Harnessing the benefits of tidal power generation

The coast around our island nation experiences some of the highest tides in the world. A large number of areas on the western coast also have a shallow sloping seabed, ideal for the development of tidal lagoon infrastructure.

Ioan Jenkins explains how the supply chain for new tidal power generation projects represents a huge opportunity for UK manufacturers.

Tidal Power - Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon is the pathfinder project for UK and international tidal lagoons at full-scale – shown here is an artist’s impression of the lagoon wall
Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon is the pathfinder project for UK and international tidal lagoons at full-scale – shown here is an artist’s impression of the lagoon wall.

Construction work on the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, the pathfinder project for UK and international tidal lagoons at full-scale is expected to start in 2018.

Awarded planning permission in June 2015, the project marks the beginning of an exciting new British industry that will harness Great Britain’s natural resource to address our energy problems.

What’s more, a positive domestic roll-out strategy can act as a springboard for UK industry in a number of promising new markets overseas.

Infrastructure investment

Tidal lagoons are multi-billion-pound infrastructure investments. Capital expenditure is typically split four ways: 36% turbines and generators including sluices, electrical equipment and other power generation costs; 38% turbine housings – including sluice housings and other civil engineering costs; 18% marine works, including seawall; and 8% other design and services.

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There is an immediate opportunity for the UK’s engineering, construction, steel and manufacturing industries to win contracts for Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon totaling more than £800m.

We have always been very clear that our ambition is to ensure that a total of 65% of capital spend for the pathfinder project is on UK content, with half of project spend staying within Wales itself.

The large quantity of turbines and generators designed specifically for use in tidal lagoon projects is at the centre of our vision to connect Welsh tides with Manufacturing Britain.

The manufacture and assembly of components for the turbines and generators fall into five broad categories: fabricated metals, machining, steel casting, forging, and electrical and power electronics.

Cut away view of a turbine installation in the planned Swansea Bay tidal lagoon
Cut away view of a turbine installation in the planned Swansea Bay tidal lagoon

Again, approximately 65% of the capital expenditure on turbines and generators for the pathfinder project at Swansea Bay will be on UK content, with UK manufacturers large and small in line to win restorative supply contracts.

Swansea Bay manufacturing

The turbines will be manufactured by Andritz Hydro from a majority of British components. Machining and pre-assembly of the turbines will take place at the Turbine Manufacturing Plant, a new purpose-built facility in the Swansea Bay City Region.

The 100m-long Turbine Manufacturing & Pre-Assembly Plant will be located between the Kings and Queens Dock at Swansea Bay. The facility will receive major turbine components from manufacturers across Wales and wider Britain, with all machining and preassembly of the sixteen 7.2m-runner-diameter turbines required by the pathfinder tidal lagoon taking place on site.

The facility, future-proofed for exponential market growth, will initially employ up to 100 skilled workers, with an additional 150 project workers accommodated in an onsite office welfare area.

Furthermore, heavy fabrication of steel components will take place at a new purpose-built facility, also in the Swansea Bay City Region. Final full assembly of the turbines will take place on site in the turbine housing itself.

By scaling the 7.2m-runner-diameter tidal lagoon turbine design prepared for the Swansea Bay pathfinder project, we can foresee the tidal lagoon industry standardizing production around an eight-metre-runner diameter turbine available at two power ratings.

Further supply chain opportunities

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The new sector could be worth more than £70bn to UK industry.

The turbines’ control systems and generators, which connect to the turbines and generate renewable electricity, will be manufactured in Rugby by GE Power Conversion, also from a majority of British-made parts.

GE’s Stafford facility will provide HV switchgear and control/protection systems. Another key opportunity for UK manufacturers is the turbine and sluice housings. 100% of capital expenditure in this area at Swansea Bay will be on UK content.

The opportunity is huge. This new sector could be worth more than  £70bn to UK industry and it all starts here in Swansea Bay. Working on the pathfinder project, there are significant opportunities for manufacturers to become part of this exciting new industry that will create much-needed jobs and investment opportunities.

We want tidal lagoons to employ British engineering, giving us competitive edge in a global market. That’s why we have spent the last five years working with the supply chain to write Welsh and British industry into the DNA of this new global market from the very outset.

Join the supply chain

Those interested in supply chain opportunities should register at: www.tidallagoonpower.com/projects/swansea-bay/register/

Further tender details are also available at: www.sell2wales.gov.wales

Project timeline:


  • Project scoping and feasibility studies
  • Design development, plus early consultation with public and private stakeholders


  • Continued engineering and design work
  • ‘Options consultation’ – informal consultation with public and private stakeholders, looking at various scheme options
  • Environmental Impact Assessment Scoping Report submitted to the Planning Inspectorate and Environmental Impact Assessment begins


  • ‘Preferred option consultation’ – statutory consultation on the preferred scheme with all public and private stakeholders (under the Planning Act 2008).


  • Application for Development Consent Order submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for determination by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and application for a Marine Licence submitted to Natural Resources Wales for determination on behalf of the Welsh Government.
  • Prudential named as cornerstone investor


  • Development Consent Order granted in June
  • InfraRed Capital Partners named as second equity investor
  • General Electric and Andritz Hydro appointed as Turbine Preferred Bidders
  • Macquarie Capital named as the Mandated Debt Financial Advisor
  • Laing O’Rourke appointed as Turbine Housing Preferred Bidder
  • Alun Griffiths Ltd appointed as Ancillary Works Preferred Bidder


  • Completion of independent Hendry Review into tidal lagoons


  • Construction expected to start on site.

Ioan Jenkins, Development Director, Tidal Lagoon Power plc.
Ioan Jenkins.

Ioan Jenkins
Development Director, Tidal Lagoon Power plc, which hopes to deliver a fleet of tidal lagoon power plants that will provide an estimated 25,000MW of new electricity generation capacity.

This is approximately 12% of the UK’s annual electricity demand for more than a century. Further opportunity may exist elsewhere in UK waters.