UK calls for review of tidal bay installations, including Wales’ Swansea Bay

Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay

The future of Wales’ proposed 320-MW Swansea Bay is up in the air as the United Kingdom has announced a plan to perform a comprehensive study on the economic efficiency of tidal lagoon projects.

The massive Swansea Bay plant, which would include a 6-mile long sea wall dotted with tidal turbines along its length, received planning consent from the UK’s Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) in June.

However, the UK government now says “more work needs to be done to determine whether they present value for money.”

Per a release, the UK will begin a review this spring to establish an “evidence base” to determine whether tidal lagoon projects are in the best interest of the country.

“Tidal lagoons on this scale are an exciting, but as yet an untested technology,” said Energy Minister Lord Nicholas Bourne. “I want to better understand whether tidal lagoons can be cost-effective, and what their impact on bills will be — both today and in the longer term.”

The review will include:

  • An assessment of whether, and in what circumstances, tidal lagoons could play a cost-effective role in the UK energy mix;
  • The potential scale of opportunity in the UK and internationally, including supply chain opportunities;
  • Possible financing structures for financing tidal lagoons; and
  • Whether a competitive framework could be installed for the delivery of tidal lagoon projects.

“This review will help give us that clarity so that we can determine what role tidal lagoons could have as part of our plans to provide secure, clean and affordable energy for families and businesses across the country,” Lord Bourne said.

The review will incorporate a number of governmental agencies, including DECC and Her Majesty’s Treasury.

The announcement comes a day after Mark Shorrock, CEO of the project’s developer, Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay PLC (TLSB), told BBC News that the group needed to know if it could expect financial backing from the UK government within the next few weeks.

Though the project was qualified by the UK’s Planning Inspectorate as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) in March 2014, setbacks have caused Swansea Bay’s costs to balloon to an estimated US$1.5 billion.

TLSB has argued throughout the project’s development, however, that Swansea Bay and subsequent tidal lagoon installations could have a significant positive impact on the UK economy. The group committed in February to giving British manufacturers preference, while a report published in April by Marine Energy Pembrokeshire also cited the tidal lagoons’ potential to spark the Welsh economy.

TLSB also selected Atkins Global as client’s engineer for the project in August 2014. The developer announced financial services firm Prudential had agreed to become a “cornerstone investor” in the project in October 2014.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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