World's first major wave farm is set to get green light off Cornwall

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The world's first large-scale wave farm will be given planning approval today. Wave Hub, a £28m project off the Cornish coast, is expected to be in place and producing renewable energy by 2009.

Funding for the scheme – described as a giant electrical socket on the seabed – has already been approved by the South West of England Regional Development Agency (RDA).

The wave farm, which has been on the cards for four years, will boost the industry worldwide and become a centre of research.

Generators attached to Wave Hub's infrastructure by other developers will produce enough electricity for 7,500 homes, directly saving 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over 25 years. This will support the South-west's target of generating 15 per cent of its power from renewable sources by 2010.

Wave Hub could create 1,800 jobs and contribute £560m to the British economy over 25 years, according to an independent economic impact assessment, commissioned by the RDA.

It will include an onshore substation connected to electrical equipment on the seabed 10 miles off Hayle via an under-sea cable.

Companies developing wave energy technology will be able to plug into Wave Hub to test their devices on a scale never seen anywhere before. Four have already been chosen to use the system.

Jason Clark a spokesman for Wave Hub, said: "It is rather like a 10-mile extension lead plugged into the National Grid. So although we will be supplying energy to the South-west, the real advantage of this project is in allowing other experts to plug in their equipment to see if it can be developed commercially."

The Wave Hub project will cover an area of sea measuring 2.5 miles by 1.25 miles and each developer will be granted a lease of between five and 10 years in an area of approximately 1.3 square miles. Up to 30 wave energy devices are expected to float on the surface of the sea above Wave Hub.

Engineers from Ocean Power Delivery recently helped build a smaller wave farm off the Portuguese coast after deploying a prototype off the Orkneys.

Wave farms have not proved as popular as solar and wind power because of the great expense of equipment and installation.

However, environmentalists point out that wind power has reduced its cost by 80 per cent since the first commercial farms were built more than 16 years ago.

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