There is more than enough tidal power in the Bristol Channel to make the whole of Wales self sufficient in energy. The key to achieving this engineering challenge is developing a new type of concrete structure, similar to the Mulberry Harbour used in World War two. The Mulberry Harbour, which was a structure made from pre-fabricated reinforced concrete caissons and pontoons was one of the best kept secrets of the war. It was designed and manufactured in England, towed across the Channel to the Normandy coast, and submerged and assembled into position, to enable supplies and reinforcements following the D-day landings. Sixty years later a similar design could be the answer to producing a cost effective underwater structure to harness the enormous available energy from tidal stream and tidal head in the Bristol Channel.
The Bristol Channel is one of the best locations in the world to harness this type of energy and particularly on the Welsh coast, where the power is generally greater. There are several locations with existing power stations where the cost of connecting to the National grid would be minimal. The tidal power system will comprise of a combination of turbines operated by tidal flow and tidal head, the concrete structure will create artificial lagoons to hold back millions of gallons of water and also create venturi channels to increase the speed of the tidal streams, making them more efficient. The structure would also be used as a foundation for a wind farm, with huge savings compared to a standalone wind energy system.
The three proposed sites Swansea, Uskmouth and Aberthaw could produce between 1500 to 2000 MW, equivalent to two nuclear power stations, and with a surplus of electricity would make Wales an exporter of renewable energy. If this ambitious plan were to go ahead it would make Wales even more desirable for inward investment, with guaranteed energy costs. It would also produce a considerable amount of growth in the construction and maintenance of this exciting new industry, creating thousands of new jobs for the future, and put Wales in the forefront of this new technology.
A small consortium of companies in the South West are collaborating to try and generate interest amongst politicians and industry to take advantage of this opportunity.
The three founding collaborators being Rubicon Marine, Western Hydro and Hi-Spec Research & Development Ltd. Rubicon Marine specialise in a revolutionary type of underwater reinforced concrete utilising waste product from lorry tyres to form part of it’s construction, Western Hydro are turbine designers with a patent applied for on a new vertical axis design suitable for this application. Hi-Spec Research & Developments based in Fowey has been set up to specialise in the engineering design connected to renewable energy.
The Government Chief Scientist, David King, has announced that it is unlikely that we will be able to prevent global warming getting out of control and it is likely that the planet will heat up to over 3 degrees Centigrade in the next hundred years. The consequences are extremely serious for mankind and the planet, with the likelihood of millions of people starving in third world countries, so it is becoming a matter of urgency that everything possible to reduce carbon emissions is undertaken.
The industrial revolution, which is the cause of carbon emissions, was started here in England which gives us even more of a moral obligation to set an example by developing this new clean energy.
Two hundred years after Isambard Kindom Brunel’s birth, probably the world’s greatest engineer, we need to learn a lesson from the spirit of the Victorian age, Brunel would not have shrunk from tackling such projects even with Victorian technology.
The engineers and technology are in place to complete a project of this size, but what we don’t have is the clear political will to achieve it and politicians need to realise that they are accountable for the push required to start the momentum in this new industry. It is not likely that the market will initiate these type of projects without considerable help from the government.