Power of the Welsh Lagoon ...

GTC-SG-150422rThis is another of those “been sitting in my browser” bits that I’m finally getting around to bringing to you (and, yes, it was a toss-up between this and editing some more video from last month’s events … but there’s a lot of that still to come).

These are a couple of pieces about a really remarkable technology which is being pioneered in Wales, using the area’s tides (which are fairly impressive at a regular shift of 30′ between high and low tide) to drive turbines to produce electricity.

The best explanation I’ve been able to dig up for how this system works is this video about the project:

The plan involves creating vast lagoons that would have low-set gates with turbines (looking quite like jet engines) that would let in the water at high tide, then shut the gates, and later release the water (again driving the turbines) at low tide – day in and day out. One thing that is pointed out in the video is that the tides are totally predictable, as opposed to wind and solar … that water is going to be moving thanks to the Moon’s gravitational pull.

In a resource linked to from the Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay site, it’s also projected that tidal power, while expensive up-front, has quite a long productive life-cycle:

Tidal lagoons are long-life assets, with an assumed operating life of 120 years. This compares to offshore wind, where the operating life is generally assumed to be in the range 20-25 years and nuclear at 60 years. This very long asset life means a tidal lagoon will be generating low cost renewable electricity long after CfD expiry, and consumers will continue to benefit from this through low wholesale electricity prices.

Another site indicates that current plans are for the construction of six of these plants, which are projected to provide 8% of the U.K.’s power once they’re all on-line (the first one, in Swansea, is projected for 2018).

While the scale of the British program is quite impressive, the core technology has been around for a while … the French having done a tidal plant (the Rance Tidal Power Station) as far back as 1966 – which is still in operation – and had generated plans for similar installations as far back as the 1920’s.

Obviously, this is the sort of project which has application only in areas with significant tidal shifts (I don’t anticipate seeing any show up in Lake Michigan), but the advantages of long-life, predictability, and reasonably low environmental impact make it attractive for the appropriate coastal areas. A big retaining wall out into the ocean is certainly less of an eye-sore than huge off-shore wind turbines, as well.


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