Chinese firm leaves $1.5bn Swansea tidal power project

The developer of an ambitious tidal power project near the south Wales town of Swansea has parted company with the Chinese company that was to build and partly finance it.

China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) became the preferred bidder to build the tidal wall for the proposed $1.5bn scheme in June last year.

Mike Unsworth, the director of Tidal Lagoon Power, said the company did not feel that CHEC offered best value for money with its design for the 9.5km seawall and added that he would shortly re-tender this element of the project, which accounts for around one quarter of the overall cost.

Mr Unsworth also said the problem lay with CHEC’s design, which had "limited workability", but he thanked the company for its efforts.

He said: "This is not a real issue for us. It does not delay the project."

The privately-funded lagoon has planning permission but needs a financial support package to be agreed with the government before any work can start. Doubts about whether it would be given the level of subsidy it needed were fuelled in January when Prime Minister David Cameron commented that his enthusiasm for tidal energy was "reducing" as a result of the likely expense.

A decision on the lagoon is expected in the autumn, after an independent review into the scheme makes its report. This will look into the scheme’s cost effectiveness, the potential scale of future opportunities in the UK and globally.

As a result of this, the earliest work could start on the five-year scheme is late 2017 or early 2018, meaning the scheme’s 16 turbines are unlikely to start spinning before 2023.

For a video explaining how the project will be built, click here.

Image: A proposed visitor centre for the lagoon (Juice)

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