The Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project has been granted planning permission by the UK government, a major milestone on the way towards construction of the world’s first tidal power plant.
Before the work can go ahead, developers of the £1bn project will have to agree with the UK government on how much they will receive in subsidies, as well as clearing some environmental hurdles.
“Thank you to all the experts who contributed work to the 5,000 pages of planning application,” Tidal Lagoon Power, the company behind the scheme said in a statement. “Thank you to the UK and Welsh authorities for their robust and professional consideration of our proposals. Thank you to the tidal lagoon team that has worked tirelessly to get us here.”
Once completed, the power plant will stretch six kilometres across Swansea Bay, forming a seawall fitted with 16 underwater turbines harnessing the power of the tides.
The developers estimate the scheme could provide electricity for 155,000 homes for 120 years.
"We need more clean and homegrown sources of energy,” said Wales Office minister Lord Bourne, after the approval be the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was announced.
"Low carbon projects like the tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay could bring investment, support local jobs and help contribute to the Welsh economy."
The Swansea tidal lagoon is planned as the first in a series of up to six similar schemes across Wales and England. The scheme’s proponents will now have to prove the construction won’t harm fish populations in the region before a marine license can be granted.
Independent reports have estimated the project may need help from the taxpayer of around £168 per megawatt hour. Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay chief executive Mark Shorrock is confident things are moving in the right direction. "Wales led the way providing fuel for the industrial revolution," he said.
"We are now entering the era of the climate change revolution - decarbonising our world in time to avoid two degrees of global warming - and Wales can lead the way with this next revolution.
"We see it as a game changer, a social blueprint that paves the way for a fleet of lagoons that can work in harmony with nature."
Friends of the Earth Cymru director Gareth Chubb said tidal power could help break the UK's reliance on fossil fuels.
He said: "There are still environmental hurdles to clear, but provided these can be managed and mitigated, tidal lagoons could make a significant contribution. Instead of relying on climate-wrecking fossil fuels, it could help us build a clean and safe energy future."
Officials have further suggested that the lagoon would also boost the city's tourism and provide more jobs.