Pieces of puzzle coming together for Swansea tidal lagoon

Artist’s Impression – Swansea Bay tidal lagoon (Image: TLP)

Charles Hendry has found that tidal lagoons can help UK deliver security of electricity supply and its decarbonization commitments, urging the UK government to act swiftly on the ‘pathfinder’ Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project.

After almost one year since the UK government commissioned the review into the tidal lagoon energy, the head of the review, Charles Hendry, has released its findings in a report published today, January 12, 2017.

Hendry has assessed that tidal lagoons can help deliver security of power supply, assist in delivering UK’s decarbonization commitments, and bring real and substantial opportunities for the UK supply chain.

Also, according to Hendry, tidal lagoons could play a competitive role as part of the UK’s energy mix alongside low carbon energy from nuclear and offshore wind.

“As Britain moves into a post-Brexit world, we need to ask if we want to be leaders or followers. If the answer is that we should be leaders, as mine unequivocally is, then tidal lagoons offer an early, achievable and long-term opportunity.

“Greg Clark has rightly highlighted that Government must make difficult choices between technologies as subsidy support cannot simply be made available to all those technologies which seek it. He highlights that the support should be focused on those which are scalable and where costs can be brought down. The evidence I have seen puts tidal lagoons fall fairly and squarely within this category.

“In retrospect, I started this process with interest but skeptical. The more evidence I have seen, the more persuaded I have become that tidal lagoons do have an important role to play and there should be a government strategy in place to help this happen,” said Hendry.

When it comes to the first tidal lagoon planned for UK, the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon, proposed by Tidal Lagoon Power, Hendry stated that moving ahead with the project is a ‘no-regrets policy’.

Hendry said: “I don’t believe there would be any debate in decades to come about whether this was the right thing to do, even if it ended up as the only lagoon constructed – but I would expect it is much more likely to be seen as the decision which started a new industry, and all done at the cost of a small number of pence to consumers each year.

“This is not therefore just about how we decarbonize the power sector in the most cost effective way now; it is also about very long-term, cheap indigenous power, the creation of an industry and the economic regeneration that it can bring in its wake.”

Tidal Lagoon Power, understandably, has welcomed the news, deeming the review as ‘well-managed, timely and thorough’.

Mark Shorrock, CEO of Tidal Lagoon Power, said: “With the publication of the Hendry Review we’ve hit ‘peak consensus’. Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon is a vision of how Great Britain can replace part of our ageing power station fleet with low cost, reliable power that also revitalizes our industrial heartlands and coastal communities.

“When we pay our electricity bills, we are mostly supporting other countries’ energy industries and other countries’ workers. It doesn’t have to be that way. Tidal lagoons will generate electrons that work for Britain and bring down bills. The Hendry review has set the final piece of the jigsaw in place: a watershed moment for British energy, British manufacturing, British productivity and our coastal communities.”

Tidal Lagoon Power is currently engaged in talks with the UK government over the subsidies for the project. If the negotiations are successful, the next step for the project would be overcoming the potential hurdle when it comes to marine license.

Namely, Tidal Lagoon Power and Natural Resources Wales are in dispute over the effects Swansea tidal lagoon could have on the fish in the area.

A tidal lagoon is a ‘U’ shaped breakwater, built out from the coast which has a bank of hydro turbines in it. Water fills up and empties the lagoon as the tides rise and fall, generating electricity on both the incoming and outgoing tides, four times a day.

The £1.3 billion Swansea Bay project, with the capacity of 320MW, will comprise 16 hydro turbines, a six mile breakwater wall, generating electricity for 155,000 homes for the next 120 years.

About £35 million has been spent on developing the project so far, financed privately, with the exception of a commercial loan from the Welsh government. Most of the project’s £1.3 billion capital spend will be on content sourced in Wales and across the UK, according to RenewableUK.

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