Harvesting the Severn's power

Weston had a VIP visitor last month. John Hutton, the Cabinet Minister in charge of the Severn Barrage, came to Knightstone Island to announce a feasibility study

Weston had a VIP visitor last month. John Hutton, the Cabinet Minister in charge of the Severn Barrage, came to Knightstone Island to announce a feasibility study into the project. I was delighted. Harvesting the Severn's power is absolutely essential if we're going to wean ourselves away from Russian gas or Saudi oil and onto green sources of renewable energy too. The Severn estuary is the single largest potential source of green energy in Britain, equal to several nuclear power stations running flat out.But a barrage isn't the only way of doing it. It's the best-known option, to be sure, but there are others too. Tidal lagoons, rather like building several Cheddar reservoirs out on the tidal flats, might be cheaper and kinder to the environment. Tidal flow, which is like putting underwater windmills in midstream, is a possibility too, although the technology is a lot more experimental.So which option will give us the best value for money and be kindest to the environment too? Well, that's the fly in the ointment. John Hutton's review seems only to focus on a barrage, rather than comparing the different sorts of technology to see which is best. That's why I've written to him asking for a guarantee that the other approaches will get a fair crack of the whip. The project would cost an enormous amount of money - probably more than the Channel Tunnel - so we've got to be sure we're choosing the right option. There are other things to consider too. How would each scheme affect Weston's sea defences, for example, or the town's seafront economy? It's great news that things are getting under way at last, but it's a decision that could make or break Weston's future and we've got to get it right. I'll keep you posted.


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