Tidal lagoons

Tidal lagoons are created by building walls in the sea; they can then be used like artificial estuaries. The required conditions for building lagoons are that the water must be shallow and the tidal range must be large. Economies of scale apply: big tidal lagoons make cheaper electricity than small ones. The two main locations for large tidal lagoons in Britain are the Wash on the east coast, and the waters off Blackpool on the west coast (figure 14.9). Smaller facilities could be built in north Wales, Lincolnshire, southwest Wales, and east Sussex.

If two lagoons are built in one location, a neat trick can be used to boost the power delivered and to enable the lagoons to deliver power on demand at any time, independent of the state of the tide. One lagoon can be designated the "high" lagoon, and the other the "low" lagoon. At low tide, some power generated by the emptying high lagoon can be used to

Figure 14.8. The Severn barrage proposals (bottom left), and Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland (top left), shown on the same scale as the barrage at La Rance (bottom right).

The map shows two proposed locations for a Severn barrage. A barrage at Weston-super-Mare would deliver an average power of 2 GW (0.8kWh/d per person). The outer alternative would deliver twice as much.

There is a big tidal resource in Northern Ireland at Strangford Lough. Strangford Lough's area is 150 km2; the tidal range in the Irish Sea outside is 4.5 m at springs and 1.5 m at neaps - sadly not as big as the range at La Rance or the Severn. The raw power of the natural tide-pool at Strangford Lough is roughly 150 MW, which, shared between the 1.7 million people of Northern Ireland, comes to 2 kWh/d per person. Strangford Lough is the location of the first grid-connected tidal stream generator in the UK.

pump water out of the low lagoon, making its level even lower than low water. The energy required to pump down the level of the low lagoon is then repaid with interest at high tide, when power is generated by letting water into the low lagoon. Similarly, extra water can be pumped into the high lagoon at high tide, using energy generated by the low lagoon. Whatever state the tide is in, one lagoon or the other would be able to generate power. Such a pair of tidal lagoons could also work as a pumped storage facility, storing excess energy from the electricity grid.

The average power per unit area of tidal lagoons in British waters could be 4.5 W/m2, so if tidal lagoons with a total area of 800 km2 were created (as indicated in figure 14.9), the power generated would be 1.5kWh/d per person.

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