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UK government review recommends Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project

12 January 2017

Plans for a £1.3bn tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay will be backed in a UK government-commissioned review. Former energy minister Charles Hendry will publish his independent report into the viability of the renewable energy technology later, recommending the UK builds the lagoon to capture energy from the sea. It will also recommend developing a network of larger lagoons around the UK coast.

Map of proposed Swansea Bay lagoon - Image: TLP
Map of proposed Swansea Bay lagoon - Image: TLP

The assessment, commissioned last year amid negotiations on the Swansea Bay project, has looked into whether lagoons represent value for money and how they could contribute to the UK’s energy mix in the most effective way.

Hendry has been gathering evidence for nearly a year for his independent inquiry, including visits to all the potential sites and discussions with industry. He told the BBC the cost spread out over the entire 120 year lifetime of the project would total only about 30p per household for the next 30 years.

The Swansea Bay project would involve a U-shaped breakwater built out from the coast, with a bank of 16 turbines turned by the incoming and outgoing tides. It would be a prototype for a series of much larger lagoons off Cardiff, Newport and Colwyn Bay in Wales, Bridgwater Bay in Somerset and Workington in Cumbria.

The tidal lagoons would be world firsts, Hendry said, as they would not block the mouth of a river.

"One of the great advantages is it completely predictable for all time to come - we know exactly when the spring tides and neap tides are going to be every single day for the rest of time," he said.

Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP), the developer of the Swansea prototype, claims the larger Cardiff lagoon would generate enough electricity for all the homes in Wales and would provide the cheapest electricity of all the new power stations in the UK.

One of the key questions will be over the so-called "strike price" - the deal with the UK government to provide a guaranteed price for the energy the lagoons will generate.

TLP forecasts that its lagoons would generate power for 120 years and is seeking a 90-year contract at £89.90 per megawatt hour (MWh). That would be below the £92.50 per MWh agreed for the new Hinkley C nuclear power station.

Former prime minister David Cameron earlier said his enthusiasm for tidal lagoon power had been reduced by the costs of this form of renewable generation, as they required much higher subsidies than nuclear or offshore wind.

There are also environmental concerns about the project and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) will be looking at the impact on flooding, fish, birds and marine habitats before it awards the all-important marine licence for the project.

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