Plans emerge for the world's first electricity-generating tidal lagoon—and it will cost a hefty $1.5 billion

Plans emerge for the world's first electricity-generating tidal lagoon—and it will cost a hefty $1.5 billion

(Courtesy Juice Architects)
(Courtesy FaulknerBrowns Architects)

UK developer Tidal Lagoon Power has lodged a proposal to create the world’s first electricity-generating tidal lagoon. Demanding a budget of over $1.5 billion, the Swansea Tidal Lagoon is slated to generate clean, renewable energy for 155,000 homes for up to 120 years.

(Courtesy Tidal Lagoon Power)

A tidal lagoon is a harbor-type structure that corrals a tidal sea area, and incorporates low-head bulb hydro turbines mounted within a concrete housing. Tidal movement over the turbines’ blades generates electricity—specifically, when gravity creates a difference between water levels on the inside and outside of the lagoon wall.

Swansea Tidal Lagoon, master planned by LDA Design, has a nautical leisure aspect at its heart. The facility will include an oyster hatchery and restaurant and a water sport center, designed by FaulknerBrowns Architects, complemented with sports facilities, changing rooms and boat storage. Inspired by traditional fishing warehouses and boathouses, the 43,000-square-foot building will be constructed in conjunction with an eco-focused offshore visitor center, whose design takes after an oyster.

(Courtesy Juice Architects)

The structure resembles a series of shells, with an internal area made from a range of overlapping forms that envelope interconnecting spaces which include an exhibition space, lecture theater, a café, and educational facilities. Designs for the visitor center were led by Juice Architects, working jointly with Evolve, LDA Design, Atkins Global and Costain.

“Understandably much of the talk surrounding the Swansea Tidal Lagoon has centred around the energy-generating environmental issues. However, the most sustainable projects have both social as well as environmental benefits,” FaulknerBrowns partner Michael Hall told CLAD.

(Courtesy Juice Architects) Diagram of how a tidal lagoon works by harnessing the force of gravity (Courtesy Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay)

“The same lagoon walls that will deliver a controlled predictable release of energy will also provide a safe sheltered environment for watersports including sailing and wind/kitesurfing. The scale of the enclosure has the added benefit of being an excellent spectator amphitheatre for sailing events,” Hall added.

Located on Swansea Bay, the lagoon will benefit from the world’s second-highest tidal ranges of the Severn Estuary as a bountiful renewable energy source. The UK has made a legally-binding commitment to divert 15 percent of its energy use to renewable resources by 2020. Current figures stand at just five percent. If the Swansea Tidal Lagoon project is approved before the end of this year, it could be ready for operation by Q3/Q4 2018 and help the UK meet its goal.