THE Haven waterway could become a test zone for marine energy, benefitting local businesses and helping speed up the development of green energy across the UK.

Marine Energy Wales wants to develop a marine energy test area (META) for wave and tidal devices, along with other marine energy equipment, near Pembroke Port, Dale, and north of Freshwater West.

The £1.9 million project aims to secure the necessary consents so energy firms can test new equipment and components in realistic conditions, bypassing lengthy individual application processes.

The three sites would also provide various sea conditions, from sheltered to more open-water, allowing developers to move from one to another as their technologies progressed.

Easy accessibility to the sites would also cut costs for green developers when repairs and improvements need to be made.

“If you’re installed in a proper offshore area you need expensive barges, and to bring a piece of equipment back in because a fuse is gone can be prohibitively expensive,” said Jess Hooper, project manager for Marine Energy Wales.

Ms Hooper said the META project aimed to learn lessons from projects such as the DeltaStream device.

The 18m tidal energy device, which was placed on the seabed near Ramsey Sound in 2015, had to be shut off after just three months, with its developer later going into administration.

“With DeltaStream, a very simple piece of technology went wrong, which if it had been tested may not have gone wrong,” said Ms Hooper.

“The META project comes off the back of that and tries to enhance an element of learning that - had it been available to that project - would potentially have helped.”

She added: “Being able to test at low cost will help more people try to finds a solution that works.”

If approved, it is hoped the testing area will also benefit local firms, who will be well-placed for providing support for developers, as well as learning valuable new skills.

“The scale we are talking about is quite small in the grand scheme but the potential to make a significant difference in addressing climate change is huge,” said Ms Hooper.

Marine Energy Wales, which has just submitted an environmental scoping report to Natural Resources Wales asking for its opinion on the development, is also keen to hear the views of anyone who uses or enjoys the waterway.

Ms Hooper said there was still some reluctance and negativity around investing in marine energy, but said it held real opportunities for reducing reliance on oil and gas.

“The water is a challenging environment and sadly it is expensive to do, but you’re looking at something that’s infinitely green."

She said wind energy had benefited from three decades of research, enabling farms to be moved offshore due to improvements in the reliability of technology, and hoped this would one day be the situation for marine energy.

“With marine energy you won’t necessarily know it’s out there, you will just know you can switch your kettle or TV on and it’s potentially coming from a green source on your doorstep,” she said.

META is aiming to be open for business as early as next year, with hopes for operations and deployment of full-scale devices in 2020.

Joseph Kidd, operations manager for META, said: “META will fill the gap for early stage marine energy testing in the UK and combined with the £76 million Pembroke Dock Marine Project, will place Pembrokeshire and Wales on the main stage for this emerging global market.

"With ongoing support, marine energy could play an important role in delivering on a clean industrial strategy for Wales”.

The £1.9 million project is being supported by the European Regional Development Fund through Welsh Government, along with the Coastal Communities Fund.

Drop-in events will be taking place from December 4 to December 11, where the public can examine the proposals and have their say.

4th December, Castlemartin Community Hall, SA71 5HN

5th December, Angle Village Hall, SA71 5AN

6th December, Dale Coronation Hall, SA62 3RB

11th December, Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre, SA72 6WS

For more information click here or call 01646 405695.