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Greens Weigh In On Severn

Posted in Renewables,UK by Cheryl Morgan on the May 8th, 2009

As I expected, environmental groups are not happy with the British government’s plans for an 8GW tidal barrage across the Severn Estuary. In theory the government has whittled a long list of 10 tidal power projects down to a short list of 5, and will eventually choose the best project. In practice no one expects them to opt for anything other than the massive 8GW scheme because that’s the one that will deliver the most generating capacity. Unfortunately it may also be the project that causes most environmental damage.

Britain’s environmentalists are not taking this lying down. A coalition formed by the National Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the WWF and the Anglers’ Trust has commissioned a report from the engineering consultancy, W.S. Atkins. That report has now been published, and it casts significant doubt on the process that produced the short list from the long list. In particular Atkins alleges that the government report:

  • Assumed that two-way generation would produce similar or less power to ebb-only generation; and
  • Used 30-year-old calculations that seriously underestimate the potential output of some schemes

The two-way generation issue is particularly important as such schemes are believed to be less environmentally damaging than ebb-only generation. The government short list eliminated the “tidal reef” project based on this technology that was the preferred candidate of the environmental groups.

You have to have a certain amount of sympathy for the government bureaucrats for wanting to avoid a scheme that bills itself as a, “Totally new concept in tidal power generation”. On the other hand, this debate isn’t going to go away, and trying to eliminate a major rival candidate early on was perhaps not a good idea.

More coverage in The Guardian.

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