Plans for a £1.7 billion ($2.35 billion) project in the U.K. incorporating technologies including underwater turbines, floating solar power and battery storage have been announced, with those behind the development hoping it will generate thousands of jobs.
The Blue Eden project, as it’s known, would be located on the waterfront of Swansea, a coastal city in southwest Wales. In an announcement Monday, Swansea Council said the project had been made possible through private sector funding.
It is being led by a tech firm called DST Innovations and other business partners. DST Innovations is headquartered in Wales. Support is also coming from Swansea Council and Associated British Ports.
Delivery of Blue Eden would take place in three phases across a period of 12 years. A key element would be “a newly designed tidal lagoon” with “underwater turbines generating 320 megawatts of renewable energy.”
Other plans for the project include: A plant focused on producing batteries for renewable energy storage; a floating solar array spanning 72,000 square meters; around 150 “floating” homes; and a battery facility that would store the energy produced by the project, using it to power operations.
It’s envisaged that Blue Eden would also be home to an oceanic and climate change research center.
Rob Stewart, who is leader of Swansea Council, called the project “a game-changer for Swansea, its economy and renewable energy in the UK, and crucially it can be delivered without the need for government subsidies.”
This is not the first time a tidal lagoon project has been proposed for Swansea. In June 2018, the U.K. government rejected plans for a £1.3 billion tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay.
There are high hopes for Blue Eden, however. “Swansea has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world, and this scheme will allow us to utilise the energy it provides to support our planet for future generations in a world-leading project we can all be proud of,” Julie James, who is member of the Welsh Parliament for Swansea West, said in a statement.
The British Hydropower Association describes tidal range projects as involving the high tide being “stored behind a bund or lagoon wall and then released through turbines as the tide falls and electrical energy is produced.”
As the tide turns, water will flow in the other direction, “powering the turbines once again.”
Tidal power has been around for decades — EDF’s 240 MW La Rance tidal power plant in France dates back to the 1960s — but recent years have seen a number of new projects take shape.
In July 2021, for example, a tidal turbine weighing 680 metric tons, and dubbed “the world’s most powerful,” started grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, an archipelago located north of mainland Scotland.
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” Andrew Scott, the CEO of Orbital Marine Power, said at the time.
According to EMEC, “tidal stream devices … are broadly similar to submerged wind turbines and are used to exploit the kinetic energy in tidal currents.”
Back in Wales, construction on Blue Eden could commence in 2023, subject to planning consent.
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