Local people are looking into the possibilities of generating power from a fabulous sustainable resource right on our doorstep: the Severn Estuary, with the second greatest tidal range in the world and, according to a Government report, the potential to generate 5% of the total electricity needs of the UK.
While plans for a Severn Barrage were shelved for environmental reasons, other options remain on the table.
Firstly, a Cornish company, Evans Engineering, has put forward a proposal for a tidal reef to run from Warren Point, near Minehead, to Aberthaw, in Wales. This proposal has received two favourable reports from engineering consultants WS Atkins, commissioned first by the RSPB (looking at environmental issues), and second by the Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (looking at the engineering feasibility). Evans Engineering’s plan reached a short list of five proposals for Government funding last year but didn’t make the final cut. This could be a big project of national significance, with the potential for large-scale energy generation.
Secondly, a Bristol company, Marine Current Turbines (MCT), tried out a marine turbine off the coast at Lynmouth in 2003; the trial was successful, with the turbine performing even better than expected. Marine turbines are relatively inexpensive and can generate enough electricity to power 600 homes. Several of these might be installed as small local investment schemes.
Local control of and investment in harnessing the Severn is a key issue. Many people opposed to a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point are against it not only because of the immediate danger and the long-term legacy of radioactive waste, but also because local people will have no control over the project, gain little financial benefit (profits will go to EdF), and be in the front line regarding the risks.
Private finance will be of key importance in developing the Severn tidal schemes. It’s a great opportunity for local investment and consequently local control and local earnings. There are some financial investment vehicles already in place that may be suitable; alternatively another financial vehicle could be set up dedicated to investment in the Severn projects.
This is a tremendous opportunity for the people of Minehead, Exmoor and West Somerset to take control of the options! The Severn tide is rolling in and rolling out, twice a day, every day, reliably, predictably, and inexhaustibly!
At a recent meeting of the Minehead Transition group and Forum 21 a working party was set up to explore these options further.