Wave Hub Waves Goodbye to Another Partner

Wave Hub, basically a giant underwater socket under development that wave power developers can use to feed power into the grid, has lost its second partner so far this year. Energy company E.ON, which had planned to use a Pelamis system for the UK project, said today that it wants to test the Pelamis device in Scotland first rather than plugging straight into the Wave Hub.

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Wave Hub is meant to be a shortcut for developers to connect to the grid. Companies that have signed on for the project are hoping to more easily prove the commercial viability of wave technology and eliminate the time and cost of applying for grid connections individually. It’s due to go in the water about 10 miles off the Cornwall coast in southwest England next year, with the first wave power devices to hook into the Hub in 2011.

While E.ON’s move is unlikely to leave Wave Hub dead in the water, it’s not the only company to renege on its commitment. Australian wave power developer OceanLinx pulled out of Wave Hub earlier this year after getting a grant from the Australian government and deciding to put its devices in the water Down Under instead.

Given how nascent wave technology is, their uncertainty is understandable. Power companies are still weighing over how much R&D time and investment they want to spend on wave power. Pelamis (the company that E.ON bought its wave device from) had to pull its wave power generators out of the water off the coast of Portugal due to technical and financial difficulties. According to data from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office, there are only 21 ocean power projects around the world that have devices operating in the ocean, grid-connected or not.

The Wave Hub project originally had 16 companies express interest in it, so it’s far from dead in the water. After OceanLinx dropped out, the Wave Hub added on Cornwall, England’s Orecon to the lineup.

Image of the Wave Hub courtesy of the UK’s Industrial Art Studio.