The Peninsula Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy combines the existing research excellence of Exeter in renewable energy and environmental technologies with Plymouth’s expertise in marine science and coastal engineering.

Exeter and Plymouth set up world-class marine energy research institute

A £15 million institute for research into harnessing the energy from the sea is being set up by the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth.

Called the Peninsula Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy, located in Plymouth and at the University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus, it will create an internationally significant research base aimed at putting the region at the forefront of wave energy development.

The Research Institute is a joint venture between the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth and will combine the existing research excellence of Exeter in renewable energy and environmental technologies with Plymouth’s expertise in marine science and coastal engineering.

An initial investment of £1.4 million from the South West of England Regional Development Agency (RDA) has enabled the Research Institute to recruit new research teams over the summer, including new professorial appointments, and bring world-leading experts to work in the region from this autumn.

The Research Institute will work alongside the £28 million Wave Hub project, being developed by the South West RDA off the coast of Cornwall, which will allow wave energy device developers to test their technology on a scale never before possible. The UK Government has now given planning permission to Wave Hub and it will be up and running by 2009.

The Institute will support Wave Hub, wave energy device developers and the marine renewable energy community. South West England has one of the best tidal and wave resources in Europe and the Research Institute will exploit that potential by supporting the development of a wave energy industry in the region.

The buoys will enable the measurement of the ‘wave climate’ and make it possible to predict the energy that can be produced, to an extent which has not been done before. This will give greater confidence to prospective investors in wave energy projects and provide the South West with a world class source of data of value to energy device developers, utility companies, government agencies and researchers worldwide.

Professor George Smith of the University of Exeter said: “Wave energy holds the promise of delivering a significant proportion of the UK’s energy requirements in the future. This partnership will enable the University of Exeter’s growing team of renewable energy researchers to contribute to international quality research, support the development of the industry and maximise the potential benefits to the South West region.”

Lorelei Hunt, Director of Innovation at the South West RDA, said: “Harnessing energy from the sea is still an embryonic industry but has enormous potential.  This further investment in knowledge capital will ensure that we maximise the economic benefits of our investment in Wave Hub. We are investing to ensure our region becomes an internationally significant centre of expertise in marine renewables, including research and development, design, construction and operation of new technologies.”

The RDA has calculated that Wave Hub could create 1,800 jobs and £560 million in the UK economy over 25 years. Almost 1,000 of these jobs and £332 million would be generated in South West England.

Significant further investment in PRIMARE will follow from the RDA over the next three years to enable the Institute to purchase the equipment necessary to undertake its research programme, starting with a £750,000 investment in wave buoys.

The RDA’s investment means the Institute can attract the highest quality staff allowing it to bid for substantial additional research funding from the EU, UK Research Councils, Government and the private sector in the future. Within three years, it expects to be at the heart of a research programme valued at around £8 million per year.

Date: 24 August 2007

Read more University News