Earlier this March, plans were unveiled for the development of power generating tidal lagoons in the UK.
There are plans for six tidal lagoons: four in Wales and one each in Somerset and Cumbria. A £1 billion scheme for Swansea – which would be the world’s first man made, energy generating lagoon – has already begun its progress through the planning system and is awaiting government approval. This scheme would enclose roughly 11.5km2 of tidal area. With an installed capacity of 320MW, the Swansea lagoon could provide enough energy to power 155,000 homes – a figure equivalent to 90% of Swansea Bay’s annual domestic electricity use.
Details for a Cardiff lagoon have also been published. This scheme, planned to be situated between Cardiff and Newport, would include 90 turbines set in a 14-mile breakwater to harness the power of tides and produce energy for roughly 14 hours every day. The Cardiff lagoon is projected to provide enough power for up to 1.5 million homes. It is expected that a planning application for the Cardiff project will be submitted in 2017.
The other proposed sites are: Newport and Colywn Bay in Wales; Bridgwater in Somerset; and West Cumbria.
The developer of the plans, the Gloucester based renewable energy company Tidal Lagoon Power, has said that the lagoons taken as a whole could provide enough electricity to power all the homes in Wales. In total, TLP claim that the six lagoons could generate 8% of all the UK’s electricity for an investment of £30 billion.
TLP has admitted that to start with, the power produced would come at a cost – and quite a hefty one at that. For the Swansea lagoon, TLP wants to secure a price per MWh of £168; this would reduce with the second, more efficient lagoon at Cardiff, to between £90 and £95. This cheaper price per MWh compares more favourably with other methods of energy production, such as the proposed £92.50 per MWh for the planned Hinkley Point nuclear power station.
There are also other benefits that tidal power can boast over other methods of energy generation. These six lagoons are planned to go on producing electricity for 120 years – as a result, if they are approved, they could be a significant part of the UK’s energy mix for generations to come. Tidal lagoons are also popular among power companies because unlike other sources of renewable energy, such as solar and wind, it is entirely predictable. Turbines would produce energy from the two incoming and two outgoing tides each day, and are expected to be in use for an average of 14 hours a day.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey has said he wants to back the project. He told the BBC that he is “very excited by the prospect of tidal power.”
“We have got some of the biggest tidal ranges in the world and it would be really useful if we could harness some of that clean energy.”
Mark Shorrock, CEO of Tidal Lagoon Power, told BBC News: “We have a wonderful opportunity to create energy from the dance between the moon and the earth. It is admittedly rather expensive to begin with but as time goes on and the capital costs are paid off it becomes incredibly cheap.”
The announcement of the tidal lagoon plans is an exciting development for the ongoing future development of Britain’s ‘green economy.’
On 18 March, it emerged that Chancellor George Osborne would use his last Budget before the 2015 General Election to announce that the government is entering formal negotiations with Tidal Lagoon Power on funding the Swansea Bay project.