Entrepreneur, Mark Shorrock, says scheme could power 107,000 homes and generate 250MW of renewable energy
The Swansea Bay lagoon scheme will be the first of its kind in the UK.
A project to power 107,000 homes using a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay is seeking £10m of funding from the public.
The first of its kind in the UK, the scheme intends to generate up to 250MW of renewable power by harnessing the tides to drive enormous turbines, enough to meet Swansea's annual domestic electricity needs.
Tidal Lagoon, a company backed by entrepreneur Mark Shorrock, who previously developed windfarms in Scotland and solar arrays in Cornwall and Spain, wants to start construction in Swansea in 2017.
Shorrock said tidal lagoons could eventually provide 10% of the UK's energy, and the company has already carried out initial investigations into a second project in Cardiff Bay.
Nearly seven miles of breakwaters need to be built to create a lagoon which will capture water at high tide. Once the sea begins to flow the other way, release gates will funnel water through turbines set in the lagoon wall.
Tidal Lagoon is offering small-scale investors a 55% stake in the company to fund it through the planning stage. About 10,000 shares worth £800 each will be issued, with the offer expected to close by 7 June.
Half of those shares will be offered under the government's enterprise investment scheme, which offers tax relief to those buying shares in smaller, higher-risk companies.
"We are keen to attract investment from ordinary individual shareholders who like the idea of shifting the energy mix to a low-carbon, benign format," Shorrock said.
He is confident of securing major funding from pension funds and the government's green investment bank once Tidal Power has secured planning permission in Swansea. But he says: "Where we struggle to get government, pension funds or energy investors is this stage. It is the good people of the UK that will really help the project take wing. Everyday people are more ballsy and happy to take risks on something they believe in."
The technology is not new – a 240MW system has been in operation in La Rance, France, for nearly 50 years and a 254MW project was recently launched at Sihwa lake in Korea – but similar projects planned in the UK have been delayed because of the relatively high costs of building the lagoons.
Such tidal projects have also been lumped in with the unpopular Severn Barrage plan, which has yet to get off the ground partly owing to worries over the environmental impact of blocking a major estuary.
Shorrock insists the Swansea project is environmentally friendly because it does not stop the sea flowing in and out, and does not harm seabirds. Friends of the Earth supports the technology, saying it could produce "clean and effortless energy".
Shorrock has used profits from previous enterprises, as well as investment from unnamed wealthy individuals, to fund three years of development on the tidal lagoon including environmental surveys, local consultation and design.
The Swansea project must now put together a set of detailed designs before seeking approval from the government, which oversees significant infrastructure developments. Shorrock claims the project has local backing and will create up to 4,500 jobs, including those related to building the breakwater and the turbines, as well as managing it as a tourist attraction and leisure facility in the future.