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Tidal power firm races to site turbines off Alderney

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A TIDAL power giant has announced plans to make Alderney territorial waters part of the largest tidal power scheme in the world – a multi-billion euro development which could transform the island’s fortunes.

A graphic showing how the tidal power scheme might work. (Simec Atlantis Energy)

Simec Atlantis, who built and ran the world’s largest tidal energy plant in Scotland, has joined forces with the Region of Normandie to create a public/private venture called Normandie Hydrolienne.

At a summit in Edinburgh, they unveiled plans to extract two gigawatts of energy from French and Alderney-owned waters of the fast-flowing Race from more than 800 turbines by 2027.

If it goes according to plan, the project will generate more power than Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset.

Simec Atlantis CEO Tim Cornelius said he envisaged royalties would be paid to Alderney for every kilowatt hour sold – creating what he called ‘a strong economic engine’ for the island.

All development would be sub-sea, with no on- or offshore transformer stations and the power run along their own cables to France and probably the UK.

Residents at Longis, where the controversial Fab Link had been scheduled to come ashore and in a previous scheme by Alderney Renewable Energy, near where a converter station was due to be constructed, gave a cautious welcome to the announcement.

Mr Cornelius said the first phase of the scheme would see infrastructure built at a Cherbourg plant where the French have already spent 150 million euros to support the construction of tidal energy equipment.

There would be four demonstration turbines with a 500 MW capacity installed in the water in French territorial waters, using EU money, to provide technological information.

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The second phase, requiring 3.3 billion euros of capital investment, would see 450 turbines generating 1GW of electricity placed in the Raz Blanchard. The final phase would see 400 turbines placed in the Alderney Race, generating another 1GW of power.

A scheme of this size, said Mr Cornelius, would generate the economies of scale to generate electricity costing less than 70 euros per megawatt hour, a very competitive price which makes the scheme attractive to investors.

Mr Cornelius said ‘conversations’ had been started with people in Alderney expressing interest in developing in Alderney waters, now that the court case with Are had been settled. Public engagement meetings on the island are planned for later this year, before any formal application for development was made.

‘This joint venture now provides us with the appropriate French vehicle with which to build the project and also seek funding assistance from both the European Commission and the European Investment Bank in order to get the turbines built,’ said Mr Cornelius.

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‘Getting the economies of scale built up through European funding is the best way to activate large-scale development in Alderney waters.

‘It’s [Alderney] blessed with a bunch of natural resource and it needs to partner with someone in order to be able to harness that and be able to bring some benefit to the island.’

‘The absolute correct model, of course, hasn’t begun to be discussed but I would anticipate that it should be a royalty-based system where for every kilowatt hour of energy sold there is a royalty payable back to the island and therefore it has a consistent source of revenue.’

He wanted people in Alderney to be clear they would not require the Fab Link and the entire development would be sub-sea.

The company is seeking to secure previously granted concessions to develop in the Raz Blanchard and much work lies ahead to acquire consents from the French and Alderney governments.

They plan to apply for funding assistance for the first phase by March next year and carry out site characterisation work in Alderney next year. In November, contractors will visit the island to start grass-roots community consultation sessions.

Nigel Dupont, who lives at Longis and was a vocal critic of aspects of the Are and Fab Link proposals, said he liked what he had heard so far. ‘There are no plans for a converter station or a cable coming ashore, which is a good thing. I’m not against tidal power but without a doubt, anything that is brought forward has to have the support of the community. I hope lessons are learned from the last time a proposal was made.’

At the last States of Alderney Policy and Finance meeting, a tidal energy sub-group was set up to examine ‘institutional options’ for moving forward with tidal energy.

‘The SoA await with interest to hear more about any plans that Atlantis and the regional administrations of Normandy and La Manche might have,’ said Tidal Energy sub-group member James Dent.

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