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Model aids closer inspection of impact of Severn Tidal Power Project

07 May 2008

Under embargo until: 10.00am, Friday 9 May 2008

The first physical model of the Severn Estuary to be built in Wales, which will be used to more accurately study the impact of the proposed options in the Severn Tidal Power project, including a Barrage and other forms of tidal renewable energy in the estuary, is being unveiled today (Friday 9 May) at Cardiff University by Jane Davidson, Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing.

Located in the Hyder Hydraulics Laboratory at the Cardiff School of Engineering, the physical model of the estuary stretches from west of Carmarthen Bay (near Tenby) to Gloucester, covering a large reach of the Severn River. The model has been designed and built by a team of researchers from the Hydro-environmental Research Centre, led by Professor Roger Falconer.

The model is the first of its kind to be capable of investigating the full impact of different options for a barrage and lagoons in the Severn estuary and has been funded by the Welsh Assembly Government’s Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO).

One option for a Severn Barrage would stretch from Lavernock Point to Brean Down (Cardiff to Western Barrage) and is estimated to cost around £15 billion. The massive structure could potentially harness the tidal energy of the Severn estuary and, within 14 years, could generate about 5% of the UK’s supply of electricity.

Designed to resemble as closely as possible all the unique characteristics of the estuary, the model will enable the team of researchers to produce improved computer simulations of flooding patterns, inter-tidal habitat area changes, sediment transport and bed changes, such as erosion and deposition. They will also be able to model changes in beach morphology and general water quality characteristics, such as light intensity in the water column, nutrients and faecal bacteria levels, with and without the proposed Barrage.

Built in collaboration with a project with Swansea University, the model is located in a 6m x 4m tidal basin. It features a computer controlled oscillating weir, which is used to generate tides of varying amplitude and period. It has a removable model barrage that allows the conditions prior to, and after, the construction of the barrage to be simulated, and also allows for the impact of other tidal energy devices, including tidal lagoon and tidal stream turbines, to be examined.

Jane Davidson, the Welsh Assembly Government’s Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing, said: "The Estuary is famous for having the second highest tidal range in the world. An ability to model this will be of international importance and will further enhance the reputation for excellence of Cardiff University and its School of Engineering.

"The Welsh Assembly and UK Governments are currently undertaking a feasibility study on the effect that different options for a barrage and lagoons would have - for example on flooding risk and siltation. I look forward to hearing of progress made by Professor Falconer, and researchers from other universities, in using the physical and computer models to increase understanding of these hydro-environmental impacts."

Professor Roger Falconer, Halcrow Professor of Water Management, and Director of the Hydro-environmental Research Centre at the School of Engineering in Cardiff University said: "A number of studies relating to the potential impact of a barrage have been carried out since the proposal was first mooted. However, this physical model, which is close in design to the actual basin, will enable us for the first time to look in-depth and over the long term at the potential impact of a barrage or other tidal-range development on the surrounding aquatic environments and habitats."

"Combine this facility with the computer models already in place at the Centre, and we should be able to identify problems and establish appropriate solutions over time."

Professor Roger Falconer is the lead technical speaker at the Royal Academy of Engineering’s briefing on the Severn Barrage to be held in London on 22 May.


Notes to Editors:

1. Cardiff School of Engineering

Engineering has been taught at Cardiff since 1893. Today, the School of Engineering is regarded as one of the top centres for engineering with teaching and research facilities ranked amongst the best in the British university system following a £35million refurbishment in recent years. Staff members are active in most fields of engineering research. These are split into three main groups: civil engineering; electrical, electronic and systems engineering; and mechanical engineering. Its research has earned the highest ratings in government assessments. Research expertise within civil engineering includes: Materials and Structures - high performance and nano-structured materials; reuse of materials; and efficient computational models for structural integrity assessment; Geoenvironmental engineering - nuclear waste disposal and risk assessment of contaminated soils; land regeneration and reducing material needs for embankments; Hydro-environmental engineering - impact of climate change on flooding; environmental impact of marine renewable energy devices; bio-geochemical cycling of nutrients; carbon and metals; and improved hydro-morphological process predictions for EU WFD compliance. In addition, the School hosts a number of officially designated specialist research centres.

2. Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities. It is also ranked as one of the world’s top 100 universities by the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES).

2008 marks the 125th anniversary of Cardiff University having been founded by Royal Charter in 1883. Today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning.

Cardiff is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s leading research universities.

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Further Information:

For more information, please contact:

Professor Roger Falconer

School of Engineering

Cardiff University

Tel: (0)29 2087 4280

Mobile: 07775 640 468


Lowri Jones

Public Relations & Communications

Cardiff University

Tel: 029 20870995