Thursday, 14 August 2014

WAVE POWER

Last week I had two visits to discuss progress for the wave energy industry here in West Cornwall. I made reference to the potential for wave energy in my first ever Parliamentary Question and progress, although sometimes slow, is definitely being made.

In Camborne, Redruth and Hayle we have a great industrial heritage and even after the final mines closed, we kept the Camborne School of Mines. Now there are also a number of world class engineering firms here who have carved out a niche in the oil and gas exploration industry with their drilling technological knowhow.

Last week I visited Severn Sub Sea at Cardrew Industrial Estate in Redruth. The firm took over Calidus Engineering last year and has been continuing their world leading work developing a number of new technologies for the oil and gas industry with specialist instruments and drilling equipment. It is just one of a cohort of new businesses alongside Large Diameter Drilling who are currently building a new site at Tolvaddon and Fugro Seacore based near Falmouth.

Just as some of our world class engineers diversified away from mining towards oil and gas exploration, many are now looking at the potential to expand into the market for wave energy. This part of Cornwall has a wave resource because the powerful Atlantic swell contains huge amounts of energy that is not so powerful that it cannot be harnessed. Hayle is home to Wave Hub, the first commercial test facility for wave power in the world and four separate developers have now signed agreements to take a berth on the device. The technologies they are using are still quite varied but in the last twelve months Cornwall has become far more interesting to developers.

Unlike Scotland, we have spare capacity in our grid infrastructure which means we could develop commercial wave energy without having to spend billions. Last year the government announced a new "strike price" for wave energy which is attractive and has spurred renewed interest in its prospects. Hayle is also the central asset in a new South West Marine Energy Park, the first Marine Energy Park designated by the government. In addition we have the back up of leading academic centres such as Exeter University based at Tremough near Falmouth and also Plymouth University and their wave tank testing facilities.

All of this adds up to real potential for Cornwall. Last week I also visited the Offshore Renewables Development Project which was put in place by the Cornwall Development Company to help sustain momentum and remove any remaining barriers such as planning and licensing duplication. One of the lesser known asks in Cornwall's recently published "growth deal" was for more leeway when it came to licensing and consenting on the use of the seabed so that we can really maximise our advantages.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.