UK: Devon Entrepreneur to Build Tidal Lagoon in Swansea Bay
A green energy entrepreneur from Devon is planning to build the world’s first purpose-built, tidal energy lagoon, capable of generating predictable, renewable electricity for more than 100,000 homes.
Mark Shorrock from Tavistock is the driving force and chief executive of Tidal Lagoon Power Limited, which for the last 18 months has been working up detailed proposals for a £650 million project that aims to be the first of a network of lagoons around the UK coastline.
Located in Swansea Bay on the South Wales coast, the 240 MW tidal lagoon would harness the huge tidal range of the Bristol Channel using both ebb and flood tides, generating electricity through bidirectional turbines for up to 16 hours a day and saving over 216,000 tonnes of CO2 per year for the project’s 120-year design life – equivalent to taking 40,000 to 50,000 cars off the UK’s roads each year.
Investigation work to determine seabed conditions in the area is about to begin and detailed plans are being finalised before a formal consultation in the summer. A planning application is expected in the autumn this year and the lagoon could be generating power as early as 2017.
For Tavistock-born Mark, 43, the tidal lagoon is the latest in a series of green energy innovations which have seen him devote his career to delivering low cost, low carbon electricity technologies that are sustainable in the long-term.
He founded Scottish wind farm developer, Wind Energy Ltd, and grew the company into the largest independent developer of wind farms in the UK before selling the business in 2006.
Mark then founded Low Carbon Accelerator, a £44 million Stock Market listed early stage investment fund in low carbon technologies. In 2010 he also founded Low Carbon Group and ran its primary subsidiary, Low Carbon Solar UK, which built 28MW of solar farms including Churchtown Solar Farm at Gwithian; Trenouth Solar Farm outside St Merryn; Howton Solar Farm near Saltash and Manor Farm, St Austell, all in Cornwall.
Mark went on to create a successful community share offer where £5.8 million was raised from individuals to help create the largest community owned solar farm in the world, the 5MW solar farm in the Vale of the White Horse in Oxfordshire.
Mark says it is that desire to reconnect people with the energy they use that drives him, and a goal to make the UK 100% renewable by 2050.
He said: “In the last few years there has been a sea change – especially in areas like the Westcountry – in peoples’ attitudes to where their food comes from, and I want people to start thinking about their energy in the same way.
“We don’t have to buy unsustainable, imported, fossil-fuelled power and be at the mercy of global markets. Instead we can generate our own energy at local level and create resilient communities that know where their energy comes from and can make informed choices about where they buy it.”
Mark is also a firm believer in community ownership and wants local people to have the ability to invest directly in renewable energy projects. Earlier this year Tidal Lagoon Power launched the first tranche of a £10 million share offer for larger investors and plans to widen it next month to the general public, with preference given to people living in Wales and along the Bristol Channel, including North Devon, Somerset and Bristol.
“We’re still fine tuning the details but I firmly believe that local communities will welcome the idea of being able to invest in a project that harnesses the tides they see ebb and flow every day. It comes back to that notion of re-connecting people to the energy they use. I like the idea of someone boiling their kettle, looking out the window, and knowing that the incoming tide – or a wind turbine, or a solar panel – is generating that electricity.”
Mark’s vision for Tidal Lagoon Power is to deliver 10,000MW of electricity from tidal range power in the UK, and the company is already considering other sites including a 1GW (1,000MW) lagoon in Colwyn Bay in North Wales, and a 3GW lagoon at Bridgwater Bay in Somerset.
Tidal lagoon power works by using a breakwater structure to create a difference in water level between the outside and the inside of the lagoon, and channelling the resulting flow through electricity generating turbines. The turbines work in both directions, generating power four times a day with the twice-daily rise and fall of the tide.
The Swansea Bay project would use a 9.5 kilometre breakwater to create a lagoon of around 11.5 square kilometres. The breakwater would form a promenade open to walkers and cyclists, and be a venue for national and international events.
Press release, May 29, 2013; Image: tidallagoonswanseabay