Winds of Change – An incomplete list of Irish Marine Life

In planning a post of our marine biodiversity, I had been envisioning a grid-like image representing all of our marine life so I was delighted to come across something called the The Sheldon Spectrum which suggests that the total mass of a marine population stays the same even as the individual size changes. So, even though a whale is trillions of trillions of times larger than a bacterium, its population size is smaller by the same order of magnitude, so the numbers even out. A grid image is the perfect way to represent this. To get more philosophical, one could wonder if the ordering of the squirmy, floating swimming, multicoloured, multilegged, finned, tentacly mass of sea life means there is some sort of intelligence at work…

With Ireland’s marine territory ten times the size of its land area, the waters surrounding Ireland are highly productive and provide a habitat for hundreds of species of invertebrates and fish including 35 species of sharks, 24 species of whales and dolphins, 192 species of echinodermata (starfish and sea urchins), 625 types of seaweed, 78 species of sea squirts, nearly 400 of ray-finned bony fish, 1,700 species of crustacean as well as hundred’s of species of sponges, anenomes and jellies. Oddly we only have 24 species of seabird but I suspect one of those species covers about a million different types of gulls.

The small amount of reading of environmental surveys for windfarm developments I have done so far seems to suggest they focus on only a few species – one survey seemed to only account for two – the harbour porpoise and the grey seal – with most other species, larger ones anyway, disregarded because they are ‘migrants’. This would see the imposition of another sort of system, one that excludes rather than includes, that reduces sea life affected by ignoring the organic interconnectedness suggested by our picture grid and favouring an artificial seperation of species from their environment. However I may be unfair in this early judgement and need to read on. I will report in the new year. In the mean time, I have listed the names of some of the creatures who are part of the vast biodiversity of our shore below in no particular order. Most have been chosen for their descriptive or entertaining names..

…bell-shaped medusae, sprat, mackerel, cod, corkwing wrasse, blue shark, grey seal, common seal, fin whale, humpback whale, harbour porpoise, blue ray limpet, cuttlefish, brown crab, bottle nose dolphin, starfish, sea urchin, jewel anemone, ragworm, strawberry anemone, barnacle, kelp, bladderwrack, limpet, whelk, cockle, leafscale gulper shark, mussel, periwinkle, dilisk, herring gull, shag, cormorant, black backed gull, jackdaw, chough, kestrel, peregrine falcon, clun tunicate, stonechat, gannet, common gull, common stingray, undulate ray, common skate, heron, oystercatcher, noctiluca scintillans, daisy anemone, deadman’s fingers, spurdog, basking shark, sea lettuce, seven armed seastar, conger eel, sunfish, red boring sponge, yellow tit sponge, crumb-of-bread sponge, feather star, sea cucumber, Emiliania huxleyi, serpent’s table brittle star, oyster, scallop, left-handed hermit crab, puffin, broken-backed shrimp, Chinese mitten crab, spider crab, green sea turtle, sand hopper, lesser cylinder anemone, sand flea, pistol shrimp, bamboo worm, common lobster, soldier crab, gutweed, European green crab, one-spotted water louse, blood red mysid, goose neck barnacle, light-bulb sea squirt, kittiwake, smooth sunstar, sea potato, barrel jelly fish, Portuguese man of war, by-the-wind sailor, zig zag coral, sea grape, moon jelly, compass jellyfish, montagu’s stellate barnacle, pea urchin, Atlantic hagfish, European river lamprey, otter, spiny dogfish, ghost catshark, thresher shark, porbeagle,  thorny skate, small-eyed ray, common dolphin, striped dolphin, large eyed rabbit fish, guillemot, great northern diver, stormy petrel, narrow nose chimaera, firework anemone, European sea sturgeon, ailis shad, pilchard, European anchovy, muddy arrow tooth eel, small mouth spiny eel,  tench, gudgeon, stone loach, Murray’s smooth-head, hawksbill sea turtle, barrel-eye, sea trout, arctic char, Irish pollan, sparkle anglemouth, constellationfish, Irish moss, threelight dragonfish, blackfin waryfish, sharpchin barracudina, john dory, Norway pout, poor cod, blue ling, hollow snout grenadier, Bean’s bigscale, orange roughy, pudgy cusk eel, Spanish shawl, Jeffrey’s goby, worm pipefish, bullet tuna, bluefin tuna, largehead hairtail, silver scabbardfish, plaice, sole, flounder, turbot, brill, Norwegian topknot, thicklip grey mullet, thin-lipped grey mullet, montagus’s blenny, wreckfish, blackbelly rosefish, tub gunard, white eelpout, black seasnail, monkfish, boarfish, risso’s dolphin, minke whale, sei whale, leathery sea squirt, tigger pod…I could go on…

