320MW UK tidal lagoon advances

How the lagoon could look

How the lagoon could look

Ambitious plans for the world first tidal lagoon power plant have moved ahead, with project consortium lead Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) handing in its development application to the UK authorities.

The 320MW Swansea Bay project, which would generate energy using an 11.5km2 walled coastal inlet in which incoming water is trapped and later released through turbines, would be the largest tidal power plant in the world, supplying power for over 120,000 homes.

“Until now, tidal energy has been heavily promoted by governments and environmentalists as an intuitive source of clean and reliable energy for our island nation, but the business response has focused on relatively small-scale tidal stream devices,” says TLP chief executive Mark Shorrock.

“Tidal lagoons offer renewable energy at nuclear scale and thus the investment of hundreds of millions of pounds in UK industries and coastal communities.”

The £750m project, which could be online by 2018 flowing baseload electricity for up to 16 hours each day using ebb and flood tides, would also save more than 200,000 tonnes of CO2 annually over its 100-year design life.

TLP, based in Cheltenham, UK, has the backing of a consortium made up of international power technology giants GE, Alstom, Andritz and Voith, along with engineering consultancy Atkins Global, Dutch offshore dredging specialist Van Oord, textile technologist TenCate and UK construction contractor Costain.

Infrastructure conglomerate Macquarie has signed up to lead the capital financing of the Swansea Bay project.

Atkins Europe chief executive David Tonkin states: The tidal lagoon concept represents a bold new addition to the energy mix. It is a great example of how innovative engineering could be used to harness our natural resources and provide clean, sustainable and predictable power for thousands of homes.

Swansea Bay is seen as well-suited to a tidal lagoon project, as the site is in shallow water but with a tidal range of more than ten metres. It is also close to several population centres in England and Wales, minimising electricity transmission losses during export.

TLP’s longer-term plan is to construct five or more tidal lagoon power plants inside the next decade, with a view to supplying 10% of the UK’s domestic energy.

“Economies of scale bring immediate advantage.  A second lagoon will require a lower level of support than offshore wind, for a renewable power supply that is both long-lived and certain,” states Shorrrock. “A third lagoon will be competitive with the support received by new nuclear, but comes without the decommissioning costs and safety concerns.

“Had we invested in tidal lagoons in the 1980s, by now, and into the next century, we would be generating cheaper power than any other form of supply.”

A decision from the UK government on the project is expected in 2015.

Large-scale tidal-range power plants are in operation at La Rance in France (240MW); Sihwa in Korea (254MW); and Annapolis in Canada’s Bay of Fundy (30MW).

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