Tidal lagoon chairman claims project is good for environment and more efficient than wind farms
Richard Evans, local democracy reporter
The man heading a £7 billion tidal lagoon project off the Conwy and Denbighshire coast says the project will help the environment, not damage it, and be more efficient than current offshore windfarms.
Henry Dixon is the chairman and a founding member of the North Wales Tidal Energy company currently lobbying the UK and Welsh governments for £50m of funding.
The lagoon is believed to be capable of generating enough electricity to power every home in Wales – as well as £500m annual returns.
The lagoon already has the official backing of both Conwy and Denbighshire councils and could be capable of generating enough electricity to power every home in Wales.
It will take 10 years to build but, once operational, is estimated to generate around £500m a year.
The lagoon would be one of only three of its type in the world and similar lagoons exist in both South Korea and France.
Efficient and reliable
Mr Dixon said the lagoon was far more efficient at producing energy than the current offshore wind farms.
“The lagoon will provide electricity day in, day out, week in, week out,” he said.
“When you have got a period when the wind isn’t blowing, (with a tidal lagoon) you have still got a supply coming in reliably. That power will be there day in and day out for the next 120 years.
“A wind farm lasts for 25 or 30 years, and then you have to take it down and build a new one, so during the life of the tidal lagoon, a wind farm would have been built three or four times.”
He added: “There is a lagoon in France that has been running for 50 years. It provides the cheapest electricity in Europe. There are only two in the world, one in France and one in Korea. But the west coast of the UK happens to have the best site in the world for this kind of concept. We have a sloping coast and a really good tidal range, and North Wales happens to be the best of the best.”
Mr Dixon also says the tidal lagoon’s underwater turbines won’t affect marine life and will even benefit the environment.
“Everyone in the company is really keen that the environmental impact is minimised. One of the big things people talk about is fish,” he said.
“Can fish go through the turbines, or what if they go through the turbines? There are various developments. One is to look at very slow-moving turbines, so the fish can swim through the blades. The other is to make sure there are plenty of sluices and lock gates so the fish can swim through those instead, and there is a very interesting development by a Norwegian company with a turbine that is 99% fish friendly.”
He added: “There will be 150 square kilometres of water inside the sea wall, which is protected water from big waves. The wall itself will provide a really good area for crustaceans and other things. We have talked to mussel farmers who would be interested in having mussel farms within the walls.
“We will do everything we can to make sure any potential damage which is identified during the environmental study is minimised.”
Mr Dixon claimed the lagoon’s 4m high sea wall would protect the coast from storms and erosion and possibly several species of nesting birds. He also reassured businesses relying on tourism that the sea wall would not damage scenic views.
He also said the construction of the lagoon would be challenging but claimed the environmental impact would not be a problem.
Mr Dixon added: “It is an engineering challenge. It is a big job, but at the end of the day, it’s a great big dam, but it happens to be filled with seawater, rather than freshwater. Talking to engineering companies, both consultants and companies, they say, ‘yes, it’s a big job but it is evidently doable’.
“Because you can float out these caissons, and you can float out the turbines and install them at the same time, it’s not too bad.”
Last week a spokeswoman for Conwy County Council said the authority was very supportive of a tidal lagoon, citing the potential for both economic and environmental benefits, stating it welcomed Welsh Government financial support.
Denbighshire County Council also agreed and said a group of councillors would be put together to monitor and evaluate the project’s progress after the forthcoming elections.
Andrea Winterton, Marine Services Manager for Natural Resources Wales, said: “We’re aware of the proposals for the tidal lagoon between Prestatyn and Llandudno in North Wales.
“We understand the scheme is currently at the early design stage and welcome the opportunity to continue to engage with the applicant so we can make sure all the necessary environmental and licensing requirements are considered.”
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