Images are a mix of my own photos and drawings along with images downloaded from the internet, mostly Wikipedia, but some from Birdwatch Ireland, National Geographic, and others. For attribution, please use the contact form on this blog. I will be back next year with a post on how the impact on marine life is surveyed. Have a good December all.

Winds of Change: The Enemy Within

Crabs in a bucket…

Its been a hard week globally, nationally and (most importantly!) personally and, against the backdrop of my increasing understanding of the impact of wind power, I have reassessed my plan of posting my research journey. While a few people have found my posts useful and shared them (thank you!) and some more have been indifferent, or silent anyway, the most vigorous commenters – not many to be fair – are if not negative then pointlessly argumentative. The hard bit is that it has not come from those who hate (are frightened by) wild spaces or wildlife but from the conservation or environmental side.

The most disturbing was an Irish conservation group on Twitter, a group I had admired in one of my previous digital incarnations. In the only comment I got on any of my posts there, and quite out of the blue, they lectured me for the term ‘floating windfarm’* on a post’s featured image. When I engaged with them they accused me of spreading lies, refused to provide alternative terminology, would not tell me where their writing on wind energy is (if there is any) and implied I was at fault because I was researching windfarms long after they had. And this was only after they had looked at a picture on the blog from a post that had nothing to do with floating turbines. Jesus wept.

Then they read the post. Their response was…

Yeh, we read your “blog” 🙄’.

Including the quotes and the eye roll. Then they blocked me. No one’s getting conservation confused with conversation in that group then…

*They don’t like the term floating because its ‘lies!’ and all turbines are bad and we are not allowed talk or learn about them. Or something.

Even mild rebukes from “environmentally-friendly” (goddamn now I’m using “quotes” )people are not informative but vague and general “you will hardly see the turbines, the sea life will be fine, we have no choice” or – as with the Twitter Twats – nit-picking. Those arseholes are just the more shouty edge of a large wedge – most people just don’t want to know. While I am starting to appreciate the enormity of the changes about to be wrought and the desire to look away from it all, I find this drive to shut down conversation unsettling.

Am I giving up? No, but I don’t believe any more posts right now will do anything except disturb the comfortable and I just don’t have the time to deal with other people’s crap. Considering my deeply embedded misanthropy, I have done well to get this far. Time for a regroup. There’s enough information in the previous posts for the interested to think about so after next Saturday’s post – a list of our marine life – I will take a break to do some reading about environmental impacts and how they are measured and, in the new year, if I think a post on that will be useful, I’ll do one then.


For the last thoughts on what wind farms consist of, below is some information about onshore substations which connect wind farms to the national grid. Some questions might be – How many will there be in Waterford and Cork? Will one service all proposed wind farms? How big an area will a substation take up? Do we get a say in where they are built? Who builds them?

No don’t tell me. Go and ask someone involved in such a project if you’re interested.

The wind farms proposed for Waterford currently make up 5.6 GW The diagrams below show how things are connected up.

