Should the UK be subsidising the world’s first tidal lagoons? | Environment | The Guardian

By Karl Mathiesen, The Guardian, Posted 3rd March 2015

The company planning to build a series of massive tidal lagoons in the UK claim their project can generate electricity that will be competitive with offshore wind and nuclear power. But experts have urged the government to take a cautious approach to the massive capital investment.

The world’s first tidal lagoon power station is ready to begin construction in Swansea, Wales should it attain planning approval. The project has been criticised for its exorbitant electricity costs, estimated to be £168/MWh. When the project begins generation in 2018, onshore wind will be producing electricity for less than half of this price.

But Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP), the company behind the projects, says the Swansea development is simply a proof of concept and tidal power at scale will produce affordable power. On Monday the company announced the beginning of the approval process for a second site near Cardiff where construction could begin by 2018 and power generation by 2022.

The second lagoon will cover an area seven times larger than Swansea’s and will have a capacity of between 1,800-2,800MW, enough to power 1.5m homes (compared with 150,000 for the first lagoon). Most importantly, the company says, the larger scale will allow them to produce power at £90-95/MWh, which will make the project cheaper than offshore wind and competitive with nuclear.

Mark Shorrock, TLP’s chief executive says the fall in cost will occur because of the expertise accrued through the construction of the Swansea plant combined with the economies of scale of building the much larger lagoon.

“Full-scale tidal lagoon infrastructure gives the UK an opportunity to generate electricity from our amazing tidal range at a cost comparable to fossil fuel or nuclear generation. We have the best tidal resource in Europe and the second best worldwide. We now have a sustainable way to make the most of this natural advantage,” says Shorrock.

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