Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon Project

Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon Project

A new independent report by UK politician and former energy minister Charles Hendry has recommended the UK government seek a deal to help fund a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay, Wales. The development which will be the first of its type in the world would bring 2,000 jobs to the area and potential provide enough energy to power 150,000 homes.

Mr. Hendry has been collating information over the past year for the report and hopes that this project could be the first of many throughout the country.  The project would involve 16 turbines along a breakwater but is hoped that this will a prototype for much larger lagoons. This would include one off the coast of Cardiff , Newport, Bridgwater Bay in Somerset, Colwyn Bay and west Cumbria, north of Workington.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme ahead of the publication of the report Mr Hendry said the lagoon would be a “world first” which was different to barrages elsewhere in the world as lagoons do not block the mouth of a river.

“We know it absolutely works. One of the great advantages is it completely predictable for all time to come – we know exactly when the spring tides and neap tides are going to be every single day for the rest of time.”

He said the best way to look at the cost was the subsidy required by the taxpayer over the lifetime of the project. This calculation gave “a very much lower figure than almost any source of power generation.”

However at present the UK will still need to agree a subsidy and issue a marine license. Developer Tidal Lagoon Power claim that that the Swansea project will test the technology but it will come into its own – and could eventually meet 8% of the UK’s energy needs – when the network of more cost-effective, larger lagoons come on stream over the next 10 years.

TLP forecasts that its lagoons would generate power for 120 years and is seeking a 90-year contract at £89.90 per mega watt hour (MWh). That would be below the £92.50 per MWh agreed for the new Hinkley C nuclear power station.

The Labour Party echoed Hendry’s call for ministers to swiftly conclude negotiations with the Tidal Lagoon Power on the guaranteed price of electricity from the Swansea project. “The government has repeatedly delayed this project, despite Labour backing it months ago. It’s time to stop dithering and get it built,” said the shadow energy secretary Clive Lewis.

Welsh MP Paul Flynn called tidal power “Wales’s North Sea oil” and Stephen Kinnock, Labour MP for Aberavon, said he was “absolutely delighted” at the green light given by the former energy minister.

Hendry concluded “I don’t think I have ever been to a community where people are so enthusiastic about a power station. They see this as the project that will bring about the city’s regeneration.”

Tidal Lagoon Power has already spent £35m on the Swansea lagoon which if built will consist of a U-shaped breakwater across the city’s bay and use the incoming and outgoing tide to turn the 16 turbines and generate enough electricity for 150,000 homes.

The proposed development does however come with a caution. While environmental organisations, engineering groups and several analysts welcomed the review verdict, some conservationists raised concern over local impact on birds and fish. There is also a campaign against a quarry in Cornwall that would provide the rock for the breakwater wall.

The WWF and the RSPB both said they were worried about potential local ecological impacts from the lagoons. However Mr. Hendry said after Swansea was operational in 2022, there should be a pause of up to two years before the five bigger lagoons were approved, and any environmental problems could be weighed up then.

Taking all this into account Mr. Hendry confirmed he believed tidal power’s opportunities outweighed the risk, and argued the evidence was clear that the lagoons could be cost-effective and affordable. “I would strongly caution against ruling out tidal lagoons because of the hopes of other cheaper alternatives being available in the future.”

We are all for cost effective renewable energy projects and one of this scale ticks many of the boxes required to make it a success. However we also would like a measure of caution shown if this project is to proceed. Renewable energy on an industrial scale should only be developed if it does not compromise the environment.

At present it is unsure whether the Swansea Bay development can guarantee this. However if after the correct assessments show that the development can proceed without a detrimental effect then we would strongly support it.

Comments are closed.
WordPress SEO