An innovative new type of power plant is being developed in the United Kingdom for use in the city of Swansea, where it will provide power to approximately 155,000 homes for the next 120 years.
The power plant will make use of tides that are channeled into a manmade lagoon. A concept like this has never been utilized before.
The plant received full planning permission last June, and it’s being named the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon. If the plant is successful, similar concepts could be adopted throughout the world as a method of cleanly generating electricity while also providing protection to coastal communities.
The process of using tides to generate electricity has existed for decades. The world’s first tidal power station was built in France in 1966. However, Swansea’s proposed model makes the technology more adaptable and better for the environment.
Current models of tidal power plants can only be created in areas that feature an easily bridgeable gap. Swansea’s concept works around this issue by changing coastlines in order to artificially create the conditions needed to generate power.
By being able to construct the required conditions instead of having to look for places where they naturally occur, many more potential location sites will exist.
Additionally, these spots can also be used by the public for recreational purposes. The plant in Swansea will feature a walking trail, fishing spots, an aquatic farm and a visitor’s center. The area could also be the host of water sports events.
However, some experts believe that the plant could be harmful to the environment despite its claim of being completely green. Researchers found that the Rance Tidal Power Station in France was disrupting the migration flows of fish.
Additionally, the plant supposedly changed the salt content of the water, leading to changes in the plants and animals living in the area. The plant in Swansea could potentially do the same thing.
That being said, other experts dismiss these claims. Since the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon won’t cover a river mouth like its counterpart in France, it is less likely to disrupt the migrations of marine wildlife.
There is still the major concern of a hefty price tag. The station in Swansea will cost about $1.5 billion to build. The plant is likely to recover that investment during its expected 120 year lifespan, but it will need the help of government subsidies.
Construction of the power plant will not occur until at least 2017. It still requires the formal approval of the British government.