Plans to build an estuary-based tidal energy power station on the River Wyre in Lancashire are continuing to progress, with the developers calling it “the most affordable project of its kind”.
The project, managed by Natural Energy Wyre, will generate electricity by harnessing the power of the tidal range at the mouth of the River Wyre at Fleetwood.
The plant would produce large amounts of electricity four times a day with each tidal movement for at least 125 years, making it much more reliable and potentially cheaper in the long run than other renewable energy solutions such as wind and solar.
The concept has already been used in other parts of the world, including Brazil, France, South Korea and Russia, and is well suited to the UK.
The UK has some of highest tidal ranges in the world, with the River Wyre estuary experiencing ranges of more than 10 metres on spring tides.
Natural Energy Wyre estimates that the 120MW plant would cost less than £300 million to build and produce enough energy to power over 50,000 homes.
The proposal first gained momentum in 2015 after being given the green light by the landowner, the Duchy of Lancaster.
It is not without opposition, with the RSPB arguing that it could impact wildlife on the estuary. However, Natural Energy Wyre says it will ensure the environment remains unchanged in relation to grazing birds and fish life, and will also ensure that the river remains open to leisure and commercial traffic. The plant could also be used to protect against flooding upstream.
Bob Long, managing director at Natural Energy Wyre, said the project would be a much-needed commercial and employment boost for Fleetwood.
“We have involved the local public in this project from the start, and constructing a tidal hydro energy plant at the chosen location would be a major step for this small town”, he said.
An online poll designed to evaluate local support on the company’s website has returned a positive figure of 93 per cent in favour of the project.
If it goes ahead it could be the UK’s first tidal hydro energy plant, but it has competition from the much larger 320MW Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project, which would cost over £1 billion.
Bob Long added: “We think it’s the most affordable project of its kind, especially compared with Swansea Tidal Lagoon.”
Natural Energy Wyre is now seeking to secure subsidises through the government’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme, which guarantees power purchase prices for 15 years for large generators offering the cheapest renewable electricity. The next CfD auction is expected later in 2016.