A North Wales tidal lagoon could fill the energy and jobs gaps left by the mothballing of the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power plant on Anglesey.
The chairman of North Wales Tidal Energy (NWTE), Henry Dixon, will this week tell business leaders in Wrexham that the giant lagoon could generate enough electricity for a million homes and create over 20,000 jobs.
It would also strengthen the region’s sea defences in a high flood risk area and, at a forecast £7 billion cost, would come in at only 60% of the projected budget of the Wylfa Newydd project which Japanese industrial giant Hitachi announced last week has been suspended due to rising costs.
The lagoon, stretching from Llandudno eastwards towards Point of Ayr, could be built and begin generating power within 10 years.
Unlike other forms of renewable energy, like wind and solar, which are subject to the intermittent vagaries of the weather, the tides are constant and predictable, offering a completely reliable supply of power.
Mr Dixon will be making the case for the North Wales Tidal Lagoon as one of the speakers at the Policy Forum for Wales Keynote Seminar on “Delivering the North Wales Growth Deal” in Wrexham on Thursday (January 24).
He said: “The suspension of Wylfa is not good for North Wales, because we have lost a major infrastructure project and it’s not good for the UK, because we are losing a major energy provider.
“In the circumstances, we believe it is appropriate and urgent that the Government looks at alternatives such as the North Wales Tidal Lagoon.
“The North Wales coast is an excellent site for a tidal lagoon and modelling has indicated that its installed capacity of 2.5 gigawatts would generate over 4.5 terrawatt-hours of electricity, reliably and predictably, year in year out for over 125 years.
“As nuclear power costs have risen, so renewable energy costs have fallen and become more competitive and while the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, the tide comes in and goes out twice every day.
“Wind and sun are great and do a good job and are part of the energy solution but we need something that will provide a baseload of energy and we believe tidal energy can be an important part of the UK’s energy mix.
“The design, construction and operation of the lagoon has the potential to provide thousands of direct jobs in the region as well as stimulating other employment in marine industries, amenity and tourism
“Our feasibility studies show that a North Wales Tidal Lagoon is cost-effective and offers value for money for the Government and investors.
“The suspension of Wylfa should prompt the next stage of engineering, design and modelling to build on the work done to date. This will allow development of a robust and compelling business plan, attracting investors and providing the resources to start the environmental research, design and engineering that is necessary to gain consent for the scheme”.
Mr Dixon added: “The North Wales Tidal Lagoon will have an increasingly critical role in safeguarding homes, businesses and infrastructure along the North Wales coast from flooding.
“A detailed study we commissioned from flood risk experts Waterco demonstrated that the outer wall of the lagoon would act as a barrier to rising sea levels and storm surges and become the front line of the area’s flood defences.
“Waterco used the Welsh Government’s own figures to highlight over £3 billion worth of property and assets that are already at risk from coastal flooding.
“Recent predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UK Committee on Climate Change and the Met Office have raised concerns that sea defence plans will have to be boosted appreciably to cope with much higher sea level rises than are currently planned for.
“It is clear that North Wales’s existing coastal flood defences will have to be strengthened and raised in the face of rising sea levels due to climate change.
“The building of the sea wall for a tidal lagoon offers the potential for the Government to significantly reduce its future flood defence budgets.”
“The sea wall, designed to last for over 125 years, will increasingly prove its value over the decades to come and is unlikely ever to be decommissioned – unlike nuclear plants whose decommissioning has been shown to be a long-term, technically challenging and expensive process.
“The arguments for a tidal lagoon in North Wales have always been attractive. With the Wylfa nuclear plant being suspended, the case for further investigation becomes compelling.”