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Wales’ Coastlines Could be Dramatically Altered by Plans for UK Tidal Lagoons

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Politician, Charles Hendry has been reviewing the effect tidal lagoons will have on the environment, jobs and climate change. At the same time, Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) is in the development stage of plans for the next ten years.

There are plans for several lagoons around the Welsh coastline, including one is Swansea. Lagoons around the coasts of Somerset and Cumbria are also anticipated, generating power and energy for 30% of homes in Britain.

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Mr Hendry plans to use the Swansea Lagoon as a pilot, monitoring how it works before implementing plans to extend the scale of the scheme.

He has compared the project as being potentially similar to the nuclear industry and has called for competitive tendering for further projects. He said he wants the scheme to:

“deliver the most substantial cost reductions”.

He is keen emphasise that tidal lagoons “at scale”, could produce low carbon power in competition with other low carbon sources.

TLP is currently looking beyond Swansea, creating a considerable number of construction jobs.

Plans have already been submitted to planning officials for a Cardiff lagoon.

It is estimated that a full consent order will be made by 2018. Cardiff Council has been told the lagoon would be of “international significance” and could potentially create 1,000 permanent jobs.

The Cardiff project is on a much larger scale than Swansea and would be the first full-scale lagoon. The extensive plans would potentially mean that enough electricity would be generated to power every home in Wales. Its breakwater wall would be twice the length of Swansea’s, stretching to 11 miles.

Up to 3,000 jobs could be created for construction workers, says the TLP. This would help to maintain 8,000 jobs in the supply chain.

TLP says that due to the size and scale of the Cardiff project, the electricity generated would be cheaper than all new UK-based power stations.

The Colwyn Bay project would protect the north Wales coast from flooding as well as generate electricity, according to Tidal Lagoon Power. The coastline was greatly damaged in 2013/14 due to winter storms and the tidal lagoon will act as a defence mechanism to protecting people living in those areas.

Although the plans for Newport lagoon are at a premature stage, if plans were to proceed, 50,000 homes could be powered be the electricity generated and would include restocking and conservation programmes.

TLP is eager to communicate the environmental sensitivities with regards to the Bridgewater Bay project. Tourism in the area would benefit from the lagoon, as would local businesses and there is a need to incorporate  flood management systems due to storms and tidal surges.

There has been a consultation for a lagoon north of Wokington in west Cumbria with business and conversation groups and local residence for what would be a ‘full-scale” lagoon. The economic benefits have been highlighted, with protection against coastal erosion on the topic agenda. It has been labelled as a ‘significant and exciting’ addition to the future of planned lagoons.

To-date, industry experts have said that nuclear power produces the most cost-effective and reliable electricity. Mr Hendry states that utilising power from lagoons could change this as the cost would spread over 120 years, effectively lowering the cost of the lagoons. He has predicted that within 30 years, lagoons would be producing electricity free of subsidy.

The amount of electricity generated by the lagoons would be entirely predictable, unlike monitoring wind power. Mr Hendry is addressing environmental concerns, especially with regards to the Swansea marine ecosystem and has said all larger lagoons would need Government approval. High-level monitoring of environmental impact would be part of the on-going plan.

He also recommends a period of separation between the Swansea scheme and larger projects.

He said:

“The pathfinder should be commissioned and be operational for a reasonable period before financial close is reached on the first larger-scale project. The pause would allow in-depth monitoring to be carried out and research to be conducted to address issues as they arise”.