A Wales without lagoons; poorer, dirtier and sadder

David Clubb considers the potential benefits of tidal lagoon developments for Swansea and beyond.

Swansea, famously a subject of poetic caricature by Dylan Thomas, is now the portent of a new industrial revolution in Wales, an omen of prosperity and hope.

Once described as an “ugly lovely town….crawling, sprawling…by the side of a long and splendid curving shore”, the city now finds itself at the forefront of marine renewable energy development.

The Tidal Lagoon in Swansea Bay, given planning permission in 2015, would have a capacity of 320 MW, generate thousands of jobs across a wide supply chain and stimulate £300 million of regional investment over the three-year construction period. The only thing needed is a bill of clean health from the Hendry review – and an agreement on the financial support needed to commence construction.

For Wales, see Swansea

A lagoon in Swansea Bay would generate low-carbon, pollution-free electricity, revitalise the local economy, create superb marine leisure infrastructure, and contribute to an understanding of how lagoons can support flood defences around the coastline of the UK.

But impressive as the proposal for Swansea is, it is just a pilot for a far more ambitious programme in Wales and beyond.

Lagoons at Cardiff, Newport and in north Wales could be an order of magnitude larger than the Swansea project. All proposed sites are within commuting distance of some of Wales’ worst areas for multiple deprivation.

The activity on constructing this string of large infrastructure projects would keep many thousands of people employed for years – as would the leisure, activity and hospitality developments which would surely follow. The Cardiff Bay development demonstrates the economic development potential of such infrastructure in spades.

Global goals

But the concept is so much bigger than Wales. With projects proposed across the UK and internationally, the scope for a whole new global industry cannot be dismissed – if the concept can first be developed and proven closer to home.

The global reliance on electricity generation by fossil fuel imposes large health and financial costs on people, communities and public services.

A positive result from the Hendry Review would help shift the balance away from fossil fuel and would signal to the rest of the world that the UK is indeed committed to the investment that will be needed to play our role in meeting international obligations.

Burning bridges

Dylan Thomas also wrote of burning bridges, that they make a very nice fire.

But if we burn our bridges on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the future will be a little colder and a little darker.


This article was first published in Construction News

Image credit: Cate Storymoon; http://bit.ly/2b3a0T1

David Clubb is Director of RenewableUK Cymru.

4 thoughts on “A Wales without lagoons; poorer, dirtier and sadder

  1. This reads like a PR puff piece from the Lagoon company. However I now see from the RenewableUK website that Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon is a member of that organisation.

    Would be good if the IWA was clear about this kind of thing when posting articles.

  2. A panacea to be treated with caution, and environmental impact studies. Tidal lagoons serve an important function in the marine environment. Perhaps we need to be reminded of the status of the marine plan for Wales.

  3. As a person who is passionate about Wales and wants us to be able to harness our environment to the benefit of all why cannot a decision be made on the Swansea lagoon, a first for Wales and a no brainer.By the way I am a PR person and not writing this as a piece of ‘PR puff’

  4. There is a rather obvious problem with the Swansea lagoon. It will be paid for by the consumers of electricity. And the promoters want to charge half as much again as the proposed electricity from Hinkley Point, guaranteed for 25 years. That is over £150 a MW hour. They will take the same price as Hinkley, £92.5 MWH, if it is guaranteed for over 50 years. Currently consumers are paying less than £40 MWH, less than half what Hinkley electricity would cost. No responsible government would guarantee any price for fifty years given current rates of technical progress in energy efficiency and generation -we might have nuclear fusion by then. So if Hinkley is expensive the Swansea lagoon is simply exorbitant. It is a nice-sounding idea but if it can’t be done more cheaply it is a dead duck. And IF bigger lagoons at Cardiff and Newport are truly economical why not just build them? There’s no law that says you can’t build in Newport until you have built in Swansea.

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