Wednesday, 26 November 2008
A new option in the Severn Barrage debate
Today the RSPB have issued a report proposing a 'Severn Reef'. UK and Welsh Ministers are currently overseeing a Feasibility Study into the generating power of the Severn estuary. Most people have heard about the Severn Barrage proposal, but other ideas are also being considered. The Feasibility Study is looking at the best way to harness the tides in the Severn, which are the 2nd most powerful in the world. We must use these tides to create renewable energy in a way that does not fundamentally harm the environment. The RSPB and others say that the proposed Barrage would alter the Severn's tides forever and could have a huge impact on wildlife, especially birds.
An alternative is to deploy a number of tidal lagoons, which could be linked to local communities onshore. Friends of the Earth have said that tidal lagoons could generate even more power than the Severn Barrage, for a fraction of the cost, although they accept that more aggregates would have to be used in the construction. Tidal lagoons are untested technology, but are nevertheless being considered by the joint Feasibility Study.
The RPSB are now adding another alternative to the debate. They tasked an engineering company to draw up ideas for a 'reef' project which would cost about £2billion less than the Barrage and produce around 20,000 GW of electricity, which is more energy than the Severn Barrage's projected 17,000 GW. The RSPB say that their Reef is "more in tune with the way the estuary works" and would be able to produce electricity for longer and more sustained periods than the Barrage. I intend to raise this idea with the One Wales Sustainability Minister Jane Davidson to ensure that the RSPB's proposal is fully considered as part of the debate on the Severn estuary.