Huge Tidal Power Plant On The Mersey Could Make Liverpool A Renewable Energy Hotspot

Huge Tidal Power Plant On The Mersey Could Make Liverpool A Renewable Energy Hotspot tony mills / shutterstock

Liverpool has declared a climate emergency. The mayors of both the city itself and the surrounding “city region” have recognised the emergency, and both have suggested that a tidal barrage on the River Mersey could form part of the solution. And on a recent visit to the city, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would support the £3.5 billion project.

Two years ago, I teamed up with colleagues at the National Oceanography Centre and University of Liverpool to look at how to realise the River Mersey’s energy potential: we concluded that a tidal power station could be part of the solution.

So what actually is a “tidal barrage”, and why do we think the Mersey is so suitable?

A tidal barrage generates electricity in a similar way to traditional hydroelectric power, using a dam (or barrage) to create a difference in height between two bodies of water. As tidal waters flow in and out of the estuary, the barrage blocks the flow, raising the water level on one side. When the desired difference in water level is reached, the water is then allowed to flow through turbines, generating electricity. Tidal barrages can operate in both directions and, as the tide goes in and out twice a day, are capable of producing electricity four times a day.

Huge Tidal Power Plant On The Mersey Could Make Liverpool A Renewable Energy Hotspot The large, banana-shaped Mersey estuary narrows as it goes through Liverpool (centre left) before flowing into the Irish Sea (top left). Google Maps

A few different factors make the Mersey an ideal place for a barrage. Its tidal range (the difference in water level between high and low tide) can be 10 metres or more at spring tides – the UK’s second highest, while a narrow channel at its entrance (known as “The Narrows”) means the barrage could be shorter and thus cheaper to construct. It’s also close to a large urban area, with lots of electricity demand.

We estimated a Mersey barrage could produce 0.9 to 1.5 terawatt hours of electricity each year. A terawatt is a million million watts, so this is a lot of energy – enough to supply electricity to about 300,000 homes, or more than all the homes in the city of Liverpool.

The technology has been around for a while. The world’s first tidal barrage was completed in 1966 on La Rance river in Brittany, France, and is still operational today. However, the high initial costs and potential environmental impacts mean there are still very few of these projects worldwide.

Huge Tidal Power Plant On The Mersey Could Make Liverpool A Renewable Energy Hotspot Barrage de la Rance, in Brittany. Antoine2K / shutterstock

The idea to generate energy from the River Mersey’s tides was first put forward in 1981, with a series of proposals and feasibility studies since. As ever, the key issues are financial and environmental.

Who will pay for it?

Financial issues came into focus in June 2018 when the UK government rejected proposals for a similar “tidal lagoon” power station in Swansea Bay on the grounds of “value for money” compared to nuclear power and offshore wind. That’s despite Swansea tidal power having received strong backing in an independent review the government commissioned 18 months previously.

This raised questions about how tidal energy generation capacity will become a reality for the UK. Jeremy Corbyn said a Labour government would pay for a Mersey barrage but, at this point, it seems that it would only happen under a Conservative government if privately funded – as with the Swansea Lagoon.

The Mersey is also a busy commercial waterway. Some disruption during construction would be inevitable, and designers would have to figure out how to best allow shipping access through locks built alongside the barrage.

Local issues… global benefits?

The environmental implications are difficult to predict. At La Rance, sand-eels and other marine fauna initially suffered, but after ten years a new biological equilibrium was reached and the estuary was once again considered richly diverse.

In the Mersey, one major concern is that a tidal barrage would likely mean less exposure for the estuary’s mudflats, which are an important feeding habitat for migratory birds. Here, impacts could be reduced by generating electricity on both the ebb and flood tides, as opposed to one way generation on the ebb tide.

Two way generation reduces the time the tide is held back, and thus there is less difference in height between water on either side of the barrage – generation may be reduced overall, but it is better environmentally. If used in the Mersey, two way generation would almost maintain the size of the intertidal area.

Huge Tidal Power Plant On The Mersey Could Make Liverpool A Renewable Energy Hotspot The Mersey estuary is popular with wading birds like this dunlin. Ray Hennessy / shutterstock

It will be hard to build a tidal barrage without at least some local environmental impact. The same could be said for almost any renewable energy project, however, and by reducing carbon emissions tidal energy could deliver environmental benefits on a much larger scale.

A barrage could also create a pedestrian and cycle link between Liverpool and the Wirral. Finally, as recognised in the government-commissioned report, large tidal energy projects could see the UK use its expertise in maritime engineering to develop technology for export worldwide.

