Independent review supports U.K. tidal lagoon projects

Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon

An independent study commissioned by the United Kingdom supports the role of tidal lagoon projects in the U.K.’s energy mix.

The review, led by former Minister of Energy Charles Hendry, specifically addresses concerns about the proposed 320-MW Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project in Wales, but notes such projects could also benefit the U.K. in its entirety.

“Marine energy technologies offer an energy opportunity where the U.K. can reasonably aspire to be the global leader,” Hendry said. “Tidal lagoons would deliver security of supply, they would assist in delivering our decarbonization commitments, and they would bring real and substantial opportunities for the U.K. supply chain.”

Hendry’s report urges the construction of a small-scale pathfinder tidal lagoon project of less than 500 MW “as soon as is reasonably practicable”, with the recommendation the U.K. draw heavily on preparation work that has already been conducted.

In all, the 183-page document makes 30 recommendations that would aid what Hendry calls an “important and exciting new industry”, including designations and recognition from the government similar to those given new nuclear projects; support from a new federal tidal power authority; and guarantees for competitive tendering processes, amongst others.

“I conclude that tidal lagoons would help deliver security of supply, the would assist in delivering our de-carbonization commitments, and they would bring real and substantial opportunities for the U.K. supply chain,” Hendry said. “Most importantly, it is clear that tidal lagoons at scale could deliver low carbon power in a way that is very competitive with other low carbon sources.”

The U.K. has a very real economic interest in becoming the world leader in the tidal lagoon sector. A report released by Swansea Bay’s developer, Tidal Lagoon Power, in October forecasts a domestic market for lagoon turbines and generators of about US$21.7 billion, $30.6 billion for turbine housings, and more than $38 billion for combined exports.

Marine Energy Pembrokeshire has also recognized the potential for the tidal lagoon industry, saying the sector had already created more than 99 person-years of employment as part of a April 2015 report.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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