Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Written Evidence

Written Evidence from Cllr Stuart Anderson, Conwy County Borough Council

  I can send an outline map diagram of the proposed North Wales integrated harbour/marina/offshore impoundment scheme, which is being discussed next Wednesday between RWE Innogy/npower and a small cross-County group including Conwy's and Denbighshire's Cabinet members for Environment.

  Up here, after nearly six long and patient years pursuing the idea, we have developed a somewhat different "angle" on the OTI concept than the one promulgated by Peter Ullman of Tidal Electric, which we think you should be briefed about.

  Unlike TE we doubt it will ever be as "economic" as offshore wind power. It will also be more restricted—for reasons explained in materials I can send. In the first instance it needs a pilot scheme, at a site where it is actually wanted for other reasons (harbour, marina, iconic visitor centre). I was present in June 2001 at a meeting with the North Wales Regional Director and Energy Officer of WDA, when Peter Ullman was offered help with a pilot study, which he turned down on grounds that he felt the scheme was already ripe for commecial launch. Quite ridiculous! There was also over-sensitivity about patent and intellectual property rights. This was also the reason he upset RWE/npower (then National Wind Power) in separate talks, to the point where they broke off communication. He is a pleasant enough chap personally, but underneath it all very possessive and "pushy" in terms of business attitude, and despite the sales talk gets upset and touchy when mere "locals" such as myself want a hand in discussing things to do with layout etc. He has also been maddening for the WDA to deal with—though the problem admittedly is a shared one in that respect.

  In short, it's taken a long time to get to where we are, and though we are grateful to Peter Ullman for his idea, we have modified it ourselves now to such an extent that we feel it is a distinct entity. We are working in close contact with Keith Williams and Professors Jim Poole and Roger Falconer from UOW Cardiff to take things further.

  We would be happy to include Peter Ullman in a study—but strictly on our terms, and the WDA's original ones, which were that information and results should be freely available to all parties.

  One of the big and necessary adjustments we think we've hit on is the need for large turbine (and sluice) capacity—perhaps three or four times as much turbine capacity as Peter (or ourselves originally) thought necessary.

  There seems simply to be no way round this snag, which also (incidentally) has equally big implications for a tidal barrage. The plus side (particularly relevant in relation to the barrage scenario) is that if you can uprate capacity, flows approximate to the natural ones but are just delayed by four to five hours. On the whole silting-up, and interference with wildlife eg wading birds' habitat, should be a lot less. Also Jim Poole is in contact with a New Zealand firm that has experience with geotextile bag usage in exposed artificial reefs—they seem to be reliable and are also advising Bournemouth County Council over flood defence.

  The findings from a pilot OTI would be important for future tidal barrage schemes, too. Since the demise of the Severn Barrage studies, there has been a bit of a conspiracy of silence on this subject, it being assumed that we know all there is to know already. We are sceptical about this! Two decades is a long time and engineering advances have been considerable since, especially in the realm of offshore use of materials, and in the necessay business of joined-up thinking in relation to flood defence.

  There's no doubt marine current turbine (MCT) technology is forging ahead—an excellent thing . . . But this has no side-benefit potential to flood defence, and we in Wales are supposed to be commited to the principles of sustainable development, which take social as well as environmental and economic factors into account—not to say, post-New Orleans—future resilience. Sixty per cent of people live along the coast in Wales, and they want to know that the government cares about the effects of future rising sea levels. If we can do things that protect us and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, surely we should be looking actively into doing so. Curiously, Rhyl may not be a bad place to start.

11 November 2005

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