The first major step has been taken towards building a 70km2 tidal lagoon in the Severn Estaury.
Energy firm Tidal Lagoon Power last week submitted a 400-page environmental impact assessment scoping report to the Planning Inspectorate for the Tidal Lagoon Cardiff scheme.
The company said it hoped to submit a full planning application for the 90-turbine project in 2017. Its confidence to press ahead with the huge scheme comes from work on the smaller Swansea Bay lagoon over the past few years - as well as lessons learnt from previous proposals for a Severn Barrage.
The Inspectorate will make a recommendation to the energy secretary on the Swansea Bay project by June.
Tidal Lagoon Power secured all the equity it requires for this scheme last month.
After Cardiff, it hopes to develop four more full-scale lagoons in Newport, Colwyn Bay, Bridgwater Bay and West Cumbria.
“Work on the Cardiff application can begin because of the work we’ve done on Swansea Bay, and also the previous work that’s gone into other proposed tidal power schemes in the Severn,” a Tidal Lagoon Power spokesman told NCE.
“The feedback on the last proposal for a Severn Barrage was that the sector needed an incremental approach.
“As well as being a fantastic power scheme in its own right, the Swansea Bay scheme served all manner of purposes for the wider fleet. It answered a lot of technical and environmental questions that have been posed.
“We’ve spent four and a half years going through the planning process and talking to the turbine world, developing the technology and techniques for this and subsequent projects.”
Investment management fund InfaRed Capital Partners last month pledged to match the investment promised by insurance giant Prudential into the Swansea Bay Scheme - thought to be in the region of £100M.
Along with other smaller pledges, the project now has about £220M of equity, with the remaining £780M expected to be raised on the debt market.
Some investors who contacted Tidal Lagoon Power about Swansea are now interested in Cardiff, the firm said.
“We’ve seen a huge appetite from institutional investors,” said the spokesperson. “Tidal lagoons are the type of long lived investment they can match their pension liabilities against. It is the first time the renewable energy sector has offered such a project.
“We are in talks with some companies who were interested in investing in Swansea Bay about opportunities on Cardiff and subsequent schemes. This is one of a number of reasons we now have confidence to press on with Cardiff.”
The energy firm is confident that it will get the go ahead for Swansea Bay in the next few months.
“No major red flags were raised with us during the process and we have strong cross-party support,” said the spokesman.
Atkins will provide design and engineering support to the Swansea scheme, with Costain lined up to coordinate and manage delivery.
Although no formal procurement is underway for Cardiff, NCE understands the firms are in a good position for this and future lagoon schemes.
“In the long-term, we will have a fleet of lagoons generating at different times so generation is happening 24 hours a day,” said the spokesperson. “That was one of the factors in choosing sites for future projects. The fleet will then back itself up, meaning you won’t need any fossil fuel back-up.”
The aim is to secure a contract for difference for the first 35 years of electricity generated by the Cardiff scheme.
“After this, no subsidy will be needed and the lagoons will be generating power at a fraction of the market rate for around 85 years,” said the spokesman. “At scale, this in itself can drag down the market rate.”