The founder of tidal power generating system TPGen24 Stuart Murphy says its 'Power Islands' could produce a reliable source of elecrcity, at construction costs of around £7bn, that could set the UK free from fossil fuels.

BASE load is the minimum amount of electricity required to keep the lights on during peak demand but as long as we continue to rely on fossil fuels to achieve it the global environmental crisis will continue to threaten life as we know it.  

Recent events, particularly the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, should serve as a massive wake-up call, especially for Wales and the rest of the UK. Harrowingly, they’ve revealed the fragility of our domestic energy infrastructure and our over-reliance on fossil fuels to meet our most basic needs.  

Against this frightening context, both the Welsh and UK governments urgently need to reconsider their half-baked and inadequate energy strategies and broaden the renewables mix to guarantee self-sufficiency and sustainability simultaneously. If we don’t, we risk irreversible damage to our society, humankind and the planet.  

Unfortunately, we’ve got some way to go to reach this scenario. Currently, renewable energy sources constitute around only 40 per cent of the UK’s energy, of which no existing system is capable of achieving green base load.

If our Net-Zero 2050 goals are to be met, and it's a big if, let alone satisfy the rapidly increasing demand for affordable electricity, we'll need to diversify our green energy infrastructure...  

The good news is Wales can be a central part of the solution, with the capability to position itself as a pioneer of 100 per cent green base load generation.

However, this requires us to look at the missing piece of the jigsaw, a renewable which Wales possesses in great abundance but as thus far hasn’t been able to exploit to the full: tidal, or more specifically, tidal range. 

It’s my belief that if Wales leads the way in demonstrating the potential of this woefully under-explored resource, the rest of the UK, then the world will follow. Not only will it make our energy infrastructure more secure, but tidal range could provide massive socio-economic benefits.  

However, we need to win the hearts and minds of hesitant leadership, at home and abroad, encouraging them to look beyond the quick, easy fix, to the longer-term, higher-value proposition tidal range offers. 

READ MORE: Stuart Murphy: how tidal energy could benefit the people of Wales

In 2019 around 7.5 TWh1 of renewable electricity was generated in Wales, predominantly from wind, solar and hydro, making up 27 per cent of electricity produced.

While this is a respectable percentage, relying on intermittent renewables like wind and solar is not sustainable as much of the remaining energy needs are still generated by gas-fuelled power stations. 

Wales has shown some initiative putting the Environment (Wales) Act in place, laying out plans up until 2026. We have also seen an additional official target to generate 70 per cent of energy sustainable by 2030. However, without any concrete mention of tidal range, I feel this is going to be a tough feat.  

As our planet’s only renewable energy source that can achieve base load consistently, tidal presents a clearly reliable 24/7, 365 days a year solution.

Why not build on the momentum set in place from sustainable development goals across the UK and commit to investing in this woefully under-explored renewable now, while we still have the chance to make a difference?

The UK and Welsh governments, have never given tidal range energy a worthy position next to solar and wind as a major renewable option.

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In 2015, the National Assembly for Wales passed the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act in an effort to revitalise the local, sustainable movement. With a coastline of 1,680 miles and some of the best tidal ranges in the world, this country could be both a wonderful getaway location, and provide the perfect opportunity for tidal.  

The magnificent power of the virtually unstoppable tides are at our disposal, yet we are hesitant about investing in them. I think we are squandering a golden opportunity to fix the deep holes in our energy infrastructure.

This force of nature, if properly controlled, has the ability to generate and store power indefinitely. Unlike wind and solar, tidal can be controlled to achieve non-intermittent source, producing base load electricity continuously. However it requires a specially developed plant which can harness the regular tidal cycles, whilst also operating independently of them.   

My team and I at TPGen24 have been working toward this goal for over ten years, and our most recent calculations indicate that a turbine-stacked, sluiced, hybrid multi-lagoon and tank system positioned in the appropriate tidal ranges can generate renewable energy all day long, all throughout the year. With the potential to achieve base load, such a system can also move us away from our addiction to fossil fuels.  

Renewable, 24/7 power could change the world of energy, rising from the Welsh coast and proliferating across the entire planet. Despite the limitless potential of this opportunity, there is still widespread apprehension about tidal due to elements like cost and development time.  

READ MORE:

Naysayers will gripe that tidal range is not a flawless solution to the current energy crisis, but then again what is? Other proven solutions are not without their own faults, as illustrated by the £23 billion Hinkley Point C nuclear power project's growing costs and delayed timeline.  

When we consider the potential power production of three major Power Islands at around £7bn each, the costs may be close to those of a nuclear power station, but without the waste disposal concerns and provide three times more clean power  

Tidal power investment will also deliver a slew of other benefits, giving people and businesses across Wales and the rest of the country new opportunities for work.

READ MORE: Wylfa 'near top' of potential sites for new nuclear reactor 

For example, these major infrastructural projects will also deliver employment opportunities, producing jobs in a range of industries, providing a boost for the local economy and then the entire UK economy.  

These bonuses will support some of the poorest regions, helping rejuvenate coastal areas, bringing life once again to bygone hospitality and leisure. Moreover, pioneering tidal range will help cement Wale's position in the history books as a leader in green renewable energy.  

I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that tidal deserves a top position in the future of Welsh renewable energy and the sooner this happens, the better. Water is nature's battery, sitting on the edge of our little island, waiting to be utilised. Let us stop ignoring the obvious and make a move while we still can. 

Stuart Murphy is the founder and inventor of TPGen24 which aims to produce a reliable power supply from tidal power.

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