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Exclusive: Bam Nuttall frontrunner for £300m Wyre tidal barrage job as pension fund hovers

Bam Nuttall is in pole position to build a £300m tidal barrage project that is attracting interest from major pension funds, Construction News has learned.

Bam is part of a consortium of companies putting together a report for investors to demonstrate the engineering and environmental viability of the Wyre Tidal Barrage in Fleetwood, Lancashire.

Other members of the consortium include Mott MacDonald, General Electric, Andritz Hydro and Arcadis.

Bob Long, managing director of the project’s developer Natural Energy Wyre, said several major pension funds had been found to invest in the barrage, with one unnamed fund interested in investing more than half of its building costs.

Mr Long told Construction News the contract for the work would go out to tender, but that Bam was in pole position to secure the civils package.

He said: “When it comes to contract for difference schemes it has to go out to tender, but we and Bam are confident that if they have been engaged from an early stage and if they are in price and budget of potential competitors, then we would be crazy for non-monetary reasons not to engage them.”

The project, the first of its kind in the UK, will harness the tidal power of the river to provide 100 MWh of energy and could be operational as early as 2020.

Natural Energy Wyre decided to engage with contractors ”as early as possible” to ensure the best possible design for the project.

Mr Long said: “It is important to get contractors on board as early as possible because we don’t want to end up with great ideas that are impractical.”

According to Mr Long, the project was in the “strongest position it had ever been” despite recent funding troubles.

Natural Energy Wyre was granted permission to use the land by the Duchy of Lancashire last June.

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Last month it emerged one of the firm’s investors would not be able to provide money previously pledged to the project.

However, Natural Energy Wyre has now sourced alternative funding and is in the process of attempting to secure further investment.

Preliminary work has already begun on the development consent order for the project, with the process set to start officially in December.

This DCO is expected to take up to two years to complete.

If granted permission, the project would require an 18-month construction period – meaning the plant could be fully operational by 2020.

But Mr Long warned that this timeline would be dependent on the outcome of the government review looking into the future of tidal energy.

The review, which is being led by former energy minister Charles Hendry, will look into the cost-effectiveness of tidal projects and is set to be published this autumn.

He said: “If Charles Hendry decides this is an investigatory step that the government needs to be taking, and I believe that is what they should be saying, they may even wish to put it on a fast track.”

A Bam Nuttall spokeswoman said: ”We are delighted that Natural Energy Wyre have selected Bam Nuttall to provide them with early contractor advice.

“We have made an informed decision to be part of this project, which has great potential to provide an economic source of energy and the opportunity to demonstrate the viability of tidal energy in the UK.

“Our task now is to support Natural Energy Wyre and the rest of their technical advisory team, to develop this concept into a project that can be efficiently and economically delivered.”

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