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Menter Môn Morlais project working on achieving its full potential

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Morlais, a Menter Môn project, has the potential to become one of the largest tidal stream energy sites in the world with a generating capacity of up to 240MW of electricity.

EnergyNews.biz has spoke to Gerallt Llewelyn Jones, director of Morlais, about the project potential, its benefits and the impacts of the current situation in the world with Covid-19 on the project.

Morlais project, run by Menter Môn, has a large tidal energy potential. Can you introduce the project to our readers and tell us more about its potential?

Morlais is a tidal stream energy project run by not for profit social enterprise Menter Môn. Morlais aims to develop the Crown Estate’s designated ‘West Anglesey Demonstration Zone’ located off the west coast of Holy Island, north Wales. The project has the potential to make Anglesey a world leader in terms of clean, renewable electricity generation, it’s also an opportunity to ensure Anglesey can play a part in meeting future energy needs and tackling climate change. 

We secured a 45-year lease from the Crown Estate for the ‘Demonstration Zone’ in 2014. The Zone is one of several around the United Kingdom. Anglesey was selected for its strong tidal resource, grid connection and proximity to the port at Holyhead.

Subject to achieving consent, we will develop the necessary infrastructure to enable tidal stream devices to be deployed on a commercial scale in the zone, as well as providing a route to the distribution network. The scheme has the potential to scale-up over time to a generating capacity of 240MW of electricity.

Several tidal energy developers have joined the project so far, with most recent being Sabella, HydroQuest and Magallanes. How will the developers benefit from their involvement in the project and are there opportunities for more developers to join?

We set out with several developers on board in 2015 – but the nature of the industry is such that they do come and go.

We now have a total of nine developers who have agreed to work with us, as well as the three new partners. They include, Verdant Isles, Orbital Marine Power, Aquantis, Nova Innovations, Instream Energy Solutions and Big Moon Power.

The benefit is twofold – Menter Môn, via its Morlais project de-risks some of the developers’ liabilities by consenting them as well as providing the necessary infrastructure – ordinarily these would be major costs for these companies.

The door is not closed to new developers, however, they would need to comply with the consenting envelope that has been submitted and understand the timeline and priority given to current developers in terms of making Morlais a reality.

Morlais project consists of several stages; can you explain them to our readers?

There are broadly three stages of the development of Morlais. They are:

1. Consent and Development 2015-21;

2. Infrastructure build 2021-23;

3. First deployment in 2024.

In what way will the Morlais project impact the economy of the local communities?

Menter Môn are committed to ensuring that the community will benefit from the Morlais project and we believe that it represents a sustainable source of revenue we can reinvest in local initiatives. Securing local benefit is a key consideration for the project and is the very reason we were keen to secure the Crowns Estate lease for the demonstration zone.

Other community and wider benefits include developing local supply chains; attracting new investment to Anglesey as well as securing a renewable and reliable energy source of electricity.

We are currently undertaking additional socio-economic research which will highlight further the benefits.

At scale, for example 100MW, we expect inward investment leverage of around £100 million, 80 direct jobs and significant supply chain opportunities. In terms of engineering and marine service industries, Anglesey is well served and we have the necessary skills here thanks to partnership working over the years between the local authority, industry and further education.

Current COVID-19 pandemic has impacted a lot of projects resulting in their postponement or cancellation, has Morlais felt the impact of the virus?

Not as yet – we are in the consent process and thus far have continued to progress our work remotely and making the most of technology to ensure our work is ongoing. We have not seen a noticeable slowing down so far and are working hard to avoid this as there are key milestones in our timeline which are fixed.

For the end can you give us an update about your plans for the future?

Our main aim currently is to bring our four workstreams to fruition. These will determine the extent and speed of ensuring Morlais becomes a reality.

Currently we hope to achieve consent for the project by the second quarter of 2021.

In terms of capital – we continue to steer our funders so that consent and funding are secured in parallel with each other. EU funding and the North Wales Growth Deal continue to be our primary sources, however, we do have equity at hand and we are working to secure future funding sources.

Revenue support – We are contributing to the revenue support work being progressed by the Marine Energy Council as well as working closely with Marine Energy Wales.

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