Britain To Build World’s Largest Tidal Power Station

Britain To Build World’s Largest Tidal Power Station

  • Conventional hydroelectric dams generate electricity from the flow of water due to terrestrial gravity, while the Severn dam will benefit from tidal flow (which is due to lunar gravity).
  • Of course, Britain also wants to build a bunch of new coal and nuclear power plants, and most Brits think that global warming is a hoax. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they want to capture the tidal energy of the Severn Estuary the stupid way instead of the right way.

  • Just for comparison: The Severn station will produce 8.6 gigawatts of power. Taipu, the largest hydroelectric plant in the world on the border between Paraguay and Brazil, has a capacity of 12.6 gigawatts.
  • The Taipu dam is responsible for an enormous environmental and social impact, including the forced relocation of 10,000 families from along the river. The Severn Barrage will probably not have an impact at the same scale (much less at the scale of the Three Gorges dam in China), but building a dam across the entire width of the Severn is simply not necessary: stand-alone turbines would do the job with a tiny fraction of the environmental impact.
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2 Responses to “Britain To Build World’s Largest Tidal Power Station”

  1. simhedges Says:

    You say “an enormous environmental and social impact, including the forced relocation of 10,000 families from along the river. The Severn Barrage will probably not have an impact at the same scale”. It definitely won’t (not “probably” won’t) have an impact on the same scale or of the same nature. The Itaipu Dam flooded 1,350 square Kilometres of dry land, and so displaced people. The Severn Barrage is not a dam: it will not flood previously dry areas. Instead it will raise the low water mark in the tidal estuary behind the barrage. This will have an effect on wildlife that currently uses the mudlflats, but will not displace people. You also say “stand-alone turbines would do the job with a tiny fraction of the environmental impact”. Stand Alone water turbine technology is in its infancy, and it is far from proven to provide the same kind of benefit. I am not saying that the Barrage is the best solution if we are to raise 5% of the UK’s power needs from the Severn Estuary, but it will not have the damaging impact you imply, and alternatives need to be properly evaluated and costed.

  2. When I said “the Severn Barrage will probably not have an impact at the same scale”, what I actually meant was “the Severn Barrage will probably not have an impact at the same scale”.

    Most environmentalists are in favor of tidal power but against the idea of a Severn Barrage. (I’m using “most” as another hedge here, allowing for the possibility of a counter-example. I haven’t actually encountered one yet.) That is not because environmentalists are naturally bloody-minded or anti-progressive, but because the environmental impact of the Barrage would be unacceptable, particularly the impact on the estuarine ecosystem.

    So to spell it out in clear text, I’m saying that the Severn Barrage will not have an impact on the scale of Itaipu, but that it will have an impact that is unacceptable.

    It’s certainly true that the technology of stand-alone tide turbines is in its infancy, because tidal power research would have never been in the best interest of the drill-and-burn or the nuclear weapons crowd.

    But it’s also true that barrage technology is in its infancy. There are only three such tidal power plants on the planet: one on the Annapolis River in Nova Scotia (which is well-known as an unmitigated disaster in terms of environmental impact), an experimental one on a fjord of the Barents Sea in Russia (just a pilot plant, hardly representative at 400 kilowatts), and one on the Rance estuary in Brittany (750 meters across, hardly comparable to the Severn Barrage proposed in the article above, which would be 16 kilometers across).

    Environmental impact assessment is not in its infancy, though.

    (Oh yeah, about the terminology: A barrage is a weir. A weir is also called a lowhead dam. A lowhead dam is a dam. So a barrage is a dam. It’s certainly true that there are dams that aren’t barrages, but you were trying to say that a barrage is not a dam. What you really wanted to say was that a barrage is not the kind of dam that isn’t a barrage, a tautology with which I fully concur.)

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