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Green light given for 20MW UK tidal power testing facility

Isle of Wight SOEC will enable tidal energy device developers to test turbines at full size and in arrays

The SOEC will be built off the south coast of the Isle of Wight

The green light has been given to build a 20MW UK tidal power testing facility off the coast of the Isle of Wight. The facility will be constructed off the Island’s south coast to test tidal energy devices developed in the UK and abroad. 

In what is thought to be a unique arrangement between a local authority and the UK’s Crown Estate, the Isle of Wight Council has secured an Agreement for Lease for use of the south coast seabed to create the tidal testing facility, called the Solent Ocean Energy Centre (SOEC).

The SOEC will become a managed test facility generating 20MW, which is enough to power more than 8,000 homes. It will 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.

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,” he said. “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."

It is hoped the facility, which should be constructed from 2015, will create/safeguard over 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 council has pledged GBP 1m of funding and has secured nearly GBP 700,000 of European funding to the project. There has already been firm interest in the project from the private sector both in the UK and abroad.
The news from the Isle of Wight follows other major UK developments in tidal power testing over the last few months. A direct drive tidal testing facility at the National Renewable Energy Centre (NAREC) in Northumberland was launched in October. Meanwhile, Scotland’s first marine park opened in July.