Tidal Power

An artists impression of Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon- Image Source:  Tidal Lagoon Power

An artists impression of Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon- Image Source: Tidal Lagoon Power

Tidal power is the most reliable form of renewable energy, given that there are two high and two low tides per day. Despite the large construction costs, it can provide a long-term supply of renewable energy. The UK also has the opportunity to be the global leader in this form of renewable energy.

Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon

Until recently, Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon was in the pipeline to be the first tidal lagoon in the world. On top of saving 236,000 tonnes of carbon each year, the lagoon would also have had large financial benefits:

  • 2232 constuction and manufacturing jobs would be directly sustained by the build, plus more jobs in the supply chain

  • The project would have contributed an estimated £316 million in Gross value added to the Welsh economy during construction, then £76 million in each year of its 120 years of operation.

  • In becoming a major tourist attraction, the lagoon was expected to draw in 100,000 visitors each year.

  • Two new turbine manufacturing facilities would be built in Wales.

However, in June 2018, after a long period of no decision, the plans for Swansea Bay tidal lagoon were shelved based on the high costs involved in the development of the project.

The Government’s rejection of the scheme was based on the fact that it could supply electricity at £150 per MWh over 30 years. But the company- Tidal Lagoon Power- said that given a longer contract of 60 years, it could supply electricity at the same rate as Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, at £92.70 MWh. The Welsh Government also offered a £200 million subsidy towards the £1.3 billion scheme, though it was decided that this wasn’t enough.

There is now speculation that the project could be revived without subsidies from the Government. Several large companies have expressed an interest in supporting the project so that they can receive a reliable source of cheap electricity.

European Marine Energy Centre

While the Swansea Bay plans were rejected, research and development in wave and tidal energy continues. Of particular note is the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney. Since 2003, EMEC has provided a site for testing new tidal power technologies. A particularly exciting technology is the Scotrenewables SR2000. This 2MW turbine was installed in 2017 and has usually been able to power 7% of Orkney’s electricity, but at times it has provided over 25% of its electricity.

While further development needs to be done to make tidal power more commercially viable, with new technology like this, it is estimated that the seas around the UK could one day provide around 20% of the UK’s electricity.

Date of Publication: 4.07.2018

Last updated: 6.02.2019