Technology Table

1. Author’s Briefing Note (Dec 2015)

2. ICE Wales Briefing Note (Mar 2008Wales_Flooding_Report_Briefing_Sheet.pdf
This first item is key to understanding the whole entry. Inferences from the two Thought Experiments are applied to the La Rance two-way experience to expose the fallacies involved in averaging the efficiency of alternately orientated bulb turbines. Arguments for optimum effectiveness centre upon the need for efficient dynamic control of energy storage to continue also during its release, thus going beyond other (in themselves reasonable) explanations in the Atkins/Rolls-Royce SETS report itself. They are essential to kill the myth that ‘mature technology’ necessarily means practically sustainable effectiveness. The term ‘leaky reverse generation’ is offered to help explain easily overlooked but inevitable consequences, in terms of the impaired overall performance and environmental impacts of makeshift adaptations to one-way solutions.

Item 2 is a briefing note by ICE Wales advocating corollary new approaches to providing infrastructure for flood defence in Wales. On the second page it recommends a government-backed ‘tidal energy storage and release’ pilot scheme – the term used by the present author in his ‘Resurgam Project’ paper (Item 7). This term was chosen for the briefing note in liaison with Cardiff University’s Professor Roger Falconer, who led its assembly. Considering the large public subsidy involved, the fact that the ‘pilot scheme opportunity’ is now focused on South Wales does not remove the obligation it to be used to develop plant suitable for deployment in North Wales and other at-risk coastal areas.
3. Review of Atkins/Rolls-Royce ‘SETS’ paper (Nov 2015)

4. Atkins/Rolls-Royce ‘SETS’ paper (2011)

5. Joule Report Summary (2009)

6. BURROWS report (2009)

7. ‘Resurgam Project’ report ( basis for presentation at BHA conference in Sept 2008, starting SETS studies)

8. Author’s Review of La Rance & DTi/STPG proposals (represents desktop work behind ‘Resurgam Project’)

9. André: classic paper on two-way operating experience at La Rance; IEET Journal, 1979
This group of reports starts (Item 3) with the author’s recent 16-page review of excerpts from the 2011 Atkins/Rolls-Royce SETS paper. It is followed by the SETS paper itself (Item 4) and four others related to it directly or indirectly. In reading Item 3, the reader may do well to start with the summary and recommendations on p.16, and work backwards. This may help make sense of pp.1-7, which are technical. The parallel between bulb turbines in tidal range schemes and piston engines in passenger aircraft (pp.9-10) may be helpful, bearing in mind UK indifference during the 1930’s to Frank Whittle’s invention. Items 7 & 8 form the basis of the email exchanges with Iain Roberts, Atkins’ project leader, shown on p.10 of Item 3.

Items 5 & 6 preceded publication of the Atkins/R-R report in 2011 - since when, prolonged and/or repeated mixed-cause flooding of such areas as the Somerset Levels and Carlisle have added urgency to the need for a joined-up approach between TCE, DECC, Defra, DBIS, and devolved governments and regions. In addition policy adjustment to open up the ‘tidal range’ agenda to benefit overseas countries may be helpful. Other forms of marine energy do not have ancillary benefits on the same scale of utility value as flood protection.

Item 9 has the diagram used by the present author in Item 1, but is an important paper to look through in its entirety. Note that the bulb turbines for La Rance were adapted from one-way river turbines.
10. Severn Barrage Definition Study (STPG, 2002)

11. STPG response to White Paper on tidal power (2006)

12. Ullman: schematic maps of two single lagoons and colour impression of a 3-cell lagoon (2000)

12a. Impression of a 3-cell lagoon (Peter Ullman’s Tidal Electric Co, 2000)

13. DTI Lagoon Study (2006)

14. Friends of the Earth Severn Estuary Lagoon Study

15. MAREC Conference Paper (Evans et al, July 2004)
Items 10-15 belong to the period leading up to the SETS studies. The STPG’s 2002 Severn Barrage Definition Study (Item 10) made no real changes to the 1989 DoE study (qv. Items 7 & 8). Nor did Item 11 in 2006.

