Image: Tidal barrage at La Rance, Brittany.
Speaking at the Labour Party’s annual conference in Bournemouth, business and enterprise secretary John Hutton signalled that a multi-million pound feasibility study will go ahead to look at siting a barrage between Wales and England at the Severn estuary. The study will examine the social, economic and environmental aspects of the barrage.
Strathclyde University has a fairly simple web page explaining tidal power concepts such as the barrage and also other options including tidal fences and tidal turbines.
Even though such a renewable energy scheme could provide 5% of the UK’s energy needs, reaction to the idea of the barrage has always been mixed. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said the barrage would put thousands of birds, salmon and other fish at risk. The estuary contains mudflats, saltmarshes, rocky islands and food that support some 65,000 birds in winter.
They are proposing that the feasibility study examine tidal lagoon and tidal stream schemes which could do less damage and generate more energy. Tidal lagoons are artificially created offshore pools. Water would flow through turbines in and out of the lagoons as the tide rose and fell. Some analysts say this could generate more power than the barrage with less local environmental disruption.
With the barrage carrying an estimated £14bn price-tag, some believe the lagoon concept would also be cheaper.
Currently the only sizable barrage is located over in France at La Rance, Brittany.
The debate rumbles on but at least moves one step further forward.
The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) has carried out a comprehensive study of tidal power in the UK, including an evaluation of proposals for a Severn barrage. Their just released report, ‘Tidal Power in the UK’, includes a series of recommendations to Government on how to develop our tidal resource, and emerging tidal technologies, to provide secure, low carbon electricity for the long term.