Wave Hub — test site for Cornwall

A test site for wave power devices is proposed off the north Cornish coast has met with some alarmist press comment. The proposed hub, with electrical equipment and six test stations (with mooring systems above) will be on the seabed nearly 20 km off St Ives, in approximately 50m deep water. The test stations occupy an area of 4 km x 2 km which will be marked for navigation and should become operational in 2008.

The project is sponsored by the S-W England Regional Development Agency and will cost ~£20m public money. Two UK companies lined up to use it are Ocean Prospect and Ocean Power Technologies.

There’s a large number of environmental studies issued in June and originating from Halcrows, all being on the website (www.wavehub.co.uk). Readers are advised to start with the Q&A section then the Non-Technical Summary, from which the diagram below comes.

Drawing of proposed wave hub

Wave Hub’s onshore substation will be situated adjacent to the existing substation facilities at Hayle. The sub-sea cable will connect the offshore deployment area to the onshore substation. Offshore, 17 kilometres of sub-sea cable will be laid on the surface of the seabed as there is insufficient sediment to allow it to be buried.

Inshore, 8 kilometres of the cable will be buried in the seabed where it passes through St Ives Bay and across the beach at Hayle.

On land, the cable will be installed in a duct drilled through the Hayle Towans sand dunes at the top of the beach and connected to the new substation.

The Sunday Times of 2nd July 2006 made a big thing of surfer opposition “Get off our waves, surfers tell greens”.
“The £20m offshore chain of pumps and turbines will affect a 20-mile stretch of beaches, reducing the height of the waves by more than 10%. Surfers fear the scheme will reduce popular learner waves to a ripple and take the ‘punch’ out of the most towering swells, which can reach up to 12ft.”

Yet the assessment has a few % change in wave height (11% in an extreme case) which is less than wave-to-wave variation.

The Sunday Times took an uninformed comment from John Baxendale, who runs a surf forecasting agency, saying it could make the Atlantic as un-surfable as the Irish Sea. “St Ives Bay has some beautiful waves and putting wave machines there is going to damage the quality of surfing. It could be like Blackpool,” he said.

The Murdoch-owned pro-nuclear newspaper reported the Gwithian Academy of Surfing at St Ives as saying it’s of huge concern and the editor of Carve (a Newquay-based surf magazine) saying “There is plenty of scope for the Wave Hub people to site wave-generating machines alongside cliffs where no one will be affected. I can’t see it going ahead.”

Matthew Taylor, the Liberal Democrat MP for Truro and St Austell, retorted that surfers should not be selfish. “Of course it may reduce the wave size, but Cornwall has so many fantastic surfing beaches that we can help save the planet and still have enough surfing for everyone.”

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