Shortlist of Severn Estuary Plans to be Announced

A shortlist of proposed schemes to generate renewable energy form the Severn estuary will be announced by the Government later today.

Over the past six months, the Department of Energy and Climate Change have examined 10 projects for converting the Severn estuary’s tidal power into electricity. Five of these have been selected for further investigation and are due to be revealed by the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, this afternoon.

Among the proposed schemes is a 10 mile long barrage from Lavernock Point, Vale of Glamorgan to Somerset, which has attracted a lot of controversy and could cost up to £15 billion to implement.

Barrages are essentially dams which span the width of a tidal estuary. They generate electricity in a similar way to hydroelectric dams, except they harness energy from the difference in height between high and low tides, as opposed to the force of falling water.

The Severn, which has the second-largest tidal range in the world – the difference between the highest and lowest tides can be as great as 42ft (14m) – has the potential to generate 5% of Britain’s electricity and reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly.

However, conservation groups, such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, are opposed to the barrage, due to the potential environmental and ecological damage it could cause. For example, the barrage could block the migratory routes for fish such as lampreys, salmon, sea trout and eels, and would destroy rare mud-flat and salt-marsh habitats which are vital to many species wetland birds. They are hoping the less intrusive, but equally efficient options, such as tidal fences, reefs and lagoons will be selected.

The preferred project(s) is to be approved by the Government in 2010 and is likely to be integral to the Government’s long-term targets for renewable energy and CO2 emissions.