Crunch time for tidal energy in Severn Estuary

A ministerial announcement is expected next week on the future prospects of harnessing the power of the River Severn's huge tidal range.

Last year a DECC-lead feasibility study provided Ministers with a ‘longlist’ of potential options, which ranged from the huge – including solid barriers straddling the mouth of the estuary or further upstream – to the more modest – tidal lagoons cut into the banks of the river – and encompassing several options in between, such as a flexible tidal ‘fence’.

The Ministerial committee steering the study has now had time to consider the options and crunch time comes on Monday, when an announcement will be made in Bristol.

It is possible that the decision will be to shelve the whole idea, with none of the schemes considered technically viable or environmentally and economically acceptable.

It’s more likely, however, that Government will tell us that some of the schemes are dead in the water, while others may have potential and require further study and public consultation.

Those working on the feasibility study will then focus their attention on this shortlist.

Tapping into the Severn as a source of renewable energy has been the subject of much research – and controversy – over the years.

On the one hand, the potential energy to be had is vast, while on the other the river plays host to an internationally-important ecosystem.

Any scheme that does go ahead would need to find the balance between these two often-conflicting concerns.

Sam Bond

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