The Westcountry’s renewable energy industry has taken the wraps off a new green energy project that could eventually be hooked up to Cornwall’s unique Wave Hub sea bed ‘electrical socket’ project.
The ground-breaking Ocean Energy Rig is designed to perform a dual role, capturing energy from both tidal streams and its in-built wind turbines, and is capable of generating at least 10 megawatts of electricity output.
The first device of its kind to be patented, it is the brainchild of Fowey-based Hi-Spec Research and Developments, headed up by engineer Pat Cooke.
Unlike traditional wave devices, the self-levelling rig would use the tidal stream to produce power, creating a constant and predictable source of energy. It would also be able to capture energy from both waves and wind and would use solar panels to power on-board computers and warning lights.
It is the second pioneering device to be designed by Hi-Spec R&D, sister company to Hi-Spec Engineering. Last year it unveiled its inaugural design, the Ocean Hydro Electricity Generator (OHEG), which can capture energy from both tidal flow and significant tidal height change.
That structure, which has yet to attract funding for a prototype trial after being turned down for government grant aid, would be built on the sea bed in shallow water and easily support independently-run wind turbines. Initial calculations suggest that over 200MW of power can be produced by the OHEG – making it six times more powerful than the 30MW wind farm on top.
The new Ocean Energy Rig is smaller than OHEG at 100 metres long and is designed for deeper water as a semi submerged structure similar to an oil rig.
It would need to be sited where there are strong tidal steams combined with large waves. It would also support wind turbines and has been designed with the ability to hook up to the Wave Hub, which will itself be situated 12 miles off the coast of St Ives in North Cornwall and will link the wave projects to the National Grid via the old power station connection at Hayle.
Being created to trial various wave power projects, the Wave Hub has already attracted 16 companies from around the world to bid for the use of its sockets.
Although not at the stage to make such a bid yet, Hi-Spec is hoping that 2006 will see it attract the necessary funds to create an energy rig prototype that could be built inside 18 months under a collaboration deal with sector experts.
Mr Cooke said: “We have had a lot of interest already and we are having discussions with Rubicon Marine who specialise in sub sea concrete structures and Western Hydro who have designed tidal turbines.
“It is intended to collaborate with both South West companies.”
The designs of both schemes being proposed by Hi-Spec are known as ‘hybrids’ – devices that can harness all the available energy at one site rather than specialising in just one.
Mr Cooke, who set up Hi-Spec R&D a year ago to advance designs for the renewable energy sector, said: “The OHEG combines tidal flow and rise and fall of tide, whereas the Ocean Energy Rig combines tidal flow with waves. Both support wind power. They will utilise all the available natural power in the area they are sited. This is going to make them more viable than none-hybrid devices.
“There are at least five perfect locations for the OHEG, such as in the Bristol Channel and Severn estuary, where there are National Grid connections on the site. This happens to be one of the best places in the world to harness tidal power.
“The new Energy Rig would be in multiples of 10 to 20 units, creating an Energy Rig farm. It would work efficiently in many sites throughout the UK and have a truly world market.
“Both systems could significantly help the UK achieve its renewable energy targets and create a lot of jobs in the South West as well as contributing to a new green growth in the economy.”
Investors wanting to find out more about either project and the funding opportunities should call Pat Cooke on 01726 833337.