Monday, 26 March 2007

Time to put some energy into power from the Severn

This afternoon I attended a fascinating meeting organised by the Severn Tidal Power Group, a consortium of construction and engineering companies who want to see the Government's energy review include a commitment to an updated appraisal of the idea of a Severn Barrage. They made a lot of compelling arguments including:

        • a barrage could produce around 5% of the current annual electricity needs of the UK;

        • it would be a reliable source of power - the tides are pretty predictable! - and using a proven technology that has worked in France for 40 years;

        • it would be a very 'green' source of power;

        • it could act as a partial flood defence for the Severn Estuary;

        • at a time of uncertainty of international energy supplies, it would be 'home-made' power.

        • although it could cost £15 billion, if the costs of the appraisal and planning process were taken out of the equation, the utility companies might be willing to operate it on a commercial basis, just as they build power stations on that basis at present.

        The big downside, apart from the cost, is the worry about the environmental impact on the estuary. But even here there are some potential benefits. Apparently, the lower tidal reach above the barrage would mean less sediment disturbed, cleaner water, more sunlight getting through, more marine life and therefore more bird life! There might be a downside in terms of the impact on the mudflats further up the estuary, and this clearly needs to be looked at. But I came away from the meeting convinced that an appraisal of this idea - which hasn't been updated since the 1980s - is long overdue.


        Allfor said...

        I am all for the Severn Barrage and have been so for numerous years even trying to get both sides together years ago.
        At that time, even knowing the "faults" of the First bridge design I did not realize how log its life was going to be.
        A new crossing will be required and this should incorporate power generation at the least

        shortpants said...

        Common sense suggests that this has to be a good way forward. Let the scientists re-appraise the situation free from the pestering and hectoring of organised and biased pressure groups, and then let the people decide!

        Koosie said...

        The arrogance of this project reminds me of the irrigation project that destroyed the Aral sea in the USSR. Not only will it ruin thousands of human lives, it will destroy millions of organisms for what? So the government can't meet another arbitary target at any cost? To power a pointless wasteful consumer culture and power up endless mobile phones to vote in vapid TV polls?

        Your point about clear water upstream is especially stupid. It'll cause enormous blooms of dangerous algae and cause a waterway once worshipped as a god by our ancestors to become little more than poisonous, industrial waste.

        This scheme WILL be stopped. One way or other.

        traveller said...

        Whenever I see comments such as 'This scheme WILL be stopped. One way or other.' I realise that extremist thought has taken over from common sense. It makes the case for the anti's difficult to take seriously. I don't know what 'thousands of human lives' will be ruined, or which 'millions of organisms' will be destroyed, nor what evidence there is for any of these statements, but I do know that the powere is not to 'power up endless mobile phones to vote in vapid TV polls'; it is for our important industry and for domestic heating, lighting, etc. So let's see what the study has to say. Meanwhile I remain a gnostic.

        Koosie said...

        Oh crumbs. Glad I spotted this.Well it's easy to label someone extremist but to tell you the truth I feel it' s better to be an extremist than the sort of moderate who allows things to be imposed on them. Anyway I'd call bisecting an enormous living system with a concrete wall extreme. By 'stopping it one way or the other' I did imply physical destruction which is always a last resort but it's being stopped right now by scientists who are demonstrating you don't need a solid, fixed barrage to extract tidal power from the Severn. A series of floating barrages may also slow the force of the tide hitting the Somerset coast which, exarcerbated by dredging, is causing serious erosion. The proposed tidal barrage is instead likely to make this worse and could could even cause catastrophic flooding on the Somerset levels.

        Generally our increasing mastery of nature is a positive thing that will allow us to solve the important problems we have to deal within a reasoned and ethical framework. This barrage is yesterday's technology and will only benefit the construction industry who's lobbyists are always to be found slinking around seats of power. This is the reason I distrust some 'Study' as they normally end up saying whatever the commissioner wants them to. This was just as true as J. Porrit's apologetic omlette/egg assertions.

        Contary to Mr Traveller's claims we're not all huddling in the dark and cold. I've seen with my own eyes a machine in a gym that uses electricity to make the user simply walk in a fixed position...!? Surely if you're going to do an impression of a hamster in a wheel, you should be making energy, not using it?

        Anyway thanks for making me debate, Mr Traveller as it's good to have a nice think about this stuff. Remember Winston Churchill was thought an extremist, which he certainly was as well as being a complete drunk like a certain Liberal Democrat leader I miss.