Archive for the ‘Sabrina’ Tag

Shortlist of Severn Estuary energy proposals

Following on from my post on the Severn barrage debate, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has announced a shortlist of five schemes, about which it will be running a three month public consultation. The proposed shortlist is as follows:

  • Cardiff Weston Barrage – crossing the Severn estuary from Brean Down, near Weston super Mare to Lavernock Point, near Cardiff (estimated capacity over 8.6GW, or nearly five per cent of UK electricity).
  • Shoots Barrage – further upstream of the Cardiff Weston scheme (1.05GW, similar to a large fossil fuel plant).
  • Beachley Barrage – smallest barrage on the proposed shortlist, just above the Wye River (625MW).
  • Bridgwater Bay Lagoon – sited on the English shore between east of Hinkley Point and Weston super Mare (1.36GW).
  • Fleming Lagoon – on the Welsh shore between Newport and the Severn road crossings (1.36GW).

It must be stressed that the consultation is not designed to decide which of these options to pursue, but instead to ascertain whether this is a relevant shortlist. DECC has at the same time announced £500,000 of new funding to develop technologies like tidal reefs and fences. The progress of these technologies will be considered before decisions are taken on the final shortlist, which will be subject to a second public consultation (probably in 2010).

Having said that, it still looks like the Cardiff Weston Barrage is the favourite, with industry lobbying heavily in spite of the potential ecological disaster. Friends of the Earth have released a statement reacting angrily to the exclusion of larger offshore tidal lagoons.

I will be taking some time to consider my response to this consultation. I will post further thoughts on here.

BBC News video

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Severn barrage debate

I’m not sure where I stand on this debate. A two-year feasibility study on a possible Severn Barrage was launched last year following a report from the Sustainable Development Commission. The proposed Severn Barrage project would stretch nearly 10 miles from Lavernock Point west of Cardiff to near Brean Down in Somerset. It would cost around £14 billion.

Backers include the Welsh Assembly and the Southwest Regional Assembly, a number of cross-party MPs and Gaia theorist James Lovelock. Opponents include the Green Party, Friends of the Earth, the WWF and the RSPB.

The Friends of the Earth website explains some of the risks:

Why would the Barrage be environmentally damaging?

  • The Barrage wall would create a 5 metre deep lake to its eastward side, losing an inter-tidal habitat, feeding grounds for tens of thousands of birds
  • The Barrage would halve the tidal range and sensitive flora and fauna would be lost, and the famous Severn Bore diminished
  • The Barrage could also have a significant impact on fish species of conservation interest, through use of fish sluices within the barrage wall
  • The Barrage could significantly damage the viability of ports. It would also generate new traffic on existing road networks around Lavernock and Cardiff airport and cause development pressures in rural Somerset
  • The government’s own statutory advisers state that ‘a Severn Barrage project would not be possible within the current legal framework provided by the EU Habitats and Birds Directives. The estuary is also being proposed for designation as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), the highest protection in European Union law

It recommends a number of other means on generating energy from the Estuary, such as tidal lagoons located a mile off the Severn coast, a shorter flood defence barrage near the Second Severn Crossing, marine current turbines, wind energy or Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) fitted to coal or gas power stations.

My gut reaction is that Sabrina should be protected, that her tidal activity is the essence of her nature, and that as a result she would be desecrated by such a violation.

I have a particular interest in this issue, as the proposed Barrage would link my family home in Somerset with my chosen home in Cardiff, and Sabrina has been a constant presence throughout my life. I am also a member of the Flatholm Society, although I don’t know if they have an official view on this. I will try to find out.

The possibility of so much renewable energy is massively attractive, but not at the expense of our land and its heritage. I think the money would be better spent on education programmes teaching us how to live within our energy means, simplifying and reducing our need for energy. This, combined with a wind generation and CCS programme would be my favoured approach. While there is still so much invested in a growth economy, however, this seems doubtful.