Although the tidal power industry is just beginning to take root, projects such as the MeyGen tidal power development in Scotland – which has just received the go ahead for its next phase – and the Tidal Lagoon Power project in Swansea Bay show that if taken seriously enough, tidal power could provide a steady, reliable energy supply. What is more, our shores give us a natural stage on which to lead the way with our expertise. As Tidal Lagoon Power director of engineering and construction Mike Unsworth says: “Developing tidal lagoons which exploit our tides around our island coastline basically ensures we are generating our own, home-grown, secure and sustainable energy.” Boundaries are also being pushed with other renewables in the UK. Thames Water is building Europe’s largest solar photovoltaic farm in a London reservoir. And yet Britain is also forging ahead with the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station which – while bringing 64% of the project’s £18bn value to the UK supply chain – relies on Chinese and French expertise. On top of that, a report published last autumn by University College London predicts that Hinkley Point C could be obsolete within a decade of opening in 2025. “Technically and economically, Hinkley no longer makes sense,” says Andrew Smith, principal research associate at the Bartlett School, UCL’s built environment centre . He is also deputy director of the Energy Epidemiology Research Centre. According to Smith, Hinkley appeared to be a good decision in the early noughties when it was first discussed. But a lot has happened in the fields of nuclear and alternative energy since then. “The lines have crossed in a way. We’ve gone from a position where new nuclear looked like it was going to be modular and quick to build and the supply chain would grow – and it would be affordable – and wind and [solar] photovoltaics looked like they were slow-growing and looked more expensive. “And then in the past 10 years while we’ve been talking about Hinkley, nuclear has got more expensive and slower to build, and the alternatives have got cheaper, and the supply chains have grown much faster – of the order of 20% or 30% a year,” says Smith. Indeed, even small modular reactors (SMRs) seem to be facing problems. While they could meet some localised energy needs, production costs – and negative associations from the public – have slowed growth.
New Civil Engineer 11th Jan 2017 read more »