Scientists Believe Welsh Coastline can Supply Four Million Homes (UK)


SCIENTISTS who have begun evaluating the power of the seas for the first time believe the Welsh coastline has enough energy to supply four million homes.

And they believe the potential of sea power is so great that Wales could eventually become “energy self sufficient” and a world leader in marine energy technology.

From the tidal races off Anglesey and West Wales to the fast-flowing Bristol Channel, the researchers believe Welsh waters have massive potential for supplying renewable marine energy over the next few decades.

Operation Celtic Odyssey, a collaborative research programme between Welsh universities, got under way this week, applying the latest survey and monitoring techniques to confirm the suitability of our coastlines for tidal stream and wave energy development.

Marine energy harvesting has already started.

Earlier this year, Cardiff based Tidal Energy Ltd was given the go-ahead by ministers to examine new DeltaStream underwater generators developed in West Wales off a seashore for a 12-month trial.

The St Davids peninsula and the adjacent coastline around Ramsey Sound, the westernmost points of mainland Wales, are fully exposed to the storm waves of the Atlantic and constantly subject to the ebb and flow of major tidal streams.

The experimental 1.2 megawatt generating plant in Ramsey Sound, Pembrokeshire, features three generators that lie on triangular supports and generate enough electricity to supply 1,000 homes.

The challenge for Operation Celtic Odyssey is not just to exploit the power of the tides, but to also safeguard the coastal environment and ecosystem.

Dr Miles Willis, of the Swansea University Marine Research Group, said: “It has been estimated the power of the seas off Wales could generate around four gigawatts of electricity, enough to power four million homes.

“But technologies like tidal stream generators would be low in the water, giving nothing like the visual effect of, say, an offshore wind turbine farm.”

The Ramsey Sound area is also home to populations of harbour porpoise, seals and seabirds. The scientists will aim to assess the likely impact of marine energy generating devices on these populations.

Two research vessels, the Noctiluca (Swansea University) and Guiding Light (Cardiff University), will act as floating laboratories and offshore classrooms for survey and monitoring work.

The team will be observing marine wildlife, undertaking 3D modelling of the seabed and turbulence, studying fish behaviour, and measuring underwater background noise. Research staff will include hydrographers, marine biologists, engineers, marine archaeologists and ornithologists.

The vessels will also act as platforms for seminars for local schools and visiting businesses to learn more about the marine environment.

Operation Celtic Odyssey is a two-week application of the range of marine expertise from the Universities of Swansea, Cardiff, Swansea Metropolitan, Aberystwyth and Bangor and Pembrokeshire College.

It is organised by the Low Carbon Research Institute, a multi-disciplinary body set up by Welsh universities to investigate renewable energy, funded by Government, the research councils and industry.

Marine energy is one of the institute’s leading priorities. Through Operation Celtic Odyssey, the team hopes to develop guidelines for the sustainable development of tidal energy off the Welsh coast.

Dr Chris Wooldridge, of Cardiff University, Celtic Odyssey’s scientific officer, said: “Efforts to de-carbonise the country’s electricity supply raise the question of where energy will come from in future years.

“Energy debates are invariably passionate in nature, whether they surround nuclear, conventional, wind or marine power. Celtic Odyssey is well placed to make a substantive, evidence-based contribution to the debate on tidal power.”

Dr Ian Masters, of Swansea University’s College of Engineering, added: “Through this important initiative, the multi-disciplinary team of researchers will help to improve the competitiveness of marine power as a sustainable and renewable energy source that will, in the future, make it possible for Wales to become self-sufficient.”

By Robin Turner (walesonline)


Source: walesonline, May 12, 2011