Wave Power As Important As Park House Or Infrastructure Says Chief Exec
That’s the vision of senior Council management shared at last Thursday’s public meeting at the Old Wesleyan Chapel.
Chief Executive Theo Leijser says locals could secure a new future from the opportunity of managing and exporting renewable energy.
This isn’t a new idea. In 2009, former Council CEO Philip Hygate announced discussions with two wave power generating companies who wanted to install test units off Scilly, with the aim of producing cheap power, cutting our bills and reducing reliance on energy from the mainland.
Mr Hygate said the scheme could do for Scilly what oil had done for Shetland.
Now six years later, Council Officer Diana Mompoloki says that the technology is, “almost there.” Offshore power generators would need to sit in at least 50 feet of water to harness the ocean power.
When questioned over visual impact, Diana explained that it would be difficult to assess that, because the appearance would depend on the technology employed. But from a distance, the units would probably resemble yellow buoys, she said.
They’d work best in the winter waves and in the summer, solar gardens could generate power.
Diana says that a site above the Chaplaincy and the Old Secondary School has been identified as a prime location for a solar farm. There’s more planned, and they’ll also be tucked away.
Theo told the meeting that an energy hub is attractive because the islands are a ‘closed unit,’ which is perfect for monitoring smart grid technology. That’s a computer system designed to intelligently respond to consumer electricity demand and manage the supply efficiently.
Scilly could become a “living laboratory,” he said, which marries power production with supply.
He confirmed that “big players” are “sniffing around” Scilly to see how they can engage with the islands. Japanese multinational Hitachi was mentioned in a Council meeting as being interested in investing in the islands.
Although this project aims to diversify away from a reliance on tourism, Diana says the wave power or solar farms would attract tourists. And Theo feels that the schemes could create a year round stream of businesspeople and research staff who would support the transport system outside the peak season.
Mr Leijser feels that that some locals like this plan, highlighted in the Island Futures report, some residents believe the plan is “scary” and some think it is wrong. But he says the “broad consensus” is that the “direction of travel“ is right for the islands.
He says that this economic plan is a core project for the Council and is of equal standing with Park House or infrastructure.
In the meeting some locals questioned how the Authority would control and manage the commercial interests of powerful companies.
Diana said the final say on wave power wouldn’t be the Council’s. It would come from the Crown Estate and the Marine Management Organisation.
Some schemes would fall under the Council committees, others might be driven through a third party – an ‘arms length’ body. A group of Council partners have already set one up.
Cllr Steve Sims reminded attendees that locals currently have no influence on major power companies’ policies. But Steve reckons if a relationship was formed with potential players now, the Council would be “in the loop” and would have some influence.
He warned that if the Council objected to these ideas, those businesses could appeal to the Secretary of State, who could overturn it, leaving the Council without a say on their future plans.
Mark Prebble wondered whether this project was sustainable as he felt Council officers were driving it, not the community. Theo replied that locals had elected their councillors and that they had backed this plan.
There’s no clear timeline for the projects but the Chief Executive said they could be active by 2017. Diana advised that it would take at least two years to establish permission for a marine energy park.