Groundbreaking tidal plan could power whole of Conwy county

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AN EXCITING new multi million pound scheme to provide alternative energy could also protect the coast from erosion and have a massive spin off for the local economy and tourism

It’s at an early stage, but work is underway on a pilot project, which would see a revolutionary new way of harnessing tidal power tested off the coast between Colwyn Bay and Rhyl, and its proponents says its benefits to the community could be immense.

“It’s a tremendously exciting concept which harnesses the power of the tides to produce electricity while boosting coastal defences so you can’t get anything more environmentally friendly than that,” said Peter Caldwell one of the directors of Clwyd Offshore Tidal Energy a non-profit making community interest company which has been set up to take the project forward.

He explained that the scheme differs widely from that proposed for a Severn Barrage.

“It’s too early to go into details, but this would be only the second such scheme in the world. Something similar is at present underway in Korea, and the technology involved has been used on other projects not connected with tidal power but bringing it together for a scheme like this would be unique,” he claimed.

In broad outline it would involve the building of a wall in deep water offshore, possibly between Rhos Point and Penmaenhead, which would house turbines powered by the rise and fall of the tide.

“The potential is enormous, but the scheme has the possibility of generating enough renewable electricity for an area the size of the county of Conwy while providing much needed coastal protection because the wall would act as a sort of offshore reef creating an area of calm water between it and the shore,” explained Mr Caldwell.

This calm water would make an ideal haven for watersports providing a boost to tourism, and the company also proposes to include a marina, and a dock for boats servicing the offshore wind farms.

“These factors would undoubtedly mean a very large spin off for the local economy which has to be good news,” claimed Mr Caldwell.

He says the Westminster and Welsh Assembly governments have already expressed an interest in the project as has a renewable energy company.

“There is a possibility that they may contribute funding for some further research into this which would be great if we could get it,” he said.

Kinmel Bay county councillor Stuart Anderson is enthusiastic about the scheme but says it is at a very early stage and the exact location of a pilot project could be anywhere between Rhyl and Colwyn Bay.

“We can’t be too dogmatic about this, we would have to take the advice of the experts as to where it goes and the shape it takes. This is a completely different way of generating hydro electricity and bears no relation to the Severn Barrage as this stretch of coastline is totally different and so is the technology that would be used,” he said.

Professors at Cardiff and Liverpool universities are leading the design work.

“The scheme we are talking about would be a pilot project which would be an integral part of this development process but its benefits for the Conwy coastline and our environment could be immense,” he explained.

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