Likewise the initial idea from Peter Ullman’s company Tidal Electric for lagoons off the Welsh coast (Items 12 & 12a) had also made no proposal to increase installed capacity. The initially expressed view was that as two-way generation had been tried and tested at La Rance, exactly the same non-dimensionally expressed capacity should be transposed to the lower extant tidal ranges at Swansea Bay and off N Wales. The DTI’s response to Ullman’s first, 5 sq km, detached version of a Swansea Bay lagoon (Item 13) was led by Clive Baker, who (in line with the STPG school of thought) insisted on one-way generation for the same installed capacity, saying with other changes this would triple costs and reducing overall output by around 30%.

Meanwhile both the FoE multi-lagoon study for the Severn (Item 14) and a preliminary study off N Wales that the author helped to instigate (Item 15) had kept faith with the idea of two-way generation – not least since it gave the best prospect of avoiding the environmental impacts of ebb generation. Item 15 was based on a 4th year student’s thesis and led by Jim Poole, then Professor in Sustainable Development at Cardiff.
16. Levelised cost study for Tidal Lagoon Power at Swansea Bay (March 2013)

17. The Crown Estate’s leasing round statement

18. The Crown Estate’s addendum to the Engineering Technology Institute study

19. Email communication from Black & Veatch officer
Paradoxically, assumptions behind Item 16 are like those in Items 11-15 despite a many-fold increase in installed capacity. This is because they are based on an idealised ‘text-book picture’ of two-way generation, without any shift in mean basin water level, as was the inevitable practical outcome at La Rance. Meanwhile forward and reverse generation efficiencies are crudely averaged. But Items 1-3 point out the flaw in assuming that alternating bulb turbines’ orientation obviates shunting effects and the environmental impact of unevenly high discharge velocities. Without clarifying such knock-on effects, the Joule work (Item 5, 6) had already shown that parallel rises in output from a 3x increase in Installed Capacity are unrealistic on such a basis. If it is true that for the chosen area of 11.6 sq km, TLP’s Installed Capacity provision has increased further beyond the 320 MW cited here, it seems possible that in effect two complete one-way turbine arrays are now being contemplated for most tides. Taken to its logical conclusion this approach means doubling channel width unnecessarily, which as a way to herald the future is dubious except as a reductio ad absurdum. Installing marine current turbines in the wake of reverse-mounted turbines to try to moderate their discharge velocity is an alternative idea understood to have been mooted. But this idea is also absurd: even in the one direction such MCT’s could operate, backing-up effects would further raise the inefficiency of the very same reverse-mounted bulb turbines they’d supposedly be compensating for.

There is no clear evidence, either in The Crown Estate’s 2013 addendum to the ETI study (Item 18) or in the email from a Black & Veatch officer (Item 19), of any understanding of the potentially big difference between ‘mature’ and ‘fit-for-purpose’ technology. However, in an Appendix, Item 18 does map out all parts of the UK coast potentially suitable for tidal range schemes. The P-P talk cited by Mr Fraser mentions a perceived risk of ‘over-extracting’ tidal power but gives no information on the criteria used to judge this.
20. Morgan Horne Review Paper by author (April 2014)

21. Summary of Morgan Horne Studies (1987-93)

22. Morgan Horne Addendum

23. Colin Horne's Patent

24. Email ref Morgan Horne work
Item 20 is a review of Items 21-23, performed two years ago in response to communication with Dr Hugh Hunt and his Cambridge colleague Professor David Mackay, then the government’s chief scientist for DECC (Item 24). Permission to publish them has been conditionally accorded by Pell Frischmann, the successor company. In terms of review, there seems little point in adding to Item 20. The existence of the Morgan Horne studies is of as much interest as their suppression over the years. As already mentioned, The Crown Estate’s take on the ETI study (Item 18) has a map review of suitable non-estuarial tidal range sites around all UK coasts, and copies the Morgan Horne studies by using for them the term ‘Open Coast’.

