Environmental Protection

Tidal Power Study Taps Black & Veatch

Parsons Brinckerhoff, with the help of Black & Veatch, will lead a consortium to perform a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and related engineering studies for tidal power generation in the Severn Estuary in the United Kingdom.

The two-year study for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform is a major part of the Severn Tidal Power Feasibility Study announced by Secretary of State John Hutton in January.

The tidal energy resource in the Severn Estuary provides the largest potential of all the UK's estuaries for renewable electricity generation. Previous studies indicate that as much as 5 percent of the UK's electricity demand could be met by harnessing the huge tidal range of the estuary.

Matthew Nott, managing director for Black & Veatch's UK Government & Industry business, explained, "As with any sustainable renewable energy project, it is vital to balance the benefits of achieving reduced carbon emissions against the potential environmental impacts of the project itself. This will be a major aspect of the SEA and will include an early review of potential environmental mitigation measures. We will be working closely throughout with all interested parties including key stakeholders and the public."

The consortium is led by Project Director Peter Kydd, director of Planning & Environment at Parsons Brinckerhoff, with Nott serving as deputy project director. The firms are supported by a number of specialist organizations with expertise in environmental science, stakeholder engagement, and cost consultancy.

The study will call for new evidence and review available evidence to assess the impacts, costs, and benefits of options for power generation using tidal range technologies, such as barrages and lagoons, to enable the UK government to determine whether it could support such a plan.

"One of our first actions will be to issue a Call for Proposals and a Call for Evidence on the environmental and other impacts of any tidal range scheme in the Severn Estuary," Kydd said. "We will also be assisting BERR in setting up a Steering Group and Expert Panels to provide independent advice and act as a peer review."

The Severn Estuary is an environmentally protected area currently being proposed for Special Area for Conservation (SAC) designation in recognition of the European importance of its ecology. The vast inter-tidal area of more than 77 square miles provides food for more than 50,000 waterfowl on major migration routes. The shifting sediments and muddy water severely limit the growth of small waterborne plants, but other parts of the estuary are very rich. Beneath the surface, billions of shrimp and millions of fish live on worms and other tiny creatures. The Severn and its 10 sub-estuaries represent 7 percent of the UK's total estuary resource.

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