Wednesday, September 22, 2021
HomeAlternative EnergiesTidal EnergyToo many unknowns about tidal energy project to alter the coast forever

Too many unknowns about tidal energy project to alter the coast forever

OnTheWight always welcomes a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers – unsurprisingly they don’t always reflect the views of this publication. If you have something you’d like to share, get in touch and of course, your considered comments are welcome below.

This from Chris Innis, Puckaster, Niton. Ed

The Perpetuus Tidal Energy Centre (PTEC) saga is back before planners with a development application at Flowersbrook.  

This is a project which promised full consultation with the public, jobs and industry for the Island, renewable electricity for the Island and no surface piercing objects.  

Reading the 307 documents, and attending the consultation, there are no guarantees, and speaking with the promoters and developers, nothing is forthcoming.  

Industrialising South Coast of the Island
The PTEC proposal is looking to industrialise the South Coast of the Island with at best an array of tidal energy converters the size of A380 aeroplanes, about 1.5 miles off a Heritage Coast and marine park, all and everything will easily visible.  

The current plan is for a 30 MW energy generating facility, although the ambition expressed by PTEC’s chairman and the Council is 300 MW.  What is proposed is an attempt to radically change the seascape and use of the sea off the Isle of Wight.

The coast will be altered forever
The project will increase noise from off shore and will be lit at night, a Trinity House requirement, so it will blight a dark sky area.  This coast will be altered forever.  

This project is a watershed moment for the Island and its natural environment and most importantly the sea which is one of the most stressed marine ecosystems in the world.

Huge investment
Council and taxpayers have already invested an estimated £3.8 million (see breakdown of this estimate below) into this venture, may be more if proper records were kept at Council, to receive a 5 per cent interest.  

The balance is privately owned, the shares or equity given to a local businessman for a nominal amount, and his agreement to lend £1 million into the business.  The transactions that saw public money transferred to private ownership are worthy of further scrutiny and review.

Licence renewed
Finally, the marine licence was granted six years ago, and was recently reissued.  For whatever reason no reports relating to the marine environment were updated.  

This is surprising given the “bars” around the marine environment have been raised in recent years and you would have thought both PTEC and the Marine Management organisation would want them updated.

Too many unknowns
I believe there remain just too many unknowns around this project, the Council’s own conduct, the backers and promoters of the project, the project’s viability, the quality and standard of a number of reports and their source data, to unequivocally ratify the Flowersbrook application.

Isn’t it time to take a long breath, put the development application before Council to one side, and ask if this project is in the right place with the right team and right ownership?

Breakdown of the £3.8m investment estimate
IWC never kept proper records on the time and money spent on this project. This is an estimate. What the Council did do was the following:

  • it initiated the project and commissioned and paid for the early reports, no proper records were kept, this is a response from FOI. We estimate in time and third party money this was around £500,000.
  • it procured the loans and grants for PTEC from the EU, these amounts were around £600k
  • it loaned £1 million into the project
  • it provided a director for seven years’ charging no fees, call that £80k
  • it provided support services using Council personnel over the period, nothing charged but assume two people over five years at £30k each a year, may be another £300k?
  • it lent its balance sheet to cover costs and restitution in the early days, and it still might be doing that, it is classified as commercial sensitive. Difficult to put a value on that but you might argue it is 1% of the cost of the project. If that is £100 million, a very low estimate, then you are looking at another £1 million in value
  • it gave away 90% of the project without any confirmed independent valuation, Council said it got an opinion, but no valuation. The stand aside by Council released £300k of money from the Tiger fund

These are all resources provided by tax payers to a private company, or assets given to a private company. Our view, I guess from the private sector, is that all time is money.

Image: © Save the Wight Coast

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