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UK tidal energy first

Could the UK’s first Tidal Hydro Energy Plant produce the world’s cheapest electricity?
Morecambe Bay

Fleetwood-based company Natural Energy Wyre (NEW) has been working on a project to generate electricity from tidal range, where its power (referred to as ‘tidal head’) is converted into electricity at the mouth of the River Wyre, powering over 50,000 homes.

The ideal location

The UK has some of the highest tidal ranges in the world, which makes the British Isles an ideal location for THEP technology. Harnessing this energy could provide British homes and businesses with affordable electricity for generations to come.

The team at NEW has been studying tidal flows for several years, investigating ideal locations for the THEP within the UK.

The River Wyre, which flows into Morecambe Bay at Fleetwood, experiences tidal ranges of more than 10 metres on spring tides. Combined with an unusually narrow estuary of only 600 meters span, it provides the ideal location.

The world’s cheapest electricity?

Tidal Head Energy Plants convert energy four times a day; each tidal movement produces large amounts of energy, which is converted into electricity.

THEP technology combines tried and tested hydropower with state-of-the-art, specially developed power conversion electronics.

With a total build cost of under £300m and producing over 200GWH of energy a year, a THEP at Fleetwood’s unique location competes strongly with all other technologies. According to NEW, THEPs have lifespans in excess of 125 years and, after capital repayment, produce ‘the cheapest electricity on the planet’.

Local impact

Investment in THEP technology will not only allow us to harvest the vast amounts of free energy at our coasts, it will also provide protection to wildlife habitats, limiting the effects of rising sea levels and increased rainfall.

As well as producing valuable energy, the TEHP is also a catalyst for commercial growth, providing opportunity for employment before and after construction.

An online poll designed to evaluate local support revealed a positive figure of 93% in favour of the project.

‘We have involved the local public in this project from the start and constructing a THEP at the chosen location would be a major step for this small town.

‘Fleetwood has suffered the loss of many thousands of jobs since the Cod-Wars of the ‘70s, which saw UK fisheries excluded from catching in Icelandic waters.’


Promoting tidal energy

With an annual production capacity of more than 200 GWh, NEW hopes to show the world that a carefully managed and strategically located tidal energy plant is a sustainable, profitable, environmentally beneficial and valuable producer of green energy.

The technology that is fundamental to the build of the Fleetwood THEP is similar to that which has been used by projects in other parts of the world, such as Brazil, France, South Korea and Russia.

The closest example is the La Rance Tidal Power Plant in France, which has just completed its first major refurbishment after almost 50 years of completely dependable electricity production.

The benefits

The THEP at Fleetwood won’t affect the habitats of fish and grazing birds, and the river will remain open to pleasure and commercial traffic via two specially designed sea locks.

THEP technology also provides essential flood defences on rivers. At crucial moments, the turbine mechanisms can be used to hold back incoming water, or reduce water levels further by pumping it seaward in an emergency. This feature reduces the risk of flooding in the towns and villages further upriver.

Similar projects have brought numerous additional benefits; La Rance in France brings in over 500,000 tourists per year to view the site, creating additional jobs for the tourism industry.

The whole project will give a significant boost to employment in Fleetwood, with many benefits to the town and surrounding area. The project also includes plans for enhanced local leisure facilities and environmental benefits that favour the future security of fish and bird life on the river.

Employing state-of-the-art power management technology, this THEP will be a global first, championed in the UK and potentially the start of many.

Click here to find out more about Natural Energy Wyre and its Tidal Hydro Energy Plant.

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