You may be familiar with our concerns about a new development just off the coast of Anglesey. The West Anglesey Tidal Demonstration Zone ‘Morlais’ is a new marine renewable energy project. Sadly, the scale of this project is a big threat to the local wildlife.

What is the proposal?

The project wants to use marine turbines that harness tidal currents to produce ‘tidal stream’ energy. If fully developed it could result in up to 620 devices being placed under water - just off the coast from the famous RSPB South Stack reserve. This would mean a development which will dominate over 35 square kilometres of the sea.

 Why is this area so important?

RSPB South Stack and the surrounding coastline offers a spectacle like no other. The area is home to iconic seabirds like puffins, along with over 10,000 guillemots, and 1,300 razorbills who come here to raise their chicks each summer. Bottlenose dolphins and porpoises are often spotted in the sea below the cliffs too. More than 180,000 people flock to the area to witness this spectacle, bringing important tourism to the Isle of Anglesey.

The technology that would be used for this project is brand new. Its impacts on marine life are therefore untested and incredibly hard to predict. Estimates show a range of effects are possible. One estimate given by Menter Mon (which is not the worst case) is that around 60% of the guillemots and 98% of the razorbills at RSPB South Stack could be lost through collision with the turbines. That’s potentially 795 birds per year.  

We are extremely concerned about the size of the development being proposed and its significant impact on the bird population. Our view is that Morlais gambles the future of South Stack’s wildlife and the tourism that depends on it. We are concerned that the applications submitted by the developers to date show that they have not put the right measures in place to manage this high level of risk.

For this reason, we are reiterating our concerns previously raised through the Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) to the Marine Licence application that is currently open for consultation. The Marine Licence application is a separate process to the TWAO application.

What do we want to see?

We are calling for a Phased Development with the necessary safeguards and controls in place to ensure that the proposal doesn’t roll the dice on South Stack’s wildlife or threaten the local tourism economy that depends on it. This means limiting the number of turbines to a level that can be demonstrated as safe for nature and allowing time to do more research on the effects of this new technology to improve scientific understanding.

The planet faces a nature and climate emergency. Healthy seas are one of our buffers against the impacts of climate change. Renewable energy is a crucial part of tackling climate change, but developments must be sited and planned in ways that avoid further damaging our seas. As we come out of lockdown, we want to come back to a world in which people and nature are allowed to recover. 

 What are the latest campaign updates?

There is currently an opportunity for you to share your concerns and opinions regarding Morlais through a new public consultation on the Marine Licence application. A Marine Licence is required to operate within the marine environment. The Marine Licence application is with Natural Resources Wales as they are the determining authority. The current consultation is being run from the 17 March until  28 April 2021. To submit your responses, click this link.

A formal Public Inquiry in relation to the TWAO application took place from December and is currently with the Planning Inspectorate for consideration following Closing submissions.