Quantcast
Renewable Energy
The proposed tidal lagoon would enclose Swansea Bay with a rock wall incorporating 16 turbines and generating 320MW of electricity. Photo credit: Tidal Lagoon Power

Will This Tidal Project Spark a Global Energy Revolution?

By Richard Sadler

Ambitious plans have been drawn up for a network of "tidal lagoons" around the UK coast that could provide up to a quarter of the country's electricity—and there is potential to roll out the technology in many parts of the world.

Tidal lagoons work by using a wall to capture a body of water in the sea or a tidal estuary pushed in on the rising tide. The water drives turbines as the tide comes in and then, as the tide falls, the turbines are reversed and the energy from the falling tide is harnessed again.

As Geoffrey Chaucer, one of the earliest English poets put it: "Time and tide wait for no man." Unlike with wind and solar, the amount of energy being produced from tides is predictable months in advance and is now being recognized as a major renewable resource.

More Tidal Lagoons

Planning approval has already been given for a £1.3 billion pathfinder project at Swansea Bay, South Wales, described by developers as "a scalable blueprint for a new, global, low-carbon power industry." Another nine lagoons are planned around tidal hotspots in the Severn Estuary and North-West England/North Wales. These would have the potential to generate 25,000MW of electricity—enough to provide 12 percent of the UK's electricity needs.

The company behind the proposals, Tidal Lagoon Power, already has teams working in Northern France and India and is studying opportunities in Mexico and Canada's Atlantic coast. Further tidal lagoon markets may exist in South America, China, South-East Asia and Oceania.

Tidal power is recognized by the EU's Joint Research Centre as a key contributor to the continent's future energy mix. Its main attraction is that, unlike other renewable energy sources, it does not require the wind to blow or the sun to shine.

An oceanographer at Southampton University, Dr. Simon Boxall, said the technology has improved to the point where tidal energy was a "no-brainer," with the latest bi-directional turbines capable of generating power on both incoming and outgoing tides. He said that with sufficient investment it could provide up to a quarter of UK electricity needs within 20 years.

"We can always rely on tides—they come in and they go out and they will continue doing so for thousands of years. Parts of the UK have tidal ranges in excess of 15 meters, so that's a heck of a drop of water and that's happening twice a day—or four times a day when you count the water coming in and going out," said Dr. Boxall.

"The other great advantage is that the tides aren't the same in different locations, so if you've got a network of tidal power stations you are always generating electricity: 24 hours a day, seven days a week," added Dr. Boxall.

In December a former UK energy minister, Charles Hendry, published an independent review, concluding: "Power from tidal lagoons could make a strong contribution to UK energy security, as an indigenous and completely predictable form of supply."

He said the UK was well-placed to take a global lead and with economies of scale and mass manufacture of turbines, turbine housing and other components costs could be substantially reduced.

Cheap Electricity

To be viable the new industry would require subsidies, with a guaranteed premium price for electricity generated. However, Hendry calculated that in the long term tidal lagoons will work out cheaper than wind and "significantly less expensive" than nuclear. And they could go on generating for 140 years—providing clean, subsidy-free energy long after other energy plants have been decommissioned.

The technology is not without its drawbacks. Artificial lagoons can cause increased silting-up of shipping lanes. Tidal estuaries are also important for wading birds, marine mammals and migratory fish and conservation groups have warned that the ecological impacts of tidal lagoons are not well understood and that any roll-out of lagoons in the UK should be conditional on the Swansea project being tried and tested. Backers of the technology say management practices can be adapted to address such concerns—and they point out that lagoons can provide environmental benefits, acting as artificial reefs for marine wildlife.

The UK government is expected to announce a final decision on the Swansea Bay project within the next few months.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Food
Indie Ecology / Instagram

Table-to-Farm-to-Table: Startup Grows Food for Restaurants With Kitchen Leftovers

Food, as we know, is a terrible thing to waste. Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption gets lost or wasted every year. But what if we could use food waste to create more food?

That's the elegantly full-circle idea behind Indie Ecology, a West Sussex food waste farm that collects leftovers from some of London's best restaurants and turns it into compost. The nutrient-rich matter is then used to grow high quality produce for the chefs to cook with. Call it table-to-farm-to-table—and again and again.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Pexels

China’s Global Infrastructure Initiative Could Bring Environmental Catastrophe

By Nexus Media, with William F. Laurance

Humans are ravaging tropical forests by hunting, logging and building roads and the threats are mounting by the day.

China is planning a series of massive infrastructure projects across four continents, an initiative that conservation biologist William Laurance described as "environmentally, the riskiest venture ever undertaken."

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Alaska's Kenai Fjords National Park, which was impacted by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, could be harmed again if expanded offshore drilling plans go through. National Park Service

Trump’s Offshore Drilling Plan Puts 68 National Parks at Risk

Sixty-eight National Parks along the coastal U.S. could be in danger from devastating oil spills if President Donald Trump's plan to open 90 percent of coastal waters to offshore oil drilling goes through, a report released Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Parks Conservation Association found.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
E. coli. The World Health Organizations says antibiotic resistance is "one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today." U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Climate Change Could Supercharge Threat of Antibiotic Resistance: Study

By Andrea Germano

The World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have previously sounded alarms about the growing issue of antibiotic resistance—a problem already linked to overprescribing of antibiotics and industrial farming practices. Now, new research shows a link between warmer temperatures and antibiotic resistance, suggesting it could be a greater threat than previously thought on our ever-warming planet.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Renewable Energy
Powerwall residential battery with solar panels. Tesla

Tesla's Massive Virtual Power Plant in South Australia Roars Back to Life

Tesla's plans to build the world's largest virtual power plant in South Australia will proceed after all.

The $800 million (US $634 million) project—struck in February by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and former South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill—involves installing solar panels and batteries on 50,000 homes to function as an interconnected power plant.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
A French lavender farmer is part of the group suing the EU for more ambitious emissions targets, saying climate change threatens his crop. Iamhao / CC BY-SA 3.0

10 Families Bring First Ever 'People’s Climate Case' Against the EU

Ten families from Fiji, Kenya and countries across Europe who are already suffering the effects of climate change filed a case against the EU Wednesday in a bid to force the body to increase its commitments under the Paris agreement, AFP reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Oceans

Swimmer Plans to Cross Pacific to Highlight Plastic Pollution

Ben Lecomte, the first man to swim across the Atlantic in 1998, will attempt another grueling, history-making ocean crossing.

On Tuesday, the 50-year-old Frenchman and his crew will set out from Tokyo for a 5,500-mile swim across the Pacific, Reuters reported. If all goes as planned, Lecomte will arrive in San Francisco six to eight months later.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
Tesco supermarket near Ashford Hospital in West Bedfont, England. Maxwell Hamilton / CC BY 2.0

UK's Largest Grocer Takes on Food and Plastic Waste

It's been a green week for Tesco, the UK's largest supermarket.

First, the chain said it would remove "Best before" labels from around 70 pre-packaged fruits and vegetables in an attempt to stop customers from discarding still-edible food, BBC News reported Tuesday.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!