Should we build the Severn Barrage? – Surely a no brainer!

    June 10, 2013

[Update: this project has been refined and the Swansea Tidal Lagoon has now been given the go-ahead. Read more here.]

Some disappointing news today, after it emerged that a Governmental Select Committee rejected the plans for a £25bn barrage on the Severn Estuary.

The Energy Issue Facing the UK

In the UK, we have an impending energy crisis, with much of our electricity generating capacity due to go off line within the next 5-10 years (mainly coal and nuclear). Unfortunately demand is not going to drop off in the same way, in fact, despite increased energy efficiency via schemes like the Green Deal, new energy efficient appliances and even more efficient modes of transport, demand is expected to rise ever so slightly over the coming years.

The result not enough power to meet demand.

How the Severn Barrage could help

The Severn barrage would take advantage of the tidal stream on the River Severn to produce 5% of our energy requirements. That is not just 5% of our renewable requirements – that is 5% of our total energy requirements (equivalent to 3 or 4 nuclear reactors). That is an enormous contribution to our energy cause, but that is not the best part.

Since we are running out of North Sea gas at a rate of knots and shale gas is going to produce a fraction of the gas requirements that our Government would lead you to believe, it appears that importing fuel to power our country will be the only way to keep the lights on.

Unfortunately, in this position we are very much bent over a barrel, since we will become so reliant on these imports we will have to pay whatever the exporters deem necessary.

If we were to go ahead and build the Severn Barrage, then we would be producing from just one structure, fuel free, dependable electricity. Unlike other renewables that are intermittent (like solar only producing power when the sun is out), tidal is different. The tides are very predictable – they can be predicted many years into the future and Hafren Power have estimated that this particular barrage would be able to produce power for an average 15.25 hours per day and its lifespan would be 120 years or more, therefore it would be ideal to supply baseline power to the grid.

Of course there are environmental things to consider here, birds will need to find new feeding grounds and the designs need to incorporate ways to allow fish to move freely up and down the river still, but the potential to produce all this power must surely be realised.

This doesn’t even consider the number of jobs this has the potential to create – this would be the biggest construction project since the Eurotunnel adding an estimated 20,000 UK jobs. The funding for the barrage will also come from private investors and Sovereign wealth funds, meaning that their will be no additional hit to our public finances.

A boost to the economy, less reliance on importing fuel to power us and a predictable renewable energy source, flying in the face of all those anti-renewable folk who hate seeing a wind turbine not spinning…

So I for one, am incredibly hopeful that in the near future Hafren Power get the go ahead to build the power plant. We have too much to gain from this barrage for it to be consigned to the scrapheap.

    My hope for Tidal energy!

    March 15, 2013

New Tidal Energy Projects

In late February, I came across the news that a £70m tidal project in Anglesey has been given the final go-ahead. I think this is fantastic news, since it is one of the few large-scale tidal projects that has actually received funding (I am still hopeful in time the Severn Estuary will have a tidal barrier installed – but more on why I think that is a great idea can be found here).

The plan is that Marine Current Turbines (owned by Siemens) will position five 2MW tidal stream turbines between Skerries and Carmel Head. Combined, these turbines will produce enough electricity to supply 10,000 homes. I know this is not the millions of homes that a nuclear power plant can power, but we need to start somewhere.

Anyway, what was interesting about this was that I was talking to a friend of mine who goes to Holyhead most weekends and has done since he was little and he said there was uproar in the local community over these proposed turbines.

‘Those bloody turbines everywhere – ruin the beauty of the place’

Educating the masses on Renewables!

Now, he is my friend so I certainly won’t name and shame him, but these turbines are actually under the water, so unless he happens to be swimming in close proximity, the view will only be dampened by 5 buoys that show the position of the turbines under the water to help boats navigate.

I think this is part of the problem, there are people that hate renewables full-stop. I appreciate that and there is nothing I can really do about it, but this guy is full of praise for what we are trying to do here at TheGreenAge and he helps spread the word for renewables, he just seems unwilling to accept them if they could potentially sit on his doorstep.

Tidal energy has a great deal of potential as a renewable energy source, since the electricity generation is more predictable because we know when the tides run. In addition these submerged turbines don’t have the same visual impact of wind turbines. The UK also has enormous potential tidal resource; a recent report by the crown estate stated that tidal energy could provide a maximum capacity of 91GW of electricity (approximately 216TWh per year). Maximum capacity in the UK is currently about 65GW, and the total electricity used in 2011 was 374TWh.

I think this shows that we still have a hell of a long way to go to educating the general public about renewables. We need to get behind these new innovative technologies, because one day we really could become reliant on them for all our energy needs.

For more information on Tidal energy, including case studies – please visit our Tidal Energy section.

Author: James Alcock



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