George Osborne confirmed that plans for a £1 billion green energy scheme were ongoing during his 2015 Budget speech.
The Tidal Lagoon project would be based in Swansea Bay and would form the world’s first man-made energy generating lagoon.
If it does go ahead, the scheme would be able to generate enough energy to power 120,000 homes for 120 years. Rather than being a standalone project, it is hoped that the Swansea lagoon will be the start of a new energy industry in the UK. There are also proposals in place for further lagoon sites in Cardiff, Newport, Colwyn Bay, Bridgwater and West Cumbria.
The growth of a tidal energy industry will also help to diversify the UK’s economy – part of Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans to look beyond London’s service sector.
The Swansea Tidal Lagoon would include the construction of a five-mile sea wall up to 20 metres in height, but the Tidal Lagoon Power Company has stressed that most of this would be obscured by the tide. The scheme would use the force of oncoming waves to drive turbines and generate electricity, with some experts suggesting the plans could be approved before May’s General Election.
Despite the environmental benefits of tidal power, there has been some criticism of the proposal, particularly regarding the high cost of the energy. The lagoon will require a subsidy of £168 per megawatt hour (MWh) of energy, which is far in excess of the £92.50 being paid to a new nuclear power plant in Hinkley.
With the growth of digital businesses increasing, the amount of energy we use each day shows no signs of slowing, meaning governments must increasingly look to utilise renewable sources.
Whether or not the high price of the tidal energy scheme is worth it is another discussion, but if the project can also create jobs and broaden the UK’s economy, then it is likely to be welcomed by more than just environmentalists.