E.ON pulls plug on UK wave farm

UNITED KINGDOM - E.ON UK, part of the German energy giant E.ON AG, has backed out of the groundbreaking Wave Hub project in the U.K., adding some uncertainty about how successful the world's first commercial wave farm will be.

E.ON, through its Westwave joint venture with Ocean Prospect, is the second partner to abandon the project, following the departure of Australian outfit Oceanlinx earlier this year.

Orecon Limited was officially confirmed as the replacement in March, but this latest setback leaves Wave Hub needing a fourth partner again.

Wave Hub, led by the South West Regional Development Agency, is a $42 million project to place what is described as a "giant electrical plug socket" on the seabed about 10 miles offshore of Hayle, on the Cornwall coast in the southwest of England. It will be positioned at a depth of 50 meters and allow up to four wave energy companies to plug in their devices for testing and power generation. The power created will be fed into the national grid via a 15.5-mile cable linked to a new substation in Hayle. The Wave Hub was meant to operate at 20 megawatts (MW) when fully operational but has since been scaled back to 8 MW, at least until everything is up and running in 2011.

Along with the recent departures, Wave Hub was late getting off the ground because of building-related delays, making the European Marine Energy Centre, located off the Scottish coast near Orkney, more attractive to some wave-energy companies.

"Following E.ON's purchase of a next-generation Pelamis device to be tested in Orkney, the companies decided to withdraw from Wave Hub for the time being so that other developers could take advantage of the project," said Dave Rogers, Regional Director of Renewables for E.ON. "Our aim is to concentrate on testing our Pelamis device, which means that it was unlikely we'd be in a position to connect to Wave Hub in the short term." Rogers continued, "We still believe Wave Hub is an excellent project, and we may well return to it in the future, but our initial goal is to get a machine into the water as quickly as possible, which we'll be able to do in Orkney."

The South West Regional Development Agency is confident that E.ON's departure will not hurt the Wave Hub project. "It's entirely understandable that E.ON wants to test a single next-generation device at the European Marine Energy Centre rather than an array of devices, which is what Wave Hub is designed for," said Nick Harington, Head of Marine Energy at the agency. "We wish them well and hope to welcome them back in the near future. Wave Hub is on course to be built and commissioned next year. We are currently in detailed negotiations with three wave device developers and look forward to the first device being deployed at Wave Hub in 2011."


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