The construction work on the infrastructure for a tidal energy scheme on the seabed off the coast of Ynys Môn has begun.

With the Welsh Government having already given consent to the Morlais scheme in December of last year, Jones Bros. of Ruthin is the company responsible for the operation.

Gerallt Llewelyn Jones from Holyhead is one of the directors of Morlais - a 32 sq km tidal energy scheme that will generate low carbon electricity from renewable energy.

Several companies are currently competing for a contract to install the first turbines offshore. No Welsh company is involved in that process, however.

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"There are ten developers interested. At the moment, four of them are bidding for the job. The London Government is overseeing the process to see who will receive the subsidies. The price of electricity is not enough to make it viable straight away, ” said Mr Llewelyn Jones.

The competing companies are Verdant from New York, Inyangu - a consortium based in Falmouth in Cornwall, Orbital in Scotland, and probably one other company from Spain.

In 2013, Menter Môn decided to bid for the lease for the zone, Mr Llewelyn Jones said.

"The Crown Estate owns the coast in Wales, and they designated three places in Britain (on behalf of the Westminster Government) where marine energy could be developed. Ynys Gybi (Holy Island) was one of those three places.”

Menter Môn is a not-for-profit local enterprise agency and the lease - according to Gerallt Llewelyn Jones - lasts for 45 years.

"Our job is to add value to the seabed. In terms of the Crown Estate, they will receive rent from the developers when the turbines are installed on the seabed, he said.

Morlais will also be able to claim rent from the turbine developers, "Because we're spending £31 million of European grant money - the last big European Union money before it disappeared completely from Wales."

Ynys Lawd ( South Stack) on Ynys Gybi. Construction work on the nearby Menter Môn Morlais tidal energy scheme has started. Source: Google StreetviewJones Bros. preparing the infrastructure for the Morlais scheme.

EU funding has been an important source of funding for Menter Môn since its inception in 1995. The purpose of the Morlais scheme is to "generate income" for the next 45 years, now that Menter Môn is also losing out on European funding, he explained.

"It gets forgotten that Menter Môn is a company that exists for the benefit of their community. And all profits go straight back to the local area - it doesn’t disappear into the pockets of the people who have provided the capital, as with other energy schemes.”

In terms of the building work, that includes the construction of two substations on the Holyhead side and 11 kilometers of underground cable.

"It also involves drilling underground, so deep that it reaches below the seabed 200 meters out. That’s what’ll connect the onshore substation, he said. 

But since the Morlais scheme is "so new", Mr Llewelyn Jones recognises that they do not know what effect, if any, the tidal power scheme will have on wildlife: "There's not a lot of data out there to answer the question of whether this is going to affect marine life - on marine mammals, seabirds. Nobody knows the answer because this has not been done before, except for on a very small scale. ”

But neither does Mr Llewelyn Jones say that there are any cases of a "dolphin or porpoise getting into these blades".

However, we would spend a "pile of money" putting in a monitoring system to prove that there is no threat to wildlife. "

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A public inquiry took place more than a year ago and the scheme has been approved by Natural Resources Wales, which is the body responsible for protecting natural habitats.

"One of the most amazing things about this is that it is usually the large (multinational) companies like RWE that make such applications. And for the first time there is a large energy scheme driven by a small local company,” said Mr Llewelyn Jones.

In terms of energy itself, are there any plans to reward the local community with cheaper electricity?

"Not at the moment”, Mr Llewelyn Jones said. “Things like that are going to be possible someday. At the moment, everything is going into the national grid.”

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