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South West hub to boost renewables testing

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SOUTH WEST England is to establish itself as a pioneer of wave and tidal stream energy with construction of Britain's first offshore renewables 'hub'.

The South West England Regional Development Agency (SWERDA) plans to build an offshore cable and connection point for wave and tidal stream generators off the north coast of Cornwall or Devon.

It is inviting bids for a six month feasibility study into design, construction and operation of a prototype hub this week.

The connection point would allow firms developing wave and tidal stream power generators to test their commercial viability by plugging prototype machines in to the national grid.

'The UK's offshore renewables industry is roughly where wind was 20 years ago, ' said SWERDA business development advisor Keith Gillanders.

'Developers are struggling to bring new technology to the marketplace because the infrastructure needed to test it in real environments doesn't exist.

Making a sea-land connection is prohibitively expensive for most of them.'

The £5M-£8M 'wave hub' would give offshore renewables firms a vital leg-up at a time when Britain's renewables targets are coming under scrutiny.

The National Audit Office has conducted a preliminary study on the UK's renewable energy targets and is waiting for the go ahead for a full study from comptroller and auditor general Sir John Bourn.

The wave hub could be ready for connection of the first generating devices in 2006. Talks about potential sites between SWERDA, the Coastguard, Ministry of Defence and local fishermen are due to start next month.

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