A £7 billion tidal lagoon could create 22,000 North Wales jobs, generating enough electricity to power every home in Wales, says the man at the helm of a project with the potential to transform the region.
Former High Sheriff of Clwyd Henry Dixon is from a family of bridge builders but now has his eyes set on the revolutionary lagoon, which will stretch out between Prestatyn and Llandudno.
Wrexham’s Glyndwr University has carried out an economic impact assessment, which predicts the lagoon generating an additional 22,000 jobs.
The figure includes the 500 jobs created during the five-year planning stage, the 6,000 or 7,000 at the point of construction, and the many thousands of opportunities predicted to spring up around the lagoon – such as water sports businesses, tourist centres, and even new mussel farms harvested on the rock walls.
Whilst the total cost of the project is around £7 billion, North Wales Tidal Energy needs around £50m to get the project going, largely for environmental impact assessments. Once complete, it is estimated the tidal lagoon could generate around £500m a year for the next 120 years.
One month ago, Denbighshire councillors voted in favour of a motion to back the scheme in principle whilst Conwy County Council has set up a task and finish group to look at the options. North Wales Tidal Energy is now lobbying both the Welsh and UK governments for funding.
But the lagoon, if or when it is built, would be considered a National Strategic Infrastructure project, meaning UK Government would have the final say.
Mr Dixon is the chairman of North Wales Tidal Energy, which was set up in 2014, and comes from a long line of bridge builders, his great-grandfather having set up the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company who built the Victoria Falls Bridge in Africa, as well as the Severn, Fourth, and Humber suspension bridges. Mr Dixon said the project would transform the area – if the company finds the initial £50m start-up costs.
“I think the North Wales Economic Ambition Board is considering adopting it (the project), the way that Denbighshire and Conwy have adopted it, the way that MPs have adopted it,” he said.
“We just need to get the Welsh Government and the British government to help with the funding to get it going. Once we are up and running, then we can answer all the questions and concerns people have got, and we can get this thing built, which will be truly transformational for North Wales.”
He added: “The lagoon will generate enough electricity for every home in Wales.
“In a year it will generate five tera-watt hours, which is enough for a million homes. I’m not saying it will just be Wales’s electricity, but I’m trying to put it on a scale that will be useful.”
But Mr Dixon believes the scheme could attract serious private investment.
“There are many institutional funds, sovereign funds, insurance companies, and pension companies who like the idea of an asset like a tidal lagoon that will last for over one hundred years and generate a significant amount of revenue because of the energy it is generating,” he said.
“So there is a real interest in funding that sort of lagoon once we have permission. The difficulty is getting from here to there and finding the first £50m.”
Mr Dixon explained the timeline involved to get the lagoon operational.
“It would be 10 years. It would be five years to get permission and consent and to do all those environmental studies, the land rights, the marine licence,” said Mr Dixon.
“Then it would take five years to build the wall, the turbines, and the grid connection. If you wrote me a cheque tomorrow, by 2032 we would be up and running and producing a huge amount of electricity. It is a nuclear power plant that doesn’t use nuclear energy. It uses the tide.”
He said, “Yes, it’ll take 10 years, but that’s less than a nuclear plant, and it’ll last twice as long.
“It’s exciting. It’s not just the energy as I keep on saying. It’s the impact it would have in North Wales, providing really good jobs in North Wales for North Walian people.”
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