The group behind Fleetwood’s ambitious £300m -plus tidal energy scheme has been given a massive boost by the Government - and it is believed the scheme can also help revive the port itself.
Plans are being drawn up to revive traffic coming into Fleetwood through designating it as an “eco port” - a facility whose pioneering design would help vessels use less fuel coming in and out of the docks.
The creation of the barrage itself would also help reduce the effects of silting, one of the problems facing the docks in recent decades, and make dredging easier and less costly.
These ambitious proposals are being looked at just as support for tidal energy schemes have been endorsed by the Government this week.
The Government-commissioned Hendry review has concluded that tidal energy is cost effective and would make a “strong contribution” to the UK’s energy supply.
One focus was on a £1.3bn tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay but the men from Natural Energy Wyre (NEW) have said the report equally applies to their scheme and its cheaper cost puts it in the lead position to start.
Managing director Bob Long said: “We are delighted by the Hendry report and the depth of skills and investigation it has obviously benefited from. Swansea may be the leading example supported by the report but the Wyre scheme is very close behind it.
“It might produce twice the power of our scheme but at six times the cost.
“It would deliver 520 gigawatt hours per year at a build cost of £1.85bn, but ours delivers 290 giga watt hours a year at a cost of just £340m. The difference is important as it would be tax payers’ money.
“I believe we are giving the Government every incentive to look at the Wyre as the trail blazer in this type of technology. Ours could be the first of its kind opening up the benefits in terms of affordability, operating costs and general understanding.”
Fleetwood’s port activities have taken a down turn over the years - the fishing industry collapsed after the final Cod War in the late 1970s, and in 2010 freight firm Stena pulled out of the town - another major blow.
But there are hopes that some forms of shipping activity can return.
Capt Dave Eccles, who runs the business consultancy Heron Marine in Fleetwood, has extensive knowledge of the docks through his time spent as a staff member at Fleetwood Nautical Campus and as a veteran RNLI volunteer.
Capt Eccles, who is collaborating with NEW, said of the eco port proposals: “We are investigating how ships would actually use the lock itself as the berth, to load and discharge cargo from the lock and stay afloat in it at any state of time.
“These investigations show a reduction of over 50% in the dredging costs. This along with auto moorings and dedicated tug support make the new “port “a very attractive proposition.
“The port itself, although very small, is going to be based around an eco-port to benefit from the renewable energy generated by the barrage. The benefits of an eco-port in our estuary could prove to be extremely attractive to shipping firms. Even at this very early stage, discussions I have had with the major shipping operators have proved very positive and all of them have asked to be kept updated with respect to further developments.”
Mr Eccles and Mr Long have spoken with dock owner Associated British Ports abouts the plans and further talks are expected.
Mr Long added that the local area would also benefit if the barrage went ahead from additional flood protection, jobs locally and a general lift to the local economy.
The Wyre scheme would have a lifespan of 120 years, using the twice daily tides to power turbines under water – enough tor 500,000 homes.
Former UK energy minister Charles Hendry investigating tidal energy for nearly a year for his independent inquiry, including visiting potential sites and discussions with industry.
He said: “I believe that the evidence is clear that tidal lagoons can play a cost effective role in the UK’s energy mix and there is considerable value in a small (less than 500 MW) pathfinder project.”
Making 30 recommendations, he concluded that the technology of barrages and lagoons was essentially the same and made and would “contribute positively” towards the UK’s decarbonisation goals.”