Over in the UK we like to do things … well, a little differently. That stiff upper lip nonsense was always a bit of a ruse, hiding a reckless ability to do those things sane human beings would never think of doing.
Like slinging a live four way power socket into a bath tub. Zap, you’re dead .. as the saying goes.
Yet this is precisely what’s been going on off the south west coast of Britain but with two crucial differences: the four huge plugs (like the one pictured) are designed as energy receivers, not emitters; and the Atlantic Ocean is a wee bit bigger than your average bathtub.
Ten miles off the Cornish town of Hayle, 180 feet below the sea, lies a 12 tonne four way plug which cost $64 million to build and install. Called the Wave Hub, it can have four 5MW marine power devices connected to it at any one time and is connected to the main national grid by a 15 mile length of cable.
Now, 5MW is peanuts compared to some of the projections for marine power installations; for example just up the coast it’s been estimated that the world’s largest tidal power generator could generate 187,000 MWh/year.
However permanent installation is not the aim of the Wave Hub. Rather, it’s all about providing a live scenario test bed for marine energy developers to come and test and tweak their inventions. If it just so happens it provides energy for 20,000 homes, then so much the better!
The first testers scheduled at the Wave Hub are New Jersey based Ocean Power Technologies, whose buoy based design is already live off the north coast of Spain. Their stint at the Wave Hub is to test out a new design which would see the buoys’ output increase by over three times.