Figure 4. Diagram showing the transmission system from wind farms to landfall point via various cables, substations and converter stations. (Source: ABB)
https://dublinarray.com/project-information/how-it-works/

Below is an example of a substation.

Moray East

…is a 950MW wind farm 22km off the Scottish Coast. The substation, around 25km inland in farmland is an 85,000sq ft new build and includes road improvement works. The developers introduced elements to help in blend into the Aberdeenshre countryside including painting buildings green and planting trees.

Moray East substation at Deer. March 2019.
Moray East substation at Deer. February 2020

Links

https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/aberdeen-aberdeenshire/1449306/camouflaged-substation-planned-for-offshore-windfarm/
https://www.morayeast.com/current-works/onshore-works
https://northsearegion.eu/northsee/e-energy/existing-offshore-linear-energy-infrastructure-and-grid-connections/
https://dublinarray.com/project-information/how-it-works/
https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-25731521
https://www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk/news/16976887.offshore-power-still-cross-farmland/

Winds of Change: Waterford v. France, French fishing protests and Shell surfing big waves in County Clare.

Today I am harking back to last Saturday’s post on the planned high voltage cable that will connect us to France. I thought it would be interesting to visually compare the developments at Waterford with one in Brittany. The two areas likely have differing geography and limitations but the French area, while maybe not as windy, seems to be a less problematic location for construction and maintenance. The French windfarm could fit into half the planned survey area off Waterford10 times over or more – 40%+ usage is predicted for our survey sites. So they tell us. There is one other 270 MW floating wind farm planned for the south coast of Brittany.

Wondering if there was a reason for the difference in what is planned for the respective coasts, I went looking for previous objections to wind farms in the Brittany area. Over a decade ago, local tourism, environmental, and monument protection groups at Mont Saint-Michel in France mounted legal bids to stop the construction of THREE wind turbines within sight of Mont Saint-Michel, but by 2011 all had failed. Their last hope was their UNESCO status. They won a legal battle in 2012 on that basis and the plan was withdrawn. In comparison, the whole of the Copper Coast is a UNESCO Global Geo Park. If even half of the wind farms go ahead here it will mean HUNDREDS of turbines, not just THREE. Food for thought.

© Punto Studio Foto AG – Fotolia.c
Mont‑Saint‑Michel bay

The St. Brieuc wind farm (marked in red on the above map) is the biggest planned for France so far. 50km west of Mont Saint-Michel, at 496 MW and with 62 turbines it is smaller than any proposed for Waterford. It is set to be operational in 2023. There have been objections to Saint Brieuc, the last of which was quashed in 2020. The fishing community in Jersey, 40km off, is now saying the Saint Brieuc wind farm is already putting pressure on them and french fishing communities have staged protests.

Early this week [May 2021] Alain Coudray, president of the Côtes-d’Armor fisheries committee, warned the government through local news media that “the fight has only just begun, on land and at sea, actions will multiply so that the State understands that it is time to go green with its heart , by taking into consideration the uses and the society which define the territory and in a desire to respect them and the environment.”

French fishing vessels around the wind turbine installation vessel Aeolus during a May 7 (2021) protest at the Saint-Brieuc offshore wind project site off the Brittany coast. Maritime Prefecture/ATLANT command-in-chief photo.

All this is to give people an idea of what we are up against. France has had over a decade’s start on us. While they won an early victory for their UNESCO site, they are now losing battles. The climate has changed – in more ways than one – and governments will be under a lot more pressure now than they were 10 years ago. Developers like Energia are feeling safe enough that they do not make it a secret that they want to build close to our coast to save money – which will presumably be passed on to the American investors that own Energia.

But wind energy is not a cure-all. Take the supergrid for instance. It is intended to offset the unpredictable nature of wind but it seems that the more of our power is made up by renewables, the more unpredictable it may become and it is possible it will lead to massive power outages, like the one in the UK in 2019. That was blamed on a lightning strike but it seems that a nascent dependency on windpower may have contributed because wind power is less effective as a “shock absorber” to shifts in supply and demand. I would think also that wind farms getting bigger and bigger adds to this risk too.

