Tidal power at Swansea, Wales

The New York Times recently ran an article about the city of Swansea, Wales, which has been in economic depression for years and is looking to a proposal for tidal power as a way to recover. You can find the article here:
“For a Welsh City, the Tides Offer Renewal” (The New York Times, November 18, 2016)

Noting that the article did not mention the possible environmental havoc of tidal-power projects, or give more context for tidal power as a form of “green energy”, we wrote a letter to the editor.  SAVE began studying and publicizing the controversy over tidal power in Korea several years ago, and you can find more information about it at this page (link).

We don’t know whether the Times will publish our letter, but we figured we would share it here.  (They limit letters to 175 words.)

To the Editor:

   We understand that Swansea residents might fear they’ll never get a better offer than this tidal-power project (“For a Welsh City, the Tides Offer Renewal”, Nov 18), but we hope they ask tough questions about its full economic, social, and environmental effects before they sign on. Although tidal energy doesn’t emit carbon and may give a short-term economic boost, it has drawbacks. Almost all suitable locations are ecologically critical, and walling one off would fundamentally change its ecosystem, shifting the natural tidal pattern to a prolonged high and a fast drain through turbines. Various proposals to harness the tides in the Severn Estuary near Cardiff have been raised and ruled out amid controversy. In 2011, we helped South Korean citizens debunk the green claims of two proposed tidal-power projects—the world’s largest—that would have put fishermen out of work and disturbed a Natural Heritage Site and Wetland Protection Area, including key habitat for the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill and many other migratory birds. Swansea’s situation is unique, but it deserves the same scrutiny.

Derek Schubert (President, SAVE International) and Yekang Ko, Ph.D. (Korea Campaign Director, SAVE International; Assistant Professor, University of Oregon)

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