The Severn Estuary tidal power project awakens…?

An exciting past-project gets a flicker of life from the latest PM. The Severn Estuary tidal power project is now back on the agenda which is good news for renewable energy production.

The first thing to look at are the costs involved. The barrage would cost at least £30Billion and generate 6.5 GW of energy per year, equal to maybe 4 gas-fired power stations.

According to the article, it would have a lifetime over 120 years, compared with 30-40 years for a conventional gas, coal or nuclear power station, or 20 years for a wind turbine.

6.5GW per year for 120 years = 780GW over lifetime of barrage. This compared to a 2GW gas power station operating for 30 years (costing £2 Billion) = 60GW over lifetime of power station. How do you compare the two? We need to find out the total £ per GW produced (total cost / total GW), as follows.

Barrage = £30B / 780GW = £0.038B (£38 Million)

Conventional = £2B / 60GW = £0.033B (£33.3 Million)

So the conventional power station energy costs less than the barrage energy to produce, but there are many other factors to consider. Added to this are the potential cost over-runs which are likely, unknowns with project, environmental damage to existing fauna in the estuary.

But, positives include huge job creation, a massive and on-going renewable source of energy (how much non-renewable power generation could this project replace?),  environmental protection from rising sea levels, privately funded not paid for by public money and finally the potential new road link between Cardiff and Weston-super-Mare.

Just based on the cost of the energy produced, this doesn’t make economic sense, but this is the same argument used against renewables – the overall ‘cost’ of using fossil fuel-based sources of energy is more when all factors are taken into account. So, based on all the potential advantages of the barrage project, I would have to consider it in principle at least something to look into in more detail. The potential for 30,000 jobs and 6.5GW per year of renewable energy is really exciting.

Also, given how long these projects take to plan, build and operate, this would be a realistic source of jobs for both my boys, if they decide to become engineers one day : )