25. Article in ‘Hydropower & Dams’ by Lempérière and Paul, 2007

26. Prof. David Mackay’s web-book synopsis

27. Prof. David Mackay’s twin lagoon concept

28. Letter from Mark Bostock, Arup’s business planning guru, Dec 2000

29. Functional Issues Appraisal for pilot project, 2012

30. Resurgam Project’ business magazine article, 2012

31. ‘Rotary Hydraulic Pressure Machine’ (2008 paper on pressure cross-flow type design with 80% efficiency)

32. Cross-flow turbine (presentation about vertical axis, Russian ‘orthogonal’ design)

33. Letter from Vladlen Lunex, CEO of MARTEX invest Ltd
Item 25 suggests two main avenues for tidal range, the second of which is close to that suggested by the present author. The idea of high-capacity arrays effective at both pumping and generating is at the core of this. But the French article, though sound on mathematics, has no suggestions for a practical format. The author ensured that François Lempérière (an octogenarian who was a junior surveyor during La Rance’s construction) was invited to present at the MAREN2 workshop in Brest in October 2014. In retrospect it is significant that, by never mentioning use of conventional bulb turbines, M Lempérière left a gap conceding (or at least strongly implying) that a better approach was not just necessary but essential.

Likewise Prof. David Mackay’s book (‘Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air’), by largely skirting the subject of tidal power, arguably implies a conceptual gap to be filled before anything could be said not risking more hot air. Mackay’s twin-lagoon idea (Item 27) is identical to M Lempérière’s other main idea. It is hard to see where such a scheme could be built at scale to conform either with UK coastal processes, or the idea of an Integrated Development Concept of the sort advised by Mark Bostock (Item 28). At base, any pioneering IDC approach simply must be both innovative and collaborative. Moreover, both requirements begin with the technology itself in terms of controlling its own functionally caused environmental impacts.

Items 29 & 30 were recent attempts to prepare the way for an IDC for the North Wales region. In the author’s view nothing less will eventually fit the bill, and given political leadership other regions will almost certainly wish to follow on close behind. Building Information Modelling is a way of formalising an IDC.

Meanwhile Items 31-33 show cross-flow type turbine designs that are, or might be made, suitable for ‘tidal range’ deployment. The bulkiness involved makes this unlikely in the UK, except perhaps at the tidal mill scale. But the designs’ affinity with the breast-shot waterwheel is well explained in Item 31, putting reverse generation with bulb turbines into realistic context as a solution that falls short of best modern standards in hydraulic efficiency and effectiveness. Putting such different levels of functionality to work side-by-side in the same project can be seen as a three-legged race in which, however much effort goes into practice to raise performance levels in relative terms, ultimately the basic proposition remains absurd.
34.New Scientist article about strategies to limit sea level rise, 17 Oct 2015

35. Abstract and biography for New Energy Forum 2016 conference, June/July 2016

36. Email exchange with co-ordinator of NEF-2016 event

37. Review of Ron Adler’s book ‘The Wide Lens; a new strategy for innovation’
Items 34-36 are there to help set a wider framework of reference on ‘Environmental Impact’ following the Paris Agreement. If, as seems to be the consensus, sea levels are already set to rise by 2.5m over the next century or two even if mankind ‘pulls out all the stops’ as regards mitigation, then it is surely time for Britain Plc to use the tidal energy opportunity outlined in Item 35 to set an example. Excuse about funding are ridiculous in face of the known fact that every pound spent on properly thought-out flood protection work generates several more in economic benefit. Work done jointly by Conwy CBC and the Welsh Government at Colwyn Bay (see Item 29) is up-to-date testimony to this longstanding observation. The trick to get regions onto the game board is therefore to ensure that government departments themselves co-operate to expedite the technology, devolving implementation so it can then make sense both to the public and to investors. This approach is key to understanding Boris Johnson’s Thames Airport, which few realise includes ideas for an ‘active’ tidal barrier. The habit of the British system to stop such joined-up thinking, despite policies that pay lip service to Integrated Coastal Zone Management, amazes planners from other countries. But as devolution takes hold, such ice-like rigidity over ideas, process and planning must thaw.

