Cost of huge energy, technology and residential project in Swansea could reach £4.2bn
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
The cost of a huge energy, technology and residential project at Swansea docks could reach £4.2bn, the entrepreneur leading it has said.
Tony Miles, chief executive of battery manufacturing and storage firm DST Innovations, is pushing on with the first phase of the 13-year project – known as Blue Eden.
It’s still early days but DST Innovations has signed an in-principle heads of terms agreement with landowner Swansea Council for a plot off Langdon Road, SA1, for a 60,000 square-metre battery manufacturing facility.
Mr Miles said discussions were taking place with the council and also Natural Resources Wales, the Welsh Government and the Crown Estate ahead of the submission of a planning application.
He said he was confident that DST Innovations, which has around 35 employees at its base in Bridgend and a further 65 or so overseas, could deliver Blue Eden along with its consortium partners.
“We know how to ‘do big’,” said Mr Miles, speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service at the newly-opened Swansea Arena.
“We don’t promise anything we don’t deliver. We don’t want to be a pretty graphic for Swansea.”
If given approval, Blue Eden will be delivered in three phases.
– Phase one (five years): battery storage facility, battery manufacturing plant, floating solar farm in the Queen’s dock, data storage centre. It will also include charging ports for electric vehicles.
– Phase two (three years): oceanic and climate change research centre, three visitor domes.
– Phase three (five years): waterfront houses and flats for up to 5,000 people, commercial space, 144 floating homes anchored in Queen’s dock, tidal lagoon generating electricity.
Mr Miles said phase one was estimated to cost £1.7bn, and that efforts were being made to reduce Blue Eden’s 13-year delivery timescale.
Very little is known at this stage about the consortium. Mr Miles said he expected this to change, but it was up to partners to make announcements.
“There are massive, massive organisations working within the consortium,” he said. “These are household names we are talking about.”
He said DST Innovations’ principal focus was to deliver phase one due to its battery manufacturing expertise.
Mr Miles, who grew up in Mountain Ash, anticipated 1,080 jobs being created by the battery manufacturing plant and storage facility, with many more in the supply chain.
He said batteries would be produced at first at a proposed facility in Bridgend before manufacturing transferred to the larger plant at Blue Eden.
“Batteries are the future,” he said.
Supporters of battery technology say it can help companies and people cut their reliance on fossil fuels and therefore benefit the climate. This is because batteries store electricity, such as that produced by intermittent generators of clean power like wind and solar farms.
Another key element of Blue Eden phase one is the data storage centre, where 1,500 jobs could be created.
It is expected a third of the dockside houses and flats in phase three would be classed as affordable, and all of the units would have up to 20 years of renewable energy and heat provision included with the sale.
Mr Miles said the benefit of the proposed tidal lagoon was two-fold – generating clean electricity and, with flooding and rising sea levels in mind, providing flood defence via its seawall for all the new Blue Eden assets and land behind.
The 55-year-old said Blue Eden would not require public subsidies, and that he was very grateful for the support of Swansea Council and the Welsh Government to date.
Asked if the jobs he hoped to create at Blue Eden would be for people in the Swansea area rather than being relocated posts, Mr Miles said discussions were being held with further and higher education institutions in the city so that local people would benefit.
“We ask this question all the time – where are our people going to come from?” he said.
Asked what he felt the most challenging aspects of Blue Eden were at this stage, he replied: “Licensing – getting planning permission to build it.”
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