14 Nov 2012 Last updated at 00:00

Green light for Isle of Wight tidal energy plans

Isle of Wight Council plans to place prototype and pre-commercial tidal energy turbines from the seabed off St Catherine’s have been given a green light from The Crown Estate.

In what is thought to be a unique arrangement between a local authority and The Crown Estate, the council has secured an Agreement for Lease for use of the seabed for its long held aspiration to create a tidal testing facility off the south coast of the Island.

The agreement with The Crown Estate represents a major step forward for the council-sponsored Solent Ocean Energy Centre (SOEC). It will enable plans for tidal turbines that use the powerful flows off the Island’s southern tip to be implemented. SOEC will become a managed test facility generating 20 megawatts of power (enough to power more than 8,000 homes). It will also add to the UK’s marine energy infrastructure and enable tidal device developers from across the UK and further afield to test their turbines at full size and in arrays of devices.

It is hoped the facility which should be constructed from 2015 will create/safeguard more than 600 direct/indirect full time equivalent jobs in the UK over its lifetime – at least 30 per cent of which would be on the Island.

The initial agreement with The Crown Estate will help attract private sector investment into the SOEC project and allow the council to secure full project consents to allow for its construction.

Making the Island more sustainable

The council has pledged £1 million of funding and has secured nearly £700,000 of European funding to the project which is seen as a major contributor to its Eco Island aim – using the green agenda to stimulate the local economy as well as making the Island more sustainable.

Already there has been firm interest in the project from the private sector both in this country and abroad.
Councillor George Brown, cabinet member for the economy, said: "We have for some time felt that the opportunities presented by the Island's tides have not been taken full account of in the UK's energy planning and have worked hard to raise the profile of these possibilities within the renewable energy sector.

"The agreement with The Crown Estate represents a major advance in our plans. We are delighted that our project has in effect been supported by The Crown Estate.

"With this agreement in place we can drive the project forward on two fronts – firstly providing the necessary infrastructure for pioneering tidal energy companies and then working to attract those pioneers and their investment to SOEC and the Island.

"There is very firm private sector interest in the project and we are very excited about the prospects for the green agenda and the local economy."

There are strong tidal flows off the coast at St Catherine's
There are strong tidal flows off the coast at St Catherine's
  • The Solent Ocean Energy Centre will become a managed test facility generating 20 megawatts of power.
Isle of Wight