Clean Power

Published on June 1st, 2013 | by Nicholas Brown


Alstom Joins 250 MW Swansea Bay Tidal Power Project

June 1st, 2013 by  

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Credit: Alstom

Alstom has announced that it is planning to design and construct the generators for a £650 million, 250 MW tidal power plant in Swansea Bay, United Kingdom.

It signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work with Tidal Lagoon Power Ltd on “a series of tidal lagoons,” including the planned £650 million project.

This tidal power plant is expected to generate baseload power for up to 16 hours per day, meet Swansea’s entire electricity demand, and avoid over 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions for each year of its projected 100-year lifetime.

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About the Author

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is:

  • Dave2020

    These tidal schemes are in my ‘back yard’. I live up the Vale of Neath, six miles from the coast. When a South wind blows you can taste the Port Talbot steelworks (and even the Aberthaw coal power station) in the air, while riding the mountain trails amongst the wind turbines.

    As I understand it, the Severn Barrage will now have ‘low-head’ turbines, but the Swansea Bay ones are to be more conventional, using a higher head. I think the best option, for both, would be to simply focus the tidal flow to extract the energy using tidal stream (i.e. very low ‘head’) turbines. That has the lowest impact on the natural tidal environment.

    In my submission to Hafren Power on 14 Feb. I wrote; “Personally, I would rebrand the project as the Bristol Channel Barrier and build it from Minehead to Breaksea Point.” This means the structure is 20km long, instead of 18.

    That would make it a flood defence for the Somerset Levels, including the Hinkley Point Nuclear plant. The effect of a storm surge will be magnified by the Severn Barrage in its proposed location. 406 years ago:-,_1607

    This area is an incongruous mix of exceptional natural beauty and industrial desolation, going all way back to Copperopolis:-

    And – “Even in the 1980s when all the industry had long since disappeared the Nant y Fendrod was still very seriously contaminated.” The present list of eyesores includes derelict canals and railways, abandoned docks, a dismantled oil refinery and numerous empty industrial sites, not to mention the mining spoil tips and quarries in the hills.

    The Swansea Bay project is not ambitious enough. A 12km long storage-integrated structure could enclose an area six times the size – six times the generating capacity – and deliver dispatchable electricity. It should also be directly connected to the Atlantic Array wind farm. (but it won’t be)

    The FIRST question should be; “What will these investments do for the people living here in 2100? (but it won’t be)

    I also posed the question; “Why would anybody build a tidal power facility and not incorporate wind, wave and solar at the same time?” in my 14 March submission. The calm waters of a lagoon are ideal for floating rafts of PV that rotate to follow the sun. (and no land leasing cost)

  • Matt

    There are large “rivers” in the ocean that run 24/7/365. For example, the Gulf stream. Place turbines in them and you don’t get the twice daily peak/min.

  • The Bay of Fundy has the largest tides in the world – and there are a few small tidal turbines being installed there. In Cobscook Bay, which is a branch off of Fundy that is between the US and Canada has 5 small turbines that are bidirectional, installed as a trial, and I hope that we get lots more of these.


  • JamesWimberley

    Tidal lagoons are a neat technology: the world’s first tidal power station has been working perfectly on the Rance estuary in Brittany since 1966. They offer offer greater control of the output than tidal turbines in open waters like the Orkney one illustrated, though such open tidal currents are also completely certain and predictable. Both types can make a significant contribution in countries like Britain with long and indented coastlines. But these are the exception globally. Tidal can never be more than a niche technology, though it’s a sizable niche.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Damming up lagoons could be a bad idea for environmental reasons. It should be done carefully.

      Another idea that is being applied is to use standard breakwater engineering to create a containment basin off a non-critical shore. Let the tide fill and empty this basin.

      What I’m not understanding is why no one is working to stick turbines in the strong currents off Mexico, Cuba and Florida. Those are 24/365 energy sources.

      • JamesWimberley

        The biggest such project in Britain damming the Severn estuary, with a colossal 8.6GW installed, is facing heavy opposition on environmental grounds and has been put on hold, It would wreck important tidal wetlands, etc. The government is looking at lower-powered tidal stream turbines as a compromise.

      • Dave2020

        This will be a geo-textile breakwater construction, enclosing a ‘lagoon’ attached to an old industrial shoreline. The plans include environmental enhancements to rejuvenate the whole area.

        But on the East side of the Bay, Hafren Power propose building dry docks to manufacture the huge concrete caissons they would need for the Severn Barrage. It’s a shame they can’t amalgamate these two projects. As things stand, each downplays the potential of the other.

        • Matt

          Since neither of these approaches “appear” to take to old idea of pumping water when there is too much power. Using them as pumped storage, they have don’t change the level of high/low tide, so reduce their impact. The do change the timing, hold the high/low line longer to increase head at turbine. And have the issue of fish in the turbine. I surprised that the Hafren power isn’t farther out toward sea so that would get a far large volume of water without the “dam” being much bigger. But many the bay bottom is a lot deeper there.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I don’t think fish in the turbine is an issue.

            The first turbine installation was carefully monitored to see what impact it would have on sea life. It was only run during daylight hours and biologists were on hand to observe potential fish kills.

            After a couple of days of observation they found that there was no fish kill issue, the fish were easily avoiding the relatively slow moving blades.

          • Matt

            Bob, I’m assuming that the fish issue was already resolved. If their are not doing pumped storage, then except for the timing of the tide. Looks like Hafren plans to damn the water in order to create a larger head. So they don’t change the level of high/low tide, but do change the time spent at high and low tide. Which increase the speed of transition between. I don’t know what if any impact this has. But every single power source has impacts. With way to little information, the site doesn’t give much real information, I’m guessing the impact is low enough to justify a detail impact analysis. I do think the storm surge protection a benefit.

      • Ronald Brak

        Getting the kinks out of estuary tidal power will help prepare engineers to tackle tapping deep ocean currents. Then it becomes a matter of economics.

      • Matt

        They run all the way up the US coast. And unlike tide, they run all day everyday. I hoping that the flow turbine tests in the rive around NYC will prove out some tech, while will then move into the Gulf stream all the way up and down the coast. Plus there are large streams in all the oceans. Here is a simple picture.

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