Menter Môn (the company responsible for the Morlais Project) is a social enterprise which works across north Wales to deliver a range of regeneration, environmental and cultural projects for the benefit of local communities. They have leased 35Km2 of seabed from the Crown and have self-styled this as the “Morlais Demonstration Zone”. Although originally slated as a Tidal Stream Demonstration Project where the public where originally told that there would be no visual impact to seascape and/or landscape, the “Morlais Project” has escalated to a full offshore marine and onshore infrastructure project where global developers of tidal energy machinery can deploy their tidal devices on a commercial scale.
In 2019 Menter Môn submitted a Marine License Application ORML1938 (for offshore development) for installation and commercialisation of multiple arrays of tidal energy devices (potentially up to 620 devices with up to 120 above the surface) which could be as close as 500m from the shoreline. The devices will be tethered with huge metal cables/chains to concrete mattresses located on the seabed. Menter Môn have also submitted a Transport Work Order Application TWA/3234121 (a compulsory purchase order for onshore development) to installation infrastructure to route 180MW of electricity through nine landfall export cable via a newly built grid connection substation at South Stack. The cables to the substation will route potentially route up SSSI protected cliff edges (if the HDD option is no feasible) and under the roads (2 years of contra-flow traffic delays) from Holyhead, via Poth Dafarch and join the national grid at the current Orthios Site (old Anglesey aluminium plant).
The public, small business and large organisations have raised objections and representations to the planning inspectorate and the marine licensing department organisations, with one large organisation questioning the relevance of tidal stream energy due to the fact that other low carbon renewable energy sources are already highly developed, efficient and in situ. There is evidence that other similar tidal stream energy projects have already been discontinued due to the high costs and low efficiency of tidal stream devices. Indeed, with the cost of generating energy from offshore wind turbines falling rapidly coupled with the UK Government heavily investing in wind turbines (only a small number of wind turbines would currently be needed to generate the maximum 240MW generating capacity of Morlais) then wouldn’t it be a better use of money to increase the size of existing wind farms where the infrastructure and environmental damage has already been established and managed? The above in mind, one could be forgiven for questioning the ongoing energy relevance of the Morlais Project relative to the environmental damage to the ‘off and onshore’ ecosystems in the vicinity and the complete loss of an area of outstanding natural beauty and heritage. There very probably is a place for tidal stream energy but it has to be the right place.