The Hendry review is due to be published tomorrow and is expected to recommend the go-ahead for a tidal lagoon project in Swansea Bay.
This has been the subject of a variety of posts on this blog: Guest blog – Time for tidal power by Sian John, 15 July 2016; NGO reaction to Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project, 22 April 2014; Time to be in favour of something…, 15 April 2014.
My own position is that a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay is worth the gamble – we need more renewable energy and this location seems a good place to start (and the company involved have put a lot of effort into addressing the environmental issues).
But one of the reasons for saying ‘yes’ to Swansea Bay would be to learn, and although future projects, almost certainly in more controversial locations, would have to stand or fall on their own merits, it is also the case that lessons would have to be learned from Swansea Bay, and that can’t be done until a lagoon is built.
It seems to me that, so far, the developers and the conservation organisations have behaved very sensibly and that must be a good sign for the future. But if there is to be trouble ahead it might arise in at least two different ways.
If the developer acted as though a green light for Swansea Bay really means a green light for every other more contentious project that they might have at the back of their minds then that will cause problems. The developer knew that Swansea Bay was the least contentious potential project, though contentious enough, and that gaining approval for it (if that happens) would not necessarily mean getting approval for other tidal lagoon projects in the Severn. If the financial viability of the work were dependent on there being several lagoons than the developer should have put the most contentious one forward straight away to test the system. But they didn’t, so presumably they will be chuffed to bits with an eventual go-ahead for Swansea Bay.
On the other hand, there might be a temptation for conservation organisations to try to halt any further proposals until a Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon is built and up-and-running for many years on the basis of learning from this example. Sounds sensible but the developer should ask what exactly will be learned from Swansea Bay and are there other ways of getting a handle on similar information more quickly. And certainly environmental assessment of other projects should begin sooner rather than later, if only to flag up issues that need solutions.