World’s First Tidal Lagoon Power Plants Could Be Built In The UK
Plans have been unveiled for six electricity-generating lagoons to be built in the UK which will be able to power thousands of homes.
The technology involves capturing incoming and outgoing tides behind giant sea walls with the weight of the water used to power turbines.
Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP), the company behind it all has already put its best foot forward, starting work on a £1 billion plant in Swansea that already has the backing of energy secretary Ed Davey. Even though it’ll be one of the smallest installations, the lagoon will measure five miles across and stretch two miles out to sea, serving not only as significant power source but also as destination for locals. It’ll work by isolating a large space of water, which drives a series of turbines set into the wall as the tidal levels rise and fall throughout the day.
The UK government is keen to back renewable energy projects, so the £30 billion investment needed to build the ambitious lagoons will be met by taxpayers. Wales will host three lagoons in Cardiff, Newport and Colwyn Bay (as well as the one in Swansea) and there’ll be one in Bridgwater Bay, Somerset and another in West Cumbria.
The good thing about tidal power is that barring a lunar catastrophe, sea movements are completely predictable. Wind turbines can stall if it’s a particularly calm day, while solar panels only achieve maximum output when it’s clear and sunny. Marine experts have their reservations, including fears that fish could be sucked into turbines, but Tidal Lagoon Power believes the lagoons will ultimately benefit local ecosystems by serving as artificial reefs.
Will Straw, a research director at the Institute for Public Policy Research, says the investment is imperative to meeting the UK’s emissions reduction target of 80% by 2050.
“I don’t think we have a choice but to invest in some new renewable technologies as well as existing proven renewable technologies. I simply don’t think that we have the physical space and public acceptability for the amount of existing renewable that we would need to meet our longer term 2050 objectives.”
Of course there are key hurdles before either of the projects are realised. Davey’s department is consulting on how best to negotiate government support for tidal lagoon power. A planning application for the project is expected in 2017.
If approved, it could be generating power by 2022.