320 MW Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon Project Moves Closer

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The proposed 320 MW, $1.2 billion Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project is now one step closer to becoming a reality — developer Tidal Lagoon Power Ltd has now submitted the application for the first phase to the proper development authorities. The project, if approved, will be located off the coast of South Wales and will cover an area of over six miles.

Current plans are for construction to begin in 2015, and for the project to be online by 2018. If Swansea is approved, then it will be followed by four more projects in various lagoons, according to Tidal Lagoon Power — all of which would be completed by 2023, and together (7,300 MW of capacity) provide up to 10% of the UK’s domestic electricity needs.

Image Credit: Swansea Bay via Wikimedia CCImage Credit: Swansea Bay via Wikimedia CC

Given the rejection of the somewhat similar Severn Barrage tidal project just last year, it’ll be interesting to see what happens. That said, nearly the only thing that these two projects have in common is the exploitation of tidal energy — all of the specifics are quite different. In particular, most criticism of the Severn Barrage project came down to the fact that barrages have a significant effect on the environment, whereas tidal lagoons are much less intrusive.

Renewable Energy World explains:

Though the project is still waiting on the environmental go-ahead, experts state that tidal lagoon projects have much less environmental considerations than the heavily criticized Severn Barrage proposal. The 11-mile barrage would have spanned the length of the bay. Barrages allow high tide to flow in, but hold water back until the opportune moment to capture energy as the water recedes. Tidal lagoons take up 40 percent less space than a barrage and allows water currents to flow around the project.

Tidal lagoons are created by building a ring-shaped “sand-core breakwater or rock bund,” which resembles a harbor wall, typically constructed from mainly sand and rock. Turbines mounted in concrete casing are submerged and lined within the wall. When the tide moves in and out, the wall holds water back, and once it reaches a certain level, gates are opened and the water flows through the turbines, which creates electricity.

“This technology will have less impact on fish and other wildlife than the barrage proposals, which conservationists have spent several years fighting in the estuary, and which the government has repeatedly rejected,” stated Sean Christian, special sites spokesman for the bird and wildlife lobby RSPB. “However, it could still have major impacts on the estuary and its wildlife, and we will need to look at the details of each lagoon proposal closely.”

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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