If the environmental and financial issues can be resolved, a tidal barrage across the Mersey would provide a substantial amount of renewable electricity for many years to come, as well as a clear statement of the UK’s progress to achieving zero carbon energy.The Conversation

About The Author

Amani Eva Becker, Research Impact Fellow in Coastal Resilience, University of Liverpool

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

by Paul Hawken and Tom Steyer
9780143130444In the face of widespread fear and apathy, an international coalition of researchers, professionals, and scientists have come together to offer a set of realistic and bold solutions to climate change. One hundred techniques and practices are described here—some are well known; some you may have never heard of. They range from clean energy to educating girls in lower-income countries to land use practices that pull carbon out of the air. The solutions exist, are economically viable, and communities throughout the world are currently enacting them with skill and determination. Available On Amazon

Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy

by Hal Harvey, Robbie Orvis, Jeffrey Rissman
1610919564With the effects of climate change already upon us, the need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions is nothing less than urgent. It’s a daunting challenge, but the technologies and strategies to meet it exist today. A small set of energy policies, designed and implemented well, can put us on the path to a low carbon future. Energy systems are large and complex, so energy policy must be focused and cost-effective. One-size-fits-all approaches simply won’t get the job done. Policymakers need a clear, comprehensive resource that outlines the energy policies that will have the biggest impact on our climate future, and describes how to design these policies well. Available On Amazon

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

by Naomi Klein
1451697392In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

LATEST VIDEOS

South Africans Are Feeling The Heat In More Ways Than One
by eNCA
Load-shedding combined with soaring temperatures are a bad combination.
Why Uncertainty Can Actually Boost Trust In Climate Science
Why Uncertainty Can Actually Boost Trust In Climate Science
by Melissa De Witte
The more specific climate scientists are about the uncertainties of global warming, the more the American public trusts…
How World Conflicts Are Influence By The Changing Climate
How World Conflicts Are Influence By The Changing Climate
by John Vidal
The relationship between a heating planet and violent clashes is complex — and critical. “This is where I keep my…
Emergency Medicine For Our Climate Fever
by Kelly Wanser
As we recklessly warm the planet by pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, some industrial emissions also…
What Extinction Rebellion climate activists are demanding from governments
by Democracy Now!
More than 700 climate activists were arrested in 60 cities worldwide in a global effort aimed at urging governments to…
Can Nature Repair The Planet From Climate Change?
by The Economist
A closer look at one of the most familiar responses offered to the climate crisis.
How Climate Change Is Threatening Homes In Mumbai
by South China Morning Post
Lowland cities and islands such as the Indian city of Mumbai may face increasingly frequent floods and storms
This is Not A Drill: 700+ Arrested as Extinction Rebellion Fights Climate Crisis With Direct Action
by Democracy Now!
More than 700 people have been arrested in civil disobedience actions as the group Extinction Rebellion kicked off two…

LATEST ARTICLES

How Divergent Goals Hinder The Fight Of The Climate Crisis
How Divergent Goals Hinder The Fight Of The Climate Crisis
by Pascale Dufour
Nearly half a million people demonstrated in Montréal to demand climate action on Sept. 27. It was one of the largest…
Why You Shouldn't Use
Why You Shouldn't Use "Weather" And "Climate" Interchangeably
by Jennifer Fitchett
As January 2019 entered its third week, huge swathes of the US are blanketed with snow, and winter storm warnings were…
South Africans Are Feeling The Heat In More Ways Than One
by eNCA
Load-shedding combined with soaring temperatures are a bad combination.
Iowa's Farmers – And American Eaters – Need A National Discussion On Transforming Us Agriculture
We Need A National Discussion On Transforming Agriculture
by Lisa Schulte Moore
Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses bring the state a lot of political attention during presidential election cycles.
Can We Deal With The Climate Crisis Without Having A Financial Chaos?
Can We Deal With The Climate Crisis Without Having A Financial Chaos?
by Geoff Dembicki
Communities face a tricky dilemma as climate changes: How to prepare for impacts without scaring away homeowners and…
Should Science Must Be Mobilized Like World War Ii To Fight The Climate Crisis
Should Science Must Be Mobilized Like World War Ii To Fight The Climate Crisis
by Tom Oliver
We’ve all but won the argument on climate change. The facts are now unequivocal and climate denialists are facing a…
The IEA Projects Global Renewable Energy Capacity to Rise by 50% in next 5 Years
The IEA Projects Global Renewable Energy Capacity to Rise by 50% in next 5 Years
by Jessica Corbett
However, the deployment of renewables "still needs to accelerate if we are to achieve long-term climate, air quality,…
Evidence Shows Warming Forces World Of Ice Into Retreat
New Evidence Shows Warming Forces World Of Ice Into Retreat
by Tim Radford
New evidence from the air, space, atmospheric chemistry and old records is testament to global warming impacts on the…