Subsea Expo

Access. Connect. Grow.

Wave Hub “Plugged In” and Awaiting its First Wave Energy Converter

08 November 2010

The pioneering Wave Hub marine energy project in Cornwall (England) has been connected to the electricity grid for the first time since its installation over the summer and is now officially open for business.

Wave Hub has created the world’s largest test site for wave energy technology by building a grid-connected socket on the seabed 16 kilometres off the coast of Cornwall in South West England, to which wave power converters can be connected and their performance evaluated.

The complete system underwent its first full test on 2 November when it was connected to the grid network via a new substation that has been built at Hayle, where Wave Hub’s 33kV cable comes ashore.

Speaking at the RenewableUK annual conference and exhibition in Glasgow last week, Wave Hub’s general manager Guy Lavender said: “We’ve been continually testing the integrity of the whole system during the installation process but yesterday was the first time it was fully energised and plugged in to the grid, and I’m delighted to say that it went without a hitch”.

The penultimate stage of Wave Hub’s installation was also completed last week when the last of 177 concrete “mattresses” was laid on top of the subsea cable. The 25 kilometre cable is buried under the seabed to around five kilometres offshore and thereafter has been covered with 91,000 tonnes of rock. The mattresses are being laid at regular intervals on top of the rock to ensure the cable is secure.

This week a marker buoy will be installed to record Wave Hub’s position, and that will be the final part of the physical installation.

Wave Hub is now "well and truly open for business,” said Lavender, adding that: “There has been some speculation about Wave Hub's future given that the South West RDA is due to be abolished by March 2012. But the future of Wave Hub and its ongoing operation are not in doubt, and the project is fully funded as we continue to seek commercial customers”.

Wave Hub consists of a 12-tonne steel chamber on the seabed in 55 metres of water some 16 kilometres offshore, connected to land via an armoured subsea cable. The chamber splits the main subsea cable into four 300 metre ‘tails’, each of which serves one of the four berths available at Wave Hub.

Two short film clips showing Wave Hub being lowered through the water and touching down on the seabed can be viewed here.

The project holds a 25-year lease on an eight square kilometre area of sea, and each berth measures 1km by 2km. The Wave Hub site boasts one of the best wave climates in Europe and the system has a capacity of 20 MW, but is designed to be scaled up to 50 MW in the future.

Wave Hub is being funded with £12.5 million (€14.5 million) from the South West RDA, £20 million (€23.2 million) from the European Regional Development Fund Convergence Programme and £9.5 million (€11.0 million) from the UK government.

Wave Hub’s first customer will be Ocean Power Technologies, using its PowerBuoy wave energy converter, while Guy Lavender revealed to Renewable Energy Magazine in a recent press tour of Wave Hub that the company is in talks with several other wave energy companies about connecting their devices to the hub. “I think wave energy will be bigger than offshore wind,” said Lavender, "after all, the area of resource is potentially so much wider".