Plans have been submitted for the world’s first tidal energy demonstration site, proposed for waters off the Isle of Wight.

The Perpetuus Tidal Energy Centre (PTEC) would lie around 2.5km south of St Catherine’s Point, to the south of the island – in the path of the popular Round the Island Race (RTIR), which attracts around 10,000 sailors each year.

The scheme is a collaboration project between the Isle of Wight Council, Perpetuus Energy Limited and a project development company called TB Partners LLP.

PTEC has applied to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) for a marine licence and consent and to the Isle of Wight Council (as local planning authority) for permission to construct a substation and control building for the tidal energy demonstration site.

If consent is granted, construction could start in late 2016, ready for the deployment and operations of tidal energy devices from 2017-2018.

The total electrical output from the site is expected to be over 50,000 MWh per year, generated from tidal currents in the sea south of the Isle of Wight, supplying the National Grid with clean, renewable energy.

Islanders’ concern

Island residents have expressed concerns about the timing of building planning application, published over the Christmas period, and technical problems with the Isle of Wight Council website that prevented people from looking at the documents.

PBO reader Alan Gray said: ‘Apart from being a stunning seascape and coastal landscape, the proposed location for this ocean turbine scheme would be right in the track of the annual Round the Island Race.

‘This is a major plan, and the impact on the seascape, landscape and whole sailing fraternity would be mega. The coastline of The Undercliff is protected by several statutory designations – Heritage Coast, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Special Area of Conservation and SSSI.’

He added: ‘They’re talking about at least 30 turbines with above-water supporting structures. This is in addition to totally submerged machines.

‘If all the turbines were sub-surface we’d probably say it’s acceptable provided the cable routing could be dealt with in an environmentally sensitive way – but the surface-piercing turbines would be around 18m (58.5ft) above sea level.’

Around 45 residents attended a Ventnor Town Council Planning Committee meeting on 15 January and raised concerns about the proposed PTEC building including the substation/control room, associated parking cabling and site-levelling works on Flowersbrook.

In a statement on the council website, the planning committee recommended that the planning application P/10485/14 be withdrawn by the applicant for reasons that included the environmental impact on a sensitive site important for both recreation and tourism.

The committee ruled: ‘Should the Isle of Wight Council be minded to approve the current proposal, despite the town council’s recommendation, then it is essential that a planning condition is attached requiring the development to be demolished after 20 years and the land returned to its previous state.’

Race mitigation

The RTIR management team at the Island Sailing Club said: ‘The Island Sailing Club has been involved, along with many others including the RYA, in discussions with the Perpetuus team, to mitigate any issues and concerns over the tidal energy development that may affect the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race.

‘These discussions have been taken into consideration so far and, we are sure, will be included in their future plans.

‘The club has, over many years worked with, and alongside, many developments which might have affected the Race to ensure our competitors are able to continue to enjoy this iconic event.’

PTEC was issued with an Agreement for Lease by the Crown Estate, which owns the seabed, in November 2012. This contains an option that enables PTEC to enter into a 25-year lease.

A MMO spokesperson said: ‘The MMO is currently considering applications for a marine licence and consent under Section 36 of the Electricity Act from Perpetuus Tidal Energy Centre Limited.

‘A public consultation is currently under way in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations: the consultation is due to close on 19 February.

‘Following the consultation process, we will consider any representations received and ensure any outstanding matters are addressed before making a decision. We aim to determine marine licence applications with 13 weeks.’

At Prime Minister’s Questions on 7 January, Andrew Turner, MP for the Isle of Wight, said the Perpetuus Tidal Energy Centre would provide the world’s first grid-connected tidal array test facility, placing the UK at the forefront of tidal energy technology, protecting existing jobs and creating several hundred new ones.

Plans showing the position of the works may be inspected at the Isle of Wight Council offices in Newport and on the council’s planning website. The marine licence application and supporting information is available to view on the MMO’s public register (case reference MLA/2014/00563):