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Tidal energy: Generation and regeneration all in one

Natural Energy Wyre’s Andrew Henderson outlines the case for Fleetwood tidal head energy plant.

Countries such as France, Brazil, South Korea and Russia have successfully adopted state-of-the-art tidal head energy plant (THEP) technology and are reaping the rewards.

Natural energy wyre tidal barrage artists impression 10062015

Natural energy wyre tidal barrage artists impression 10062015

Artist’s impression of Natural Energy Wyre’s Tidal Barrage

The UK has always looked elsewhere for its energy generation; however, that is about to change. Natural Energy Wyre is working with consultants Mott MacDonald and Arcadis along with contractor Bam Nuttall to create one of the UK’s first THEPs in Lancashire.

Why tidal energy?

One of the objections to our dominant renewable power technologies, wind and solar PV, is that they’re intermittent and unreliable for base load generation. Tidal energy is different, as electricity can be generated four times a day with each tidal movement.

For several years now, Natural Energy Wyre has been studying tidal flows and investigating locations where THEPs could be used to generate electricity. A site has been identified at Fleetwood that could potentially power up to 50,000 households.

It is positioned perfectly where the River Wyre flows into Morecambe Bay and experiences tidal ranges of more than 10 m on spring tides. Combined with an unusually narrow estuary of only 600 m, it provides an ideal location for a THEP.

The scheme is comparable to the larger La Rance plant in France, which was the world’s largest tidal power station until 2011 and has just completed its first major refurbishment after almost 50 years of dependable electricity production.

Local regeneration

The project could also bring many benefits to an area which has been in steady decline for some time.

“In an emergency the THEP can help reduce water levels by pumping excess river flow seaward, reducing the risk of flooding”

Fleetwood was once synonymous with the fishing industry and was the third largest port in the country. However, the ‘cod wars’ of the 1970s and government initiatives to preserve fish stocks have led to the once-common ship masts and funnels disappearing from the skyline.

Fleetwood’s THEP will bring a significant boost to employment in the area by creating new skilled jobs required to build and operate the plant. With the potential to export this expertise abroad, the opportunities and benefits are considerable.

Natural energy wyre tidal barrage ariel view of location 100615

Natural energy wyre tidal barrage ariel view of location 100615

Aerial view of location of Natural Energy Wyre’s Tidal Barrage

There are also other potential benefits resulting from the scheme. Towns and villages on the River Wyre regularly suffer from flooding due to heavy rainfall, leading to higher-than-expected river levels.

The THEP could potentially be used to hold back incoming tidal water, while in an emergency it can help reduce water levels by pumping excess river flow seaward, reducing the risk of flooding further upriver.

With a lifespan expected to be in excess of 100 years, deploying advanced power management technology would be good for Fleetwood, good for Lancashire and good for Britain.

Andrew Henderson is a director at Natural Energy Wyre

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