You’ve heard of wind turbines, solar panels, maybe even hydro turbines in rivers. But the UK might be about to welcome a new kid on the renewable energy block… the tidal lagoon.
Never heard of it? You’re not alone, but get to know them and these bad boys seem like a no-brainer. And, hopefully, they’ll soon be generating some of the electricity that comes out of your plug.
Here’s what you need to know.
It’s happening in Swansea
The plan is to build some walls in the sea outside Swansea Bay. The walls will capture water when the tides come in, and hold it back as they go out. Then the walls release the water back into the sea to turn the turbines and generate electricity. Clever, eh.
It’s could produce a lot of electricity for a long time
If built, every year the tidal lagoon will produce enough power for 155,000 homes. That’s 11% of the homes in Wales! All from one power station. And get this - it’ll last for 120 years.
The people of Swansea <3 it
When people with clipboards went around asking what local residents and businesses thought, 86% gave the lagoon the thumbs up. It might have something to do with the 2000+ manufacturing and construction jobs it’ll bring to the area.
We’ve been doing this for 1400 years
A tidal lagoon is not a new idea. People were exploiting water power in this way back in 619 AD! In its modern incarnation, France built a tidal lagoon just like the Swansea one 50 years ago, and South Korea built the world’s biggest in 2011.
Swansea could be the start of something big
Swansea is only the first of lots of possible spots for tidal lagoons. There are plenty of other bays in Wales and the west coast of England that could be perfect for the same technology - and in theory lots more potential around the world!
The government were keen to press go…
In 2016, the government did a review to see whether the lagoon was a good idea to build. The report they commissioned said it was.
...But they’ve gone a bit cold
But today, noises from the government are not very encouraging. There are concerns about the cost (at a cool £1.3bn, it ain’t cheap - but remember you’re buying 120 years of power!), so there’s a lot of haggling to be done over the price. The Welsh government have said they’ll put up some money and Swansea’s local council are keen for it, but it’s still not happening.
So, will tidal power be coming to a plug near you? We’ll have to wait and see.
This blog post is written by our climate activist pals over at 10:10.