The new tidal technology has been developed by Oxford University’s department of engineering science for deployment in shallow, low velocity tidal waters around the UK coastline.

If it is approved, the £143m Bristol Channel tidal fence – which will be constructed from the latest carbon fibre technology – could be installed and operational by 2020/21.

Kepler Energy holds an exclusive licence for the technology and is embarking on a funding round to take the project through development and planning.

Due to the tidal flow and its proximity to other energy infrastructure, Kepler considers Bristol to be an ideal location for the first installation. The first phase of construction will be 1km long, but Kepler says its fences could stretch to 10km in future.

Skilled jobs

Kepler Energy chairman Peter Dixon said the construction of the tidal fence could co-exist with tidal lagoons and prove cheaper than offshore wind generation, at between £100-130 per MWh. “Tidal fences offer a very practical and cost-effective source of utility scale renewable energy,” said Dixon.

Dixon added that the project could bring massive boosts to industry in the UK. “Our Bristol Channel tidal fence, likely to be located in the Aberthaw/Minehead area, has the potential to mobilise the carbon fibre industry in the UK as well as create new and skilled jobs in Wales and the West Country,” he said.

The tidal technology, which operates similar to a water mill, is likely to be subject to stringent environmental impact assessments to ensure it presents no significant risk to marine life. The full size rotors of the turbine will rotate at around 11RPM, which Kepler claims makes it enviromentally safe.

Video: How the technology works

Turning the tide

The announcement comes after DECC approved the world’s first ever tidal lagoon energy project at the nearby Swansea Bay. The tidal lagoon is expected to operate at full capacity by 2023 and provide an installed energy capacity of 320MW.

There are also further plans to harness the tide’s power further north in the UK, with plans for the Wyre tidal energy project – which will require £200m of additioal funding – gathering momentum.

Matt Field

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