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Swansea Barrage Represents a Key Opportunity

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Charles Hendry’s report into the exciting Swansea Lagoon has given it the thumbs up.

The former energy minister concludes:

“I started this process with interest but sceptical. The more evidence I have seen, the more persuaded I have become that tidal lagoons do have an important role to play and there should be a government strategy in place to help this happen.”

But it is not a cheap source of power. It has enemies. Among them is Jonathan Ford, writing yesterday in the FT,

Strangely, he quotes John Constable of the so-called Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), who lambasts it. The REF is a bogus organisation that does the opposite of what its name suggests. A simple Google search will reveal this, such as this piece.

That aside, it is important to factor into any calculation about this investment that the lagoon will last 3-4 times longer than Hinkley or any other nuclear power station, and so its costs should be factored over around 100 years.

Hydroelectric power dams last for a at least this length of time. Admittedly the conditions for the barrage are slightly more stressful, being in salt water, but the area of Swansea Bay to be occupied by the barrage is a doubly sheltered one – both by the Bristol Channel and the horseshoe shape of the Bay itself.

Let’s recall nuclear power’s toxic legacy, and EDF’s abysmal record, and nuclear power stations’ own unreliability (often offline for weeks at a time for maintenance and safety), which should also should be factored in.

Balance this against the modular nature of the turbines in the barrage (if one fails the others will keep working) and the predictability of the electricity (from the predictability of the tides).

Ford argues that nuclear is continuous source of power and the barrage is not, but the barrage has the ability to store energy (as water) within itself. The imminent availability of cheap electricity storage technologies will also help match supply with demand.

Tidal barrage and lagoon schemes are a new technology. Backing them will position the UK well as a world expert, leading to further lucrative business for UK plc. China is already utilising it.

We have delayed long enough and let China get ahead. Let’s get on with it.

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