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UK: Tidal Energy, Possible Answer for Renewable Industry

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THE latest bid to revive plans for a Severn barrage comes at a time when the renewable energy sector is facing increasing problems.

Supporters of a barrage argue that it is second only to wind power in its ability to produce a substantial amount of electricity and in being a proven technology.

That is debatable, but what is certain is that the wind industry is facing increasing difficulties in getting projects off the ground.

Not only are wind farms becoming more likely to be rejected by local planners, investors are becoming increasingly put off by a perceived lack of political support, particularly in Wales.

This was highlighted in the summer when First Minister Carwyn Jones announced that the Welsh Government did not see the need for a large overhead pylon network in Mid Wales to connect wind farm developments to the grid.

The statement suggested the Welsh Government did not support major new wind farm developments since burying the power cables would add significantly to the cost.

The solar power industry has also had a hard time of it, although it is perhaps a victim of its own success.

The UK Government has twice changed the framework on feed-in tariffs (FITs), on both occasions causing disruption in the sector.

First it imposed an upper limit of 50 kilowatts (kw) on the size of installations entitled to FITs, killing off the development of large solar parks. Then it announced it was to half the FITs rate from 43p to 21p by December 12, a far larger and earlier cut than had been previously suggested.

Supporters of renewable energy hope new biomass and anaerobic digestion plants will take up some of the slack, but there is every likelihood these will also face local planning difficulties, as waste burning plants elsewhere have.

In this context, tidal energy projects could be the best hope for renewable energy.

by Chris Kelsey (walesonline)

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