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Tidal barrages

November 2019: Designs for a mooted tidal energy barrage on the Mersey Estuary include social and economic opportunities beyond energy generation. However, concerns about high initial capital costs and adverse impacts on local wildlife habitats remain and challenge the project’s realisation.


A recent study proposes new designs for a tidal energy barrage on the Mersey Estuary. The ‘organic architecture’ design takes inspiration from marine life and follows the shape of a whale to capture one of the largest tidal ranges in the UK. The concept seeks to expand benefits of tidal schemes beyond energy generation and includes transport links, cycle paths, and buildings and platforms for recreation in the centre of the river. To arrive at the proposal, the authors apply a novel decision-making framework for tidal schemes that includes energy generation, land use, habitat, flood risk, transport, fisheries, cultural heritage, water supply, tourism and job creation.

Implications & Opportunities

Holistically designed tidal barrage schemes could provide more widespread social and economic benefits for hydropower regions and include protection against flooding from future sea-level rises. Such schemes could provide transport links for commuters, become tourism destinations, and boost people's health and wellbeing with additional options for cycling and walking These benefits notwithstanding, concerns about high initial capital costs and impact on the habitat of existing wildlife represent challenges. Similar to hydropower dams, tidal barrages could negatively impact local environments and raise concerns over biodiversity loss; hence, planners may require the creation of compensatory habitats for wildlife elsewhere.


Tidal barrage schemes remain at planning stage and have not yet been realised in the UK. In light of this, the research does not draw from comparative data but uses projections and theoretical considerations to design a new scheme which limits the degree it benefits from experience elsewhere. Retrospective assessment of future projects will be needed to add greater certainty to the prediction of the impacts associated with such projects.


Petley, S., Starr, D., Parish, L., Underwood, Z., & Aggidis, G. A. (2019). Opportunities for tidal range projects beyond energy generation: Using Mersey barrage as a case study. Frontiers of Architectural Research. doi:10.1016/j.foar.2019.08.002

Liverpool Echo. (2019). Plans Show how one Day it Could be Possible to Walk or Cycle Across the River Mersey. Retrieved from

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Adele Wiliams

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The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.