A Wave of Opportunity for Suppliers as Tidal Lagoon Plans Are Floated; UP TO 3,000 NEW JOBS COULD BE CREATED BY ENERGY SCHEME

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS KELSEY chris.kelsey@walesonline.co.uk

THE construction of a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay could create nearly 2,500 jobs in the region with the possibility of longer-term jobs becoming available if more lagoons are built around Wales or elsewhere.

The company behind the scheme, Tidal Power, says it expects around 80% of the 3,000 construction and supply chain jobs created during the building of the lagoon to be in the Swansea and Neath Port Talbot areas. The turbine housings, sluice gates, flood doors, rails, electrical controls, hydraulics, precast concrete components, visitor centre and ancillary buildings could all be manufactured or built locally, the company says.

And Tidal Power says that the Swansea Bay lagoon could be followed by others in Bridgewater Bay and at Colwyn Bay, with Swansea acting as a hub for the creation of the others.

The company also said that it is in detailed discussions with two leading global manufacturers for the production of the bidirectional turbines that would power the plant.

Mark Shorrock, founder and chief executive of Tidal Power, said he and his team had spent the past two years "throwing darts at this project and seeing if we can kill it, and if we can't kill it at the end of two years let's go for it - and not just go for one, because during that period we'll also check out that there are other opportunities around the Welsh coastline."

Mr Shorrock said the investment required for the Swansea Bay lagoon would depend on how large a power output was decided upon in the final design.

"If you want to optimise the internal rate of return (IRR) it's a PS650m project, if you want o increase the power and you don't mind lowering the IRR a bit it becomes a PS750m project," he said. "If you optimise your IRR you're in the range of 420 gigawatt hours (GWh) to 440 GWh. If you're less worried about IRR you can end up with over 500 GWh."

Mr Shorrock said the company had defined "a bookend" of between 450 GWh and 550 GWh for the lagoon.

"The driver of the funding appears to be as we engage in more detailed fashion that people would prefer to have more power and slightly lower rate of return because it's a 120-year life project and that's an awful lot of extra revenue you get if you generate a little more power," he said.

Mr Shorrock said the company was "nine months down the line of detailed iterations with two of the world's leading turbine manufacturers."

He added: "We've been evaluating turbine designs since last year, in June we'll start building test turbines, they'll be tested for six-eight months. By the time we get to next March we'll have a turbine, we'll know it works [because] we've tested it for six-eight months, we'll have robust output data, then you press go on procurement and manufacturing."

Tidal Power has benefited from the advice of some of the world's leading experts in turbine design, Mr Shorrock said. "All these turbine experts realised in our PS650m price tag a realisable project. When you get into projects that have got a PS1bn plus on their price tag, they change from on set of funders to another," he said. …