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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Cornwall’s move to sustainable energy sets global precedent in curbing climate change


The interests of environmentalists and industrialists in England’s southwestern county of Cornwall are becoming increasingly intertwined these days, as the British government recently decided to grant œ 21.5 million for the Wave Hub project, a form of sustainable energy production that harnesses the power of waves.

Slated to be launched in Cornwall’s St. Ives Bay sometime next summer, the Wave Hub project is expected to provide energy for 14,000 homes across Cornwall, cutting its carbon dioxide emissions by 24,300 tons, and also bolstering the region’s long stagnant economy.

Given that Cornwall has been one of England’s poorest counties, with little more to rely on than the tourism that its shire-like landscape attracts, the Wave Hub project is naturally being welcomed with open arms.

“Cornwall sadly needs new industry to compensate for the loss of mining over the last few decades and it is an opportunity to use the resources off the coast to really establish a position for Cornwall right at the start of a new industry,” said South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) spokesperson, Nick Harrington, to BBC News.

What little opposition the Wave Hub project did receive came from surfers who were afraid that the generators, which float along the surface, would reduce wave height by 10 percent or more, thus damaging a section of the region’s tourist industry. The research of the New Zealand-based oceanographer Dr. Kerry Black, however, has concluded that the machines will only reduce wave height by 5 percent. Surfers have been strong supporters of the project ever since.

“Wave Hub’s government approval is good news for Cornwall and for the future of renewable energy generation in the UK,” said Andy Cummins, chief officer of the environmental campaign group Surfers Against Sewage, to BBC News. “We look forward to using the same energy we’ve used to ride waves to light up our homes as well.”

So far, four firms have been licensed by the SWRDA to establish “wave farms,” each granted an area of two square kilometers of sea 10 miles off shore in St. Ives Bay. An individual “farm” will consist of 20 sets of machines, which use an assemblage of turbines, pumps, and pistons to capture the kinetic energy of the waves.

The Wave Hub project gets its name from the central socket or “hub” that rests on the sea floor that all of the machines are connected to through a series of power cables. Each device is also expected to have a lifespan of 40 years.

Given this description, it is tempting to speculate that these cables could present dangers to the ecosystem, as sophomore environmental studies major Anne-Marie Drolet couldn’t help but wonder.

“I would be worried about whether or not it would disrupt the environment,” said Drolet as she eyed a diagram of the Wave Hub apprehensively. “It certainly looks like it could have some kind of impact.”

While the SWRDA is skeptical that any negative impact will be made, they are nonetheless committed to monitoring the effects of the Wave Hub on the immediate marine ecosystem.

“We want to understand the marine life in the area and the nature of the sea bed so that after the wave energy converters have been installed we can see what impact, if any, they have had,” said Harrington to BBC News.

Drolet, however, still finds the implications of the project a little foreboding.

“This is good, but people should keep in mind that they can’t just keep going at the rate that they are going with their energy,” said Drolet. “It looks really good in theory, but let’s hope it works in practice.”

The Wave Hub project is expected to be contributing to the national grid by 2009, and should be providing Southwest England with 15 percent of its power by 2010.

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