The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has given the go ahead for the tidal energy farm off St Catherine's Point despite the concerns of residents and marine users.
The plans for the tidal energy farm will see up to 60 seabed turbines being installed around 2.5 kilometres off the southernmost point of the Isle of Wight.
Known as the Perpetuus Tidal Energy Centre (PTEC), the tidal energy facility is expected to produce enough electricity to power up to 15,000 homes.
PTEC is the largest tidal stream energy project in England and Wales. Construction is expected to begin in 2017, with potential to be generating electricity from late 2018.
The decision by the government’s Marine Management Organisation follows approval by the Isle of Wight Council last summer to grant planning permission for an onshore tidal energy centre and control room.
The PTEC is a joint venture between private developer, Perpetuus Energy Ltd and the Isle of Wight Council, which has pledged £1 million towards the scheme.
The project has been controversial, with residents and marine users raising concerns. These include the impact of the tidal energy farm on local shellfish beds and the risk it poses to navigation.
The MMO has been consulting with the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), Trinity House and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to resolve the navigation issue.
There were also fears about the proposal height of the offshore element of the project, with the possibility of structures rising 60 feet out of the water. The height has now been reduced to 30 feet above lowest astronomical tide.
The developer has also pledged to work with local sailing clubs, fishermen and the local community throughout the next phase of the project.
In a news item on its website, the RYA reflects that “as a demonstration facility it should also be noted that various tidal devices and array configurations have the potential to be deployed at PTEC over its 25 year life.”
Other conditions have been included within the licence document to manage potential risks to the marine environment.
Speaking following the approval, the project director, Mark Francis said: “PTEC will be pivotal to the future growth and success of the UK’s tidal energy industry. We started work on the PTEC project back in 2010 and secured the seabed Agreement for Lease in November 2012. Following a rigorous development and consenting phase, we have created a project that will deliver reliable power to the UK’s grid and has attracted world leading turbine manufacturers to partner with us in its implementation.”
“We now look forward to working with the MMO, local planning authority and all relevant stakeholders in completing the final development phase before we begin construction,” he concluded.