Shortlisted Projects for Severn Estuary Unveiled

The Government has announced a proposed shortlist of schemes to generate renewable energy form the tides of the Severn estuary. The shortlist is comprised of various barrage and lagoon projects.

The Severn has a tidal range of 14m, making it the second-largest in the world. Successfully harnessing the energy created by the tides would make an enormous contribution to achieving renewable energy targets- the Government is committed to producing 20% of the UK’s energy from renewable sources by 2020- as well as assisting in the reduction of UK carbon emissions.

Below is the proposed shortlist:

Cardiff Weston Barrage: A barrage crossing the Severn estuary from Brean Down, near Weston super Mare to Lavernock Point, near Cardiff. Its estimated capacity is over 8.6 Gigawatts – the equivalent of eight typical coal-fired power stations. It could generate nearly 5% of UK electricity and would cost approximately £15bn to implement.

Shoots Barrage: Further upstream of the Cardiff Weston scheme. Capacity of 1.05GW, similar to a large fossil fuel plant.

Beachley Barrage: The smallest barrage on the proposed shortlist, just above the Wye River. It could generate 625MW.

Bridgwater Bay Lagoon: Lagoons are radical new proposals which impound a section of the estuary without damming it. This scheme is sited on the English shore between east of Hinkley Point and Weston super Mare. It could generate 1.36GW.

Fleming Lagoon: An impoundment on the Welsh shore of the estuary between Newport and the Severn road crossings. It too could generate 1.36GW.

Environmentalists have openly criticized the Governments decision to include the Cardiff Weston Barrage as an option. The barrage would cause severe environmental and ecological damage to the area, destroying rare habitats used by 69,000 birds and blocking the migration routes of numerous fish species.

Martin Harper, head of sustainable development at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said it was “Hugely disappointing to see the Government still pushing forward with the environmentally destructive option.”

The proposed shortlist, and the original list of projects from which it was created, are now open to a three month public consultation. The final decision on which project(s) will go ahead will be announced in 2010.

Many environmentalists are pessimistic about the outcome, and believe it is a foregone conclusion. FOE Cymru director Gordon James told the Guardian “We have long suspected that the UK government has already decided on the Cardiff to Weston Severn barrage, and that this consultation process is little more than a cosmetic exercise.”