Plans to generate 320MW of electricity from a $1.6bn tidal lagoon in south Wales have been supported by a review commissioned by the UK government.
The scheme was included in the UK’s National Infrastructure Plan in 2014 and has been granted planning permission. However, the government last year became concerned about the "strike price" it would pay for the electricity generated. Former prime minister David Cameron told a parliamentary committee last January that his enthusiasm had been "reduced" by the likely cost of the power.
The review carried out by Charles Hendry, a former energy minister, found that the lifetime cost of the project was low. He said: "If you look at the cost spread out over the entire lifetime – 120 years for the project – it comes out at about 30p per household for the next 30 years. That’s less than a pint of milk."
Mr Hendry, who has been collecting evidence for the past year, said the project was a "significant economic opportunity", and would make a "strong contribution" to Britain’s future energy supply.
The company behind the scheme, Tidal Lagoon Power, has plans to develop other schemes around the UK coastline, however here Mr Hendry commented that this was "too ambitious a goal" and "could only be considered properly when more progress had been made".
Mr Hendry arrived at 30 conclusions in his review. It was "beyond question" that the scheme would stimulate economic regeneration in the economically depressed south Wales region, or that the lagoon’s price was particularly attractive when compared with nuclear power, and also that a new regulatory authority should be set up to oversee the fledgling tidal power industry.
To date, about $43m has been spent on project development, and with the exception of a commercial loan from Welsh government this has been financed privately.
Tidal Lagoon Power aims to start on site in 2018. It estimates that project will take four years to build, with first power generated in year three.
Image: A rendering of the lagoon’s breakwater (Tidal Power Lagoon)