So no one really knows if this is going to work. Some will say we have no choice but to opt for wind but I can’t help thinking, yet again, that the best approach to such an unpredictable power source is community or even individually owned and operated turbines or other wind harvesters, of which there are a few different types in development. But we need some substantial changes in planning frameworks.

The Power Pod, due to be on the market soon. Image fromEcoHome https://www.ecohome.net/guides/3605/small-wind-turbines-for-homes-which-are-best/

But this juggernaut that is industrial level wind investment is gathering speed. Possibly the best we can expect here in Waterford is to get these wind farms pushed further offshore. It will take a fight but we do know it’s possible. Shell has just bought into a floating wind farm 35km off the coast of Clare (we really will be surrounded) and Clare is one of the best places in the world for big wave surfing as we know. If they can do it there, they can do it here.

Aileens off County Clare. Photo: Mickey Smith.

I still want to look at the impact of cable routes, their surveying and construction, and landfall as well as the construction of substations. And, after that, it will be a few posts on marine life and how the impact on it is measured. And finally a look at our power usage and see what we as individuals can do to reduce the need for data banks which are expected to guzzle nearly a third of Ireland’s energy by 2029. I hope that will take me up to Christmas when I’ll finish this series. If you read one other article this week, make it the one linked directly below…

Tripe and Drisheen have published a very interesting article including interviews with residents of the area where the interconnector is making landfall in Youghal and with the people of Helvick. Check it out here…

See you next Saturday (and if I find anything interesting, maybe Wednesday too).

Links

https://www.iberdrola.com/about-us/lines-business/flagship-projects/saint-brieuc-offshore-wind-farm#:~:text=Saint%2DBrieuc%3A%20Iberdrola’s%20first%20large,Saint%2DBrieuc%20Bay%2C%20France
https://www.offshorewind.biz/2021/08/02/drilling-resumes-at-saint-brieuc-offshore-wind-farm/

https://www.nationalfisherman.com/national-international/french-fishermen-mount-protests-against-offshore-wind

https://www.ft.com/content/8b738eac-c024-11e9-89e2-41e555e96722

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-49305250

https://www.thejournal.ie/electricity-energy-demand-ireland-data-centres-climate-emissions-5566004-Oct2021/#:~:text=The%20demand%20from%20data%20centres,fabric%20of%2021st%20century%20living%E2%80%9D.

https://www.ecohome.net/guides/3605/small-wind-turbines-for-homes-which-are-best/

https://www.irishtimes.com/business/energy-and-resources/shell-takes-stake-in-simply-blue-floating-wind-farm-1.4732280

Windy Wednesday: The Supergrid

From SolarFeeds.com, 2013. Link below.

NOTE: Images here are impressions of a European supergrid rather than actual plans though they do tend to plot the same routes. I suspect Brexit is the only event to have changed some of the options. I am not sure there’s a concrete plan, rather I imagine the grid will progress depending on planning opportunities

Here’s a little on what I’ve learned since last Saturday’s post on the interconnector between Ireland and France. It is real and not only that, it is part of a supergrid that was first mooted at least 20 years ago. It seems to be an accepted fact in the wind energy world because the very reason for the existence of a supergrid is to offset the unpredictability of the wind, to make it feasible. When the wind is blowing here others benefit, when it’s not, then we get our power from elsewhere. But as pointed out here, the amount and size of wind farms planned for little old Ireland as opposed to big old France, for instance, tell a different story. As a friend said to me…

“I would eat all my hats if we get anything flowing this way down the cable.”

And that’s the crux of the problem, it’s not wind energy or development per se – many of us I am sure are pragmatic enough to know we have to make sacrifices – but we just don’t have anyone to tell us what’s going on or what we have to give up. As a community we have no agency at all.

