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Channel barrage and tidal turbines are floated - again

PUBLISHED: 09:00 28 April 2012

Plans to harness the tidal power of the Severn have been under discussion for several years

Plans to harness the tidal power of the Severn have been under discussion for several years

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WESTON could benefit from clearer sea water, more jobs and a possible road or rail link to Cardiff if the Severn Barrage scheme is built by a private consortium.

Weston and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce held a public meeting last week for residents to inspect plans for a 10-mile barrage between Brean Down and Lavernock Point, near Cardiff - and an alternative proposal from Marine Current Turbines.

Plans for a barrage across the Bristol Channel looked to have finally been sunk when the Government ditched the idea last year, but there is fresh hope that a private scheme could still materialise.

Engineering consultant Dr Roger Falconer, who is a Halcrow professor of water management, presented the benefits of the barrage scheme, which would cost about £26billion.

Halcrow is part of the consortium Coral Hafren which brought forward the privately-funded idea.

He said: “The Severn Estuary barrage would last at least 125 years.

“My team has been working to get as much power as possible with a two-way generator, which will produce power on an out-going tide and in-coming tide, that way the flood risk is reduced.”

Dr Falconer said the barrage could reduce up to 14,000 inter-tidal habitats but could also produce clearer water.

He said: “It will not be crystal clear, but it will be a lot better.

“There will be more light penetration which will help break down the bacteria in the sediment and encourage more sealife.”

Dr Falconer added: “We are talking about a dramatic change. The barrage will have a lasting impact and could bring in excess of 50,000 jobs for the whole area, which will mostly be in the Weston and Cardiff region.

“It will act as a catalyst for jobs for Wales and the South West and there is the possibility of road or rail links between Weston and Cardiff.”

The meeting also revealed plans from Bristol based Marine Current Turbines (MCT) on its technology which provides another source of renewable energy.

Dr Andrew Tyler, chief executive of MCT, explained the plans for the free-stream tidal turbines, which would use large blades to generate power from the natural current flow in the Severn Estuary.

He said: “Free stream technology is a much younger technology compared to the barrage and this is ready for commercialisation.

“We are at a concept stage as to what we may do and what it may look like.

“Some of the ideas include a tidal fence, which includes a row of several hundred turbines across the channel, which could have a road on the top.”

Dr Tyler said at the moment the turbines have a design life of 20-25 years, which could be extended with maintenance.

He said: “Free stream devices would not capture as much energy as a barrage scheme. However, construction costs would be greatly reduced.”

Dr Tyler stated this kind of project could only be done in phases and would be built over a 10-15 year period. And the nature of the device will provide a large amount of jobs locally, as the turbines will need to be maintained.

The visitors who turned up to view the plans were intrigued by both proposals.

Lisa Wall, aged 40, of Shiplate Road in Bleadon said: “I like the idea of the turbines but I think it’s a waste on the Severn Estuary.

“The barrage plan is an absolute no-brainer. It is using what mother nature gave us and Weston can only benefit.”

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