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Barrage insights

12 January 2009

The UK Minister for Energy and Climate Change Mike O’Brien at the School of EngineeringThe UK Minister for Energy and Climate Change Mike O’Brien at the School of Engineering

The School of Engineering has recently been welcoming a number of political visitors keen to learn more about the controversial Severn Barrage and other proposed Severn Tidal Power projects.

December saw individual visits from the UK Minister for Energy and Climate Change Mike O’Brien, and Peter Hain, MP for Neath. Last week the School hosted a visit from Rosemary Butler, AM for Newport West.

Touring the Hyder Hydraulics Laboratory with Professor Roger Falconer, Halcrow Professor of Water Management, they had the opportunity to view the School’s unique 1:25,000 scale model of the Severn Estuary. This model, the first of its kind, allows Professor Falconer and his team at the Hydro-Environmental Research Centre to simulate the effects of different tidal power projects.

Mike O’Brien had been visiting South Wales as part of a study into the feasibility of proposed Severn Tidal Power projects. He said: "It is important we learn about the challenges of building a tidal power project in the Severn Estuary to generate electricity. I have been impressed by the enthusiasm of the staff here at the School who are clearly passionate about the potential the estuary could play in increasing the amount of renewable energy the UK generates".

Rosemary Butler AM viewing the Severn Estuary Model with Professor Roger FalconerRosemary Butler AM viewing the Severn Estuary Model with Professor Roger Falconer

Rosemary Butler, who was keen to get an authoritative update on the Severn Barrage in which she has a long standing constituency interest, said: "I was very impressed by Professor Roger Falconer’s presentation and by the various models which he showed me. I came away reassured that a Severn Barrage, rather than adding to the flooding risks in the estuary, would actually reduce them. I was also convinced by his argument that Newport’s environmental and economic climate would improve dramatically if a barrage was built.

"I also told Professor Falconer and Professor Hywel Thomas, Head of the School, that I would draw the attention of the Welsh Assembly Government to the outstanding work being done generally by the Cardiff School of Engineering with the hope that this is recognised in any future funding decisions."

It is not just politicians who are attracted to the School. Professor Falconer was interviewed in the Hydraulics Laboratory by prominent environmentalist Jonathon Porritt for a 2008 BBC Week In, Week Out special investigating both sides of the Severn Barrage debate.

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