Vision of Trans European ” Supergrid ” . Source: Airtricity.  2013. From Perspectives for offshore wind energy development in the South-East Baltics, January 2013,Publisher: Klaipeda UniversityISBN: 978-9955-18-723-3

Re: wind energy, you might, like me, at this point, start to ask why billions upon billions of euros/dollars/pounds and decades of effort have been invested in wind energy – which needs a utopian electric grid to operate properly – instead of for instance the tide – which reliably comes in and out twice a day. I imagine it has something to do with lack of imagination (windmills ain’t new) and the human propensity for building big phallic objects. (The tide people are working away, by the way, but seem to be moving slowly because they are worried about chopping up animals with their underwater turbines. I like them already…)

Image: Friends of the Supergrid. Source Reuters, Aug 1, 2014. (Note turbines off Brittany and in the Bay of Biscay).

Anyhoo, this supergrid – and others like it – would connect multiple countries by high voltage cables underwater. High voltage because it’s the only way to keep the power current (as it were) and underwater because it has proved too difficult to build them on land because of borders, politics, and because pesky people don’t like them and object. The good thing about planning out in the sea is that, and I quote…

Even though it is technically new, it [the supergrid] can be done without seeking planning permission from anybody apart from the Government, a Government who has already demonstrated strong commitment to offshore wind.”

This is from a 2013 blog post from a company called Mainstream Renewable Power. I don’t think they have much to do with our projects – yet – but they have been working in Africa and Chile, both developing countries/continents and have an ISO certification for Ireland. Interesting that. Maybe we are we third-world now? Something else they didn’t tell us.

‘Looks like we’re surrounded..’From Super Node. A projection of a 2050 electrical Utopia. Link below.

But the political problems that came with an onshore grid still exist with the offshore grid: who runs it/pays for it/benefits from it/maintains it? I suspect the Green Party has a Mary Poppins/Coca Cola ad ideal of us all sharing the load. If we shoot for the moon we may end up among the stars, right? Except that the ‘stars’ most of us will end up among will be gigantic turbines while marine life may be seeing different types of stars. Real-life experience of the world in general and distrust of Irish governance in particular, suggests something disastrous this way comes.

So. The planned wind farms here on the Waterford coast are part of a huge, global project made up of many different elements. Few perhaps can see how it will all pan out, but some, the developers, for instance, have a good enough idea of what’s in progress, politically and scientifically, to take a gamble.

What we need – what we needed – is a strong government to speak for us and also tell us what’s going on. Oh for some Direct Democracy! Referenda should be obligatory for decisions on infrastructure. We should have been kept in the loop and we weren’t and now it may be too late to stop a lot of this. But it’s not too late to influence the location of these developments – as the French did at Mont St. Michel – or to ask questions…

Why build more wind farms than we need here? How can this be an optimal location with a small population and all the wind farms being ‘of necessity’ planned so close to shore? Is the offering up of our immediate coastline a cost-saving exercise to attract developers to a non-optimal site? Why are developers telling us our power won’t go to other countries when that’s been the plan all along? Why develop a plan for 100s of turbines in a UNESCO heritage area to help power communities that refused to have their UNESCO heritage areas blighted by 3 turbines (Mont St. Michel, 2012)? Why don’t the people we elected tell us what is happening here?… and any other questions you can think of for yourself.

It would be good to be told exactly what this will cost us.

The Green Party is having an information session on wind this evening, Wednesday, November 16th, 2021, at the Park Hotel in Dungarvan Co.Waterford at 7:30pm.

Next post is Saturday

Links

https://www.energyireland.ie/developing-the-super-grid/
https://www.mainstreamrp.com/insights/supergrid/
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264422192_Perspectives_for_offshore_wind_energy_development_in_the_South-East_Baltics
https://www.solarfeeds.com/mag/in-focus-the-european-supergrid/
https://supernode.energy/blog/the-politics-of-the-pan-european-supergrid/

Waterford Wind Farms to power Europe?

