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Last Updated: Monday, 3 July 2006, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
Wave energy causes surfers rift
Artist's impression of the Hub
The Hub could generate electricity for 14,000 homes
Plans for wave energy machines off the north Cornwall coast have created a split in the surfing community.

Some surfers are concerned that the machines will take energy from the waves and reduce wave heights.

They also fear it would put at risk the surfing industry, which is worth an estimated 64m a year to the region.

But environmental campaigners Surfers Against Sewage said wave height will only be reduced by a small amount and it is worth the environmental benefits.

Surfers voting for this is like turkeys voting for Christmas
John Baxendale

The row has erupted over plans for a 20m Wave Hub - a seafloor "socket" which will connect wave energy machines to the mainland.

The proposed power station, to become operational in 2008, will involve up to 20 sets of machines, with pumps, pistons and turbines, about 10 miles (16km) out to sea off St Ives Bay, generating electricity for 14,000 homes.

The machines will be placed across a three-mile (5km) stretch, but because of the angle of the swell, could affect the 20-mile (32km) coastline from St Ives to Newquay.

John Baxendale, a chartered physicist and engineer who runs a surf forecasting agency, said it could ruin the coastline's renowned surfing.

He told BBC News: "It is fairly obvious to me that any barrage of energy extraction would create a wave shadow because it would remove the energy from the surf.

"It will not just affect the height, it will also affect the quality of the surf.

"Surfers voting for this are like turkeys voting for Christmas."

It should not make a noticeable impact most of the time
Andrew Knights, Surfers Against Sewage
He said he was for renewable energy in the right place.

"Put them off a rocky coast like the west of Scotland, somewhere it does not affect the economy," he said.

Andrew Knights, of Surfers Against Sewage, said the effect would be an 11% reduction in surf height at most according to an environmental impact assessment by consultants Halcrow.

"It should not make a noticeable impact most of the time," he said.

"We are satisfied that it is a good thing and we are backing it.

"You have to consider the long-term environmental gains and they outweigh any small impact on wave heights."

If the plans get government consent, construction could start early next year.

Nick Harrington, project manager for the South West Regional Development Agency, said: "We identified right from the outset that the impact on surfing beaches would be one of the key factors for us.

"We asked Halcrow to determine what that impact might be and if the conclusion had been that it would have a serious impact on Cornwall, that would have posed the question about whether we should continue with the project.

"But the conclusions they have reached suggest that the impact is very minor and that's why we feel confident putting in our application."

Impact of wave hub plan assessed
28 Jun 06 |  Cornwall
Pressure group supports wave farm
05 Jun 06 |  Cornwall
Waves of hope in power research
19 Aug 05 |  Cornwall

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