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Energy boss calls alternative scheme a 'golden opportunity' after government turns down Swansea tidal lagoon

Joseph Flaig

An artist's impression of the potential Wyre Estuary tidal energy project (Credit: Simec Atlantis Energy)
An artist's impression of the potential Wyre Estuary tidal energy project (Credit: Simec Atlantis Energy)

An energy company boss has highlighted another “golden opportunity” for tidal energy after the government refused to pay for a pioneering scheme in Wales.

A price tag of £1.3bn for the world’s first tidal lagoon power station in Swansea Bay is not value for money, business and energy secretary Greg Clark said yesterday.

Planned since 2003, the much-hyped project would have used the huge force of the daily tides to turn 16 hydro turbines. By closing the wall for just three hours, a 4m height difference would have built up on either side of the 9.5km-long U-shaped wall. The result would be a 320MW station capable of providing energy to 155,000 homes, developer Tidal Lagoon Power claimed.

Following the government announcement, the chief executive of Simec Atlantis Energy highlighted his firm’s proposal for a separate scheme on the Lancashire coast.

“We believe our proposed project for the Wyre Estuary represents a golden opportunity for the government to reinforce its commitment to tidal range technology,” said Tim Cornelius.

“As well as generating predictable, zero-carbon, sustainable power to the region, the project also offers flood protection capabilities for the local Wyre Valley.”

In June 2017, the Duchy of Lancaster nominated Simec Atlantis as preferred partner to develop the tidal barrage and flood protection project, between Fleetwood and Knott End. The firm is completing feasibility studies before the next stage of design, engineering and consent, with construction planned for 2021.

Cornelius called it “the ideal, cost-effective option to develop tidal range technology, as well as diversify the UK’s energy mix. It will provide a significant economic boost to Fleetwood and the surrounding area and fits well with the government’s announced Northern Powerhouse strategy.”

The Wyre scheme could lead the way for others to follow, he said.

He added: “This project will prove up the turbine technology required to make larger projects viable and bankable. We are convinced that, at larger scale, these projects will make sense and the government should now unlock this economic potential by supporting the construction of the Wyre project.”

Dr Jenifer Baxter, head of engineering at the IMechE, called the government’s decision on the Swansea Bay project “a missed opportunity to boost innovation and manufacturing in Wales”.

She added: “The project would have been a demonstration of first-of-a-kind technology and would have brought valuable new skills to Wales. This type of innovative scheme is key to encouraging growth and diversifying industry in the region.”

The project had to be sensitive to environmental concerns, including the marine habitat and plans to quarry rock in Cornwall, said David Harwood, South Wales regional chair of the IMechE, but the institution backed the project after considering the potential social and economic benefits to Wales and the UK.

Speaking in the Commons, Clark said: "Securing our energy needs into the future has to be done seriously and, when much cheaper alternatives exist, no individual project, and no particular technology, can proceed at any price."

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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