Warm receipt (Item 36) of the S Korean conference submission (Item 35), based on selected material in this entry, is encouraging. Patience is needed since the readying of market ecosystems takes time (Item 37). But the UK public signposting process also requires greater honesty. Excuses about ‘mature technology’ risk branding Britain as a confirmed Cargo Culture Island worshipping, and only able to recognise, ideas from a bygone century that drift in and out again on the tide once every 10-20 years. Such self-reinforcing passivity insults our native intelligence, as does the fact that the main ETI study has never been published. Who gave a small group of academics and consultants the right (see PowerPoint presentation accessible from Item 19) to decide in secret what ‘over-extraction’ of tidal power means while also turning a blind eye as to how to extract it efficiently and effectively? King Canute was at least brave and honest enough to put his tidal experiment under the full gaze of public scrutiny. Assuming mankind now accepts the tides as being partly within its power, after the 2015 Paris Agreement such openness should quickly become the accepted standard within and between coastal nations and regions struggling to cope with adaptation, yet also able to contribute significantly to mitigation.

To make any sense at all for the British Isles, modular rolling programmes on the multigigawatt scale will be needed to protect vital infrastructure along significant lengths of vulnerable yet reasonably shallow coast with suitable tides (Items 3, 7, 8, 20, 26, 29, 30). To allow the fullest sense to be made of investment in such schemes, they must also go hand in hand with other hitherto neglected aspects of the low carbon transition, such as transport electrification. A major benefit of using the Building Information Modelling system to help tidal schemes find their proper place in such regional investment programmes must be by allowing and encouraging the public imagination to be fully engaged, both with the process and the technology.
38. Swansea Tidal Lagoon: Questions raised over engineering’. Article by Iolo ap Dafydd BBC Wales environment correspondent.

39. ‘Tory government must commit to lagoon plan’ News article in Western Mail 15th January 2015

40. Kragl M et al ‘Swansea Bay tidal powerplant: bidirectional bulb pump-turbine with variable speed

41.Conwy flood map

42. Rainbow Article 1
43. Rainbow Article 2

44. Morfa Rhuddlan – newspaper article showing aerial drone photographs
This section starts with news features from early 2016 highlighting the need for clarity in signposting a viable way forwards for the Swansea Bay lagoon. Firstly, a BBC Wales article (apparently not recorded elsewhere within the BBC regional news networks) correctly interpreted David Cameron’s remarks in Parliament over reduced enthusiasm for the project as reflecting background doubts of its advisory panel over ‘some of the engineering’, with knock-on difficulties in agreeing a subsidy price (Item 38). However, Item 39 reports other MP’s interpreting the same remarks as a lack of commitment from Mr Cameron, saying for example that ‘biting the bullet now with a (comparatively) high strike price will ensure that the price is lower when tidal lagoons become a reality in Cardiff, Newport, Swansea Bay and across the British Isles...’ However, several paragraphs in the same article citing the Green Party’s thoughts failed to mention the need for schemes to satisfy coastal adaptation needs as well as energy generation - this after several weeks of persistent rain, during which the UK national BBC News had reported that places as far inland as Tadcaster were anxiously looking at tidal timetables as well as rainfall, and on 28th December that ‘everywhere searching questions are being asked as to whether the threat of flooding is getting the attention it deserves’....

But arguably not at Swansea Bay - to judge by Item 40, from which the diagram bottom L of p.2 in Item 1 is copied. Kragl et al here define the ‘optimal concept’ for bulb turbines as that giving the most Annual Energy Production, and are honest enough to indicate in their last diagram that this means raising mean basin level by a metre. The Conwy Tidal Flood Risk Assessment (Item 41) dealt mainly with inundation risk. But for several areas like the main one flooded in the 1990 North Wales Coastal Flood Disaster, the likely effects on land drainage and salinisation of a comparable mean basin level rise would be seriously problematic in the context of current estimates for sea level rise (Item 34) and the area’s clay-based surface morphology (Items 42-44) - in effect accelerating some local effects of climate change by 100 years. It would be one thing if it was necessary to inflict such problems on local stakeholders already struggling to cope with the mounting inundation risk, against which an impoundment would offer otherwise welcome coastal protection. But all the indications are that this is not the case, even in the interests of optimising tidal energy extraction...

