March 3, 2015
Mixed reactions in Burnham-On-Sea to plans for huge new tidal lagoon

Plans to generate electricity from a huge tidal lagoon in the sea off Burnham-On-Sea have been met with mixed reactions this week.

The huge lagoon in Bridgwater Bay would be one of six to be introduced across the UK - including four in Wales and another in Cumbria - to capture incoming and outgoing tides behind giant sea walls to power turbines.

They could generate 8% of the UK's energy for an investment of £30bn, according to an announcement this week. The huge project has been backed by the Government under an existing scheme to promote home-grown, low-carbon energy.

Simon Gill from developers Tidal Lagoon Power told "We’re exploring opportunities for a full-scale Tidal Lagoon in Bridgwater Bay. With one of the UK’s highest tidal ranges, a tidal lagoon in Somerset could present a huge opportunity for low-carbon energy generation and bring about a range of environmental and economic benefits for the wider region."

"At this stage, we’re exploring our options in detail and have recently started to engage with environmental groups and decision makers in the region to develop our thinking. Alongside Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay and Tidal Lagoon Cardiff, Bridgwater is an enormously exciting project and we hope to be able to share our plans with the public in the coming months."

Tidal Lagoon Power is in negotiations with the government over how much it can charge for power from the lagoons. It wants £168 per MWh for electricity in Swansea, reducing to £90-£95 per MWh from a second, more efficient lagoon in Cardiff. The £90 figure compares favourably with the £92.50 price for power from the planned Hinkley nuclear station, especially as the lagoon is designed to last 120 years - at a lower risk than nuclear.

Burnham-On-Sea's Mayor Cllr Martin Cox said: "My initial reaction is that this is very welcome news. It would be good to see the power of our tides being harnessed to generate power."

"We have the second highest tidal range in the world, so it makes sense. Generating power in an ecologically friendly way has got to be good."

But Graham Wills from Burnham-On-Sea Sailing Club was cautious. He told "I'm concerned that the lagoon would create silting issues along our estuary here. We know silt is aready a significant issue in the channel and if it is 'land-locked' with a lagoon, this could cause major problems to the shore as well as the estuary. It's unpredicatable and needs to be very carefully considered."

But Burnham-On-Sea's MP Tessa Munt welcomed the news. "It’s great to see progress on tidal," she told "It makes so much sense to harness this clean, green, reliable resource."

"Despite the fact that this is a new technology, the price of the electricity produced is actually forecast to come in cheaper than new nuclear. Nuclear has been around for decades but is still hugely expensive and hazardous at all stages. I will continue to make the case for tidal and other clean energy sources," she said.

Burnham's Conservative parliamentary candidate James Heappey added: "These tidal lagoons could make a significant contribution to our energy generating capacity whilst creating many jobs and bringing great investment too. I hope the Swansea project will progress rapidly through the planning process. By committing to this, admittedly, high ‘strike’ price for the first lagoon we will breathe life into the UK’s tidal energy industry and the projections for cost per kilowatt hour for subsequent lagoons are very attractive. Indeed at £90-95 per kw/h they are competitive with Hinkley Point."

He added: "Clearly lagoons in Swansea and then Cardiff are of little benefit to the Somerset coast but the big prize is the Bridgwater Bay and I am excited by this further progress today. I am convinced that rather than wasting huge amounts of money subsidising unreliable - and ugly - wind farms, we should be investing in the tidal and wave energy sectors so that we can take advantage of the incredible resource that lies off our coast. I will continue to advocate the opportunities for tidal and wave power generation to the Government and hope that they will throw their full support behind this emerging industry that could do so much for our local economy."

Local fisherman Greg Young said he has concerns about the scheme. "I understand that the turbines could reduce the number of fish in Bridgwater Bay, which is not good for those like me who are watch stocks of fish with interest."

A previous plan for a barrage between Brean Down and Wales to create tidal power was halted after environmentalists protested that it would prevent the daily exposure of mud flats vital for wading birds.

The idea of lagoon is not new. In 2009, we covered plans for a tidal lagoon in Bridgwater Bay - one of several proposals considered over the years.

The government's Energy Secretary Ed Davey says he wants to back the project. "I can't make a decision on this yet because discussions are ongoing. But I'm very excited by the prospect of tidal power. We have got some of the biggest tidal ranges in the world and it would be really useful if we could harness some of that clean energy."


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