The world’s largest wave farm off the coast of Cornwall in South West England would reduce wave heights on the coast by less than five per cent, according to an internationally recognised marine consulting and research expert.
Dr Kerry Black, the New Zealand-based physical oceanographer, has concluded that the impact on wave height of the proposed Wave Hub project is ‘expected to be low’ at less than five per cent – or less than five centimetres off a metre-high wave.
Dr Black was commissioned by the South West of England Regional Development Agency (RDA), which is developing Wave Hub around 10 miles off the Cornish coast, to investigate the RDA’s own data about wave impact after concerns were raised by some surfers.
Wave Hub is a groundbreaking project that aims to put South West England at the forefront of wave energy technology.
The RDA studies said the height of waves coming ashore could be reduced by around five per cent or seven per cent depending on the conditions and the mix of wave power devices likely to be deployed offshore.
The RDA’s Wave Hub project manager Nick Harrington, said: “Dr Black has interrogated our data over a number of months and used his own computer model to conduct a thorough scientific examination of the likely impacts of Wave Hub. We hope that surfers will be reassured by this independent report, which shows a maximum impact of less than five per cent.”
The Wave Dragon, one of the electricity generating systems being tested off the Cornish coast, while work is planned to go ahead off Oregon’s coast soon, as well.
Dr Black reviewed the studies carried out by the RDA’s consultants Halcrow, which were conducted after consultation with the British Surfing Association and Surfers Against Sewage. He also considered a PhD paper published by the University of Exeter, which was independent of the RDA’s research.
Commenting on his findings Dr Black said: “I’ve concluded that the likely maximum impact of wave heights on the shoreline would be in the range of three per cent to six per cent depending on conditions, and less than five per cent on average.
“Wave Hub is a world first and provides the opportunity to monitor the impacts of wave energy devices on shoreline surf conditions so that this data can be used for other projects around the globe.”
The South West RDA is planning to monitor the impact of Wave Hub on surf conditions. This is part of a detailed Environmental Action Plan that the RDA has drawn up to measure a range of potential impacts of Wave Hub.
Publication of the Kerry Black report coincides with a decision by the South West RDA this week to approve £21.5 million of funding for the Wave Hub project.
The investment means Wave Hub has the necessary £28 million needed to build it, subject to final Government and EU approval. The rest of the funding has already been secured.
Wave Hub could generate £76 million a year for the regional economy. It would create at least 170 jobs and possibly hundreds more by creating a new wave power industry in South West England.
Wave Hub will provide a leased, consented and grid connected area of sea within which different types of wave energy conversion devices (WECs) can be tested over several years.
This will enable the companies involved to gain experience of operation and maintenance, and build up a record of performance that can be used for future commercialisation.
Developers will be granted a lease for a sea area of two square kilometres.
Wave Hub could be built as early as next summer if Ministers give it planning permission. A decision is expected by June.