Natural Resources Wales gives £35m tidal energy scheme the green light
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
The awarding of full approval for a £35m tidal energy scheme has been described as “an early Christmas present for Anglesey”.
Last week saw Welsh Government ministers approve planning permission for Menter Môn’s Morlais project, situated off the the island’s west coast.
But it has now been announced that Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has also granted the necessary Marine Licence in order to deploy the turbines into the sea – a crucial consent allowing the innovative tidal stream project to go ahead.
Set to create over 100 jobs within a decade, it will cover up to 35 sq km of seabed and generate as much as 240MW of electricity (180,000 households) via the power of the tides in the Irish Sea.
According to Menter Môn, on-land construction is expected to begin early in the new year with offshore work kicking off in 2023.
The news has been welcomed by political figures across the island.
“This is a big step forward for Anglesey’s ambitions to be a leader in tidal stream energy,” said Virginia Crosbie MP.
“It is also a potential boost for investment and jobs.
“There is much to do before we have an operational project but this is an early Christmas present for the island.”
Senedd Member Rhun ap Iorwerth was just as pleased with the outcome.
“The environmental and economic potential for the local community that this scheme provides are particularly positive, but what’s particularly exciting is that the project is being delivered as a social enterprise, by and for the community,” he said.
“Morlais will certainly be a model for similar schemes in future to secure more schemes for the benefit of the local community.
“I look forward to the establishment of a new Ynni Cymru (Energy Wales) body thanks to the agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government, promoting more similar projects both locally and nationally. ”
The electricity generated from the turbines – some tied to floating ‘barges’ – will be transferred to an on-shore substation via up to nine sub-sea cables and then on to the National Grid.
The bulk of the planning decision hinged on the environmental aspect, which saw opposition from agencies including the RSPB, who held “grave concerns” that the project could have a “devastating impact” on seabird populations.
In response, Morlais stressed that any development would take place on a phased basis, but acknowledging that there could be “potential effects” they say that additional tidal devices will only be installed when it’s clear that sea birds and marine mammals are safe from harm.
The specially set-up South Stack Heritage Group also called into question the “unproven” technology and that it would “industrialise” an area of natural beauty that attracts up to 250,000 tourists a year.
Menter Môn say that regarding the floating ‘barges’ – up to 75m in length and 3.5m tall, with some on the surface and others anchored to the sea bed – only a maximum of 15 will be of this size with the closest being 1km away from the shore.
The project – a first of its kind in Europe – has secured the support of the Wales European Funding Office (WEFO), Anglesey Council, the North Wales Growth Deal, as well as The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
Anglesey Council’s portfolio holder for economic development, Cllr Carwyn Jones, concluded: “The team at Morlais and Menter Môn have worked tirelessly to get this visionary and innovate project from concept and through the planning process.
“I am delighted that this key Anglesey Energy Island project has been given ministerial and NRW approval, this is a clean energy project that ticks all the boxes.
“If we are to reach our carbon targets and better future for all, capitalising on clean marine energy here on Anglesey and along the coastline of Wales is essential.
“May this now be the big catalyst the sector has waited patiently for.”
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