For example Item 40 suggests that even with ‘optimised’ bulb turbines, instead of net flood generation being anywhere near equal to ebb generation, over two successive cycles there is no gain over the 50% fraction of ebb-generated energy that pertained at La Rance, with similar asymmetric flow patterns and relative losses of operating head. Furthermore, during optimised CFD simulations of annual output, ‘it turned out that the pump mode became a more and more important point to use the potential of tidal energy’. Yet though a somewhat improved reverse generation hydraulic efficiency of 87% is cited, there is no mention of any parallel improvement in pumping efficiency (of order 15-40% at La Rance, as reviewed in Item 8). If pumping was effective even at such low efficiency, with ‘leaky reverse generation’ (Item 1) further undermining any benefits, why should a pilot scheme of national importance not be set up to look at the combination of high generating and pumping efficiencies? If only a CPCR format is ever likely to be able to offer this, why should government knowledge gained from SETS not be made available to make this fact clearly recognised?


47. Binnie C, Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Online summary (as accessed 13.1.16)

48. Email exchange with Prof Richard Willden (29.1.16)

49. Email to Chair of CCBC ref CCC (22.116)

50. Times Business Feature, 18.6.12
To try to rekindle market interest, an aeronautics analogy was used on p.9 of Item 3. But a more basic functional analogy is with the 2-stroke internal combustion engine. Laying compression phases of the latter alongside tidal range’s pumping periods, the current Swansea Bay plan resembles installing a 2-stroke engine with only one piston operating effectively, and the other - having failed to compress its ‘mixture’ properly - going on to leak rather than burn half of it. No-one could expect to optimise performance of a 2-stroke engine without due regard to all four phases of its cycle. Atkins/Rolls-Royce did not do their SETS work alone but used relevant expertise from two other specialist industrial design companies. The UK is a world centre for fine-tuning engine designs, as for Formula One. So is Britain’s world role in low-carbon and coastal futures somehow any less important? Why do studies (Item 45, 46) ignore SETS findings and confine modelling to a technology unable to deliver properly balanced energy extraction, publishing the resultant meagre net effects (11%) of pumping to appear as if definitive? Why does the Institution of Civil Engineers publish a report appearing to discount the Atkins/Rolls-Royce study’s ideas completely (Item 47)? Why such caution - and is this behind the ‘lack of engineering and scientific rigour’ noted by one observer (Item 48)? Since SETS, is the old ‘community of assumptions’ (Item 8, Introduction) to be allowed to creep back by default - viz. that genuinely novel solutions for two-way generation in tidal range can be discounted?

Innovation is defined in a dictionary as ‘the act of innovating’ or ‘a thing introduced as a novelty’. This entry invites recognition that such definitions apply here. Item 49 for instance is an email chain where the Climate Change Commission’s respondent claims its stance to be ‘technology agnostic’, but is then challenged as to its capacity to embrace the basic principles for objective evaluation of alternative approaches, as in the case of medical treatments. The item is included not to denigrate an individual (here clearly being as helpful as possible) but to illustrate the persistence needed to get across the need to accept the case for innovation when the novel idea appears to have been forgotten. If even the possibility of new ideas is abandoned in the face of reasonable evidence, then agnosticism risks being further degraded into cynicism – which in the ancient Greek sense means raising two fingers to science, the arts, and perhaps the idea of helping to create a bona fide market for business success. So if governments advocate partnership over climate change but isolate departments and agencies from each other over a renewable technology that in the public interest clearly needs actively collaborative inputs, also made publicly understandable, may it not be appropriate to ask the CCC as its sounding board to consider highlighting the need for a root-and-branch re-evaluation?

The Swansea Bay scheme has played a big role highlighting the marine renewable with probably the best chance of being economically scaled up soon enough to help turn climate change threats into opportunities. But this agenda may yet again flounder or abort for lack of regard to the need to pilot the generic technology essential for thorough success. Government itself holds the keys to this at a vital conceptual stage in market creation. It needs to look beyond the immediate sales talk and recognise that, as a prompt for meaningfully holistic development of a complete low carbon economy over coming decades, at stake may be the UK’s most credible contribution to the 21st C world’s essential Kondratieff ‘Sixth Wave’ (Items 7, 50).