Sheffield firms hoping to be at birth of £71bn tidal power industry

Gareth Barker, of Sheffield Forgemasters with Charles Hendry. Picture: Andrew Roe
Gareth Barker, of Sheffield Forgemasters with Charles Hendry. Picture: Andrew Roe
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Sheffield manufacturers are in pole position at the “birth of a new industry” - worth an estimated £71bn.

Forgemasters hosted a summit to discover how tidal power stations could be built around the UK.

Molten steel at Forgemasters

Molten steel at Forgemasters

It was attended by 14 firms including locals DavyMarkham and Tata Steel and was chaired by former energy minister Charles Hendry, tasked by Government to investigate the potential.

There are no tidal power stations in the UK, but it could have a big future as a limitless source of renewable energy supplying a sizeable chunk of the nation’s energy needs.

But for it to have any impact the projects will have to be huge.

Swansea Bay is set to have the country’s first - a company called Tidal Lagoon Power has planning permission for a 10-mile sea wall housing 16 turbines that would generate power four times a day as the tide rises and falls.

A giant sea wall creating a lagoon for tidal power

A giant sea wall creating a lagoon for tidal power

The £1bn power station is set to supply electricity to more than 155,000 homes, or 90 per cent of the Swansea Bay area. Across the country, bays have been identified which would dwarf Swansea for electricity, materials, turbines and the amount of water enclosed. Cardiff and Colwyn bays would have more than 100 turbines in their sea walls and there are potential sites at Minehead, Cumbria and Liverpool.

The opportunity for Forgemasters is absolutely massive. It wants to supply giant 20ft turbines - which look like a ship’s propeller - runners and shafts, while heavy engineering company DavyMarkham could machine and assemble parts at its vast workshop in Darnall, Sheffield, and on site.

Earlier this week Tidal Lagoon Power published a report claiming the global market was worth £71bn including £17bn for turbines and generators, £24bn for turbine housings, and £30bn in exports. It also says there will be more than £500m invested in UK industrial facilities.

But it’s early days.

Charles Hendry said: “Sheffield has been the birthplace of industries in the past, there is no reason why it can’t be again.

“Forgemasters has a very strong willingness to invest and bring in new and innovative machines to make the turbines. Their enthusiasm has been very striking, this is a chance for a very significant UK industry and an important new opportunity for the company.

“We know tidal power is sustainable, we know there are significant opportunities in the supply chain and in construction and development.

“I’ve come to Forgemasters to find out what role tidal power stations could play and the best way of getting them financed and delivered by UK manufacturers.

“Swansea has got planning but it hasn’t yet reached financial closure. But it is small compared to some of the lagoons on the scale of Cardiff Bay which would be on the scale of a nuclear power station.

“They would only generate power four times a day, but it is completely predictable, unlike solar and wind, and able to deliver electricity to the network, as and when needed.”

He would also look at how to ensure steel and turbines were supplied from the UK, he added.

Forgemasters could create 100 jobs if it won the order to supply 16 turbines blades to the Swansea tidal lagoon power station.

The first five planned lagoons - if they came to fruition - would be worth £40bn and create 50,000 jobs nationally, according to Gareth Barker, a director at Forgemasters. There would be environmental concerns, especially around bays silting up, but Charles Hendry said it was likely there would be “compensatory measures” in any plans. And it need not all be bad news, enclosed bays could create ideal conditions for oyster farming.