system. This is exactly the type of renewable energy project that our Hartlepool factory was designed to build. We are combining our extensive experience in subsea oil and gas developments with our more recent experience of large scale offshore windfarm projects to provide a comprehensive solution to this exciting project.”

Meanwhile onshore work for Wave Hub continues with the construction of an electricity substation at Hayle on the north Cornwall coast.

The six-month project includes the installation of more than £1 million of electrical equipment, including a monitoring system for wave energy developers to measure how much power their devices produce.

It follows the completion in February of the first phase of work to drill a 200-metre duct through sand dunes at Hayle where Wave Hub’s subsea-cable will come ashore. It will be linked to onshore cabling threaded through the duct and connected to the new sub-station.

Wave Hub is being funded with £12.5 million from the South West RDA, £20 million from the European Regional Development Fund Convergence Programme and £9.5 million from the UK government.

An independent economic impact assessment has calculated that Wave Hub could create 1,800 jobs and inject £560 million in the UK economy over 25 years. Almost 1,000 of these jobs and £332 million could be generated in South West England.

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