U.K.’s $39 Billion Severn Tidal Power Seeks Sovereign Investors

The developers of a 25 billion-pound ($39 billion) plan to generate power from tides in the Severn Estuary are seeking investment from sovereign wealth funds, two years after the U.K. government rejected a previous proposal.

Hafren Power Ltd., based in London, has attracted interest from around the world to finance the installation of about 1,000 turbines in the waters at the mouth of Britain’s longest river, Richard Bazley, a company director, said today by phone.

An earlier blueprint was axed in 2010 because of the cost to the public finances. The government said in May last year that the Severn was open for private tidal projects as Britain chases a goal to get 15 percent of its energy from renewables by 2020. The latest proposal could supply about 5 percent of the nation’s electricity.

“The funding will have a very international element,” Bazley said. “It’s likely to be a group of sovereign funds and very large funds. There’s a major stake available to a funder,” of about 20 to 25 percent, he said.

Hafren’s plans involve installing 1,064 “low-head” turbines each with a 9-meter (30 foot) diameter at the site between Lavernock Point on the South Wales coast and Brean in Somerset. The power station element of the project will cost about 25 billion pounds. The facility would extend about 18 kilometers (11 miles) and generate electricity on both “ebb and flood” tides as the sea rises and falls, which distinguishes it from the initial plans and helps lessen the environmental impact, according to Bazley.

Inter-Tidal Habitat

“They’re two-way — it wasn’t two-way before — which means we mitigate the loss of inter-tidal habitat for the bird population and the fish can get through more easily.”

The project would generate about 16.4 terrawatt-hours of electricity a year, or the equivalent of three nuclear power stations, Bazley said.

Hafren, formerly called Corlan Hafren Ltd., met with Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss the plan July 30. The meeting, confirmed in London today by Cameron’s spokesman Steve Field, was “positive”, Bazley said.

“He obviously needs us to answer a number of questions but I think he found our proposition interesting and we’re taking it forward.” The company will meet with ministers including U.K. Energy Secretary Ed Davey, and other officials to discuss the plan, which may require a so-called hybrid bill, a piece of legislation, to get planning approval, he said.

The Severn runs 220 miles from central Wales to the sea between Wales and southwest England.

Copyright 2012 Bloomberg

Lead image: Waves via Shutterstock

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