Tidal lagoon project to be backed
Plans for a £1.3bn tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay will be backed in a government-commissioned review. Charles Hendry will publish his independent report into the viability of the renewable energy technology later, recommending the UK builds the lagoon to capture energy from the sea. There are hopes of developing a network of larger lagoons around the UK coast.
The UK government still needs to agree on a deal and a marine licence would also need to be approved. Former UK energy minister Mr Hendry has been gathering evidence for nearly a year for his independent inquiry, including visits to all the potential sites and discussions with industry. Speaking ahead of the report, Mr Hendry said: “If you look at the cost spread out over the entire lifetime – 120 years for the project – it comes out at about 30p per household for the next 30 years. That’s less than a pint of milk”. “That’s where I think we can start a new industry and we can do it at an affordable cost to consumers.”
The Swansea Bay project would involve 16 turbines along a breakwater but is seen as only the start – a prototype for much larger lagoons. The “fleet” includes one off the coast of Cardiff – east of where Cardiff Bay is now – Newport, Bridgwater Bay in Somerset, Colwyn Bay and west Cumbria, north of Workington.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, 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,” he said. “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,” he insisted.
Swansea Bay would act as a “pathfinder” project, allowing people to learn more about the technology and bring the cost down.
Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) claims the Cardiff lagoon is being designed to generate enough electricity for all homes in Wales and that it would be the cheapest electricity of all the new power stations in the UK. One of the key questions will be over the so-called “strike price” – the deal with the UK government to provide a guaranteed price for the energy the lagoons will generate. Gloucester-based TLP’s contention is 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.
Tidal energy plans for Swansea Bay first emerged in 2003 but the current project has been developed over the last four years. At low tide, water would flow from the lagoon into the sea, and at high tide from the sea into the lagoon.If lagoons are supported it could be a boost for Welsh companies and signal the dawn of a new industrial era, worth £15bn.