Did that get your attention? Yes, Eirgrid are planning a 500 metre wide 500km cable route (35km in Irish coastal waters) to France from Youghal for which they are going to pay two-thirds of the cost (after grant aid), with one-third being paid by France. It is usual for the cost, but not the profit, to be passed on to the end-user. From Eirgrid’s application…

“The proposed Celtic Interconnector, which is the subject of this Foreshore Licence Application, involves the pre-lay installation works, cable installation works, operation, and periodic maintenance of a submarine electricity interconnector between Ireland and France.”

The cable will have a life span of 40 years. Thats’s twice as long as the life span of the turbines.

The path of the planned connector plus the 7 wind farms planned for the Waterford and Cork coasts (total 5600 MW)and the two planned for the coast of Brittany (total 800MW)

This project has been underway since 2019 – planned since 2011 – with 4 or 6 public consultations taking place in east Cork where the cable makes landfall. There seem to have been no consultations with the larger community of the south or southeast, for whom the implications of this, when taken together with the other planned developments, are fairly massive. And what are the implications?

  • Well it looks like much of the wind farm development planned for our coast may be for private profit. They, the wind farms, are set to produce far more than we need and this interconnector cable will allow our (very) near shore proposed wind farms to power France and by extension, the landmass of Europe.
  • While the landfall at Youghal may have impacts on the beaches, the rivers Nore and Barrow and Blackwater, including the estuary, Capel Island and Knockadoon Head Nature Reserve, Ardmore and Ardmore Head among other areas that’s just the landfall end of the 500km cable. We know already that invasive surveying needs to take place for cable laying and this could be anywhere from 1km to 4km wide along the whole 500km route. And of course there’s the impacts of the 6 or 7 other windfarms, the survey of those areas and their 12 possible cable routes.

The French Connection will theoretically work both ways – i.e. we can get power from France too. But along the 2,700 kilometers coast of Brittany, which has a population of nearly 5 million, there are only two wind farms proposed: the Saint-Brieuc wind farm, 16km offshore, which, when it becomes operational in 2023, will have a total capacity of 496 MW, capable of powering 835,000 homes and a floating 270MW (max) wind farm planned for the south coast of Brittany. As Waterford and Cork counties have a combined population of 600,000, while the seven proposed farms have an output of 5600 MW (5.6 GW) it is likely then most of the power will be heading one way only: from Ireland to France. This is, incidentally, why we are paying the lion’s share of the cost for the cable – because we supposedly get the profits from the sale of our power. I suspect the profit won’t make it as far as the end-user even though the cost will.

Eirgrid’s proposed cable link making landfall at Youghal, is currently in planning stages. It is part of the Irish end of a 500km cable that will connect Ireland to France’s electric grid.

(Speaking of costs, wind farm costs are continuing to soar because of supply chain bottlenecks. As I currently(pun half intended) understand it, this is the result of only a few companies having invested in making components for wind energy ergo the demand is higher than supply so the price goes up. But that, along with the environmental impacts will have to wait for another post).

Re the French cable, it’s worth remembering that Energia in their public consultation less than a month ago, replied to a question about whether the power generated at Waterford would be used overseas with a definite no. I suppose they could argue that there are no plans to send energy abroad but if a 500km cable just happens to be developed, well sure they’d be mad not to use it right? But there’s two (more)things worth noting here:

  • Public consultations mean very little. Don’t expect real answers.
  • That it is likely we are looking at a project of gargantuan proportions with each element kept seperate, publicly at least, until it is too late to lodge any reasonable objections.

It may be that the turbines, being prone to shut downs – when it gets too windy, when the energy company decides to cap output, when there’s maintenance to be done – may be the things that spin least in this story.

There are links to more details below and I will be trying to make sense of this on the blog over the next while. Thanks to Tripe and Drisheen for the heads up. Give them a follow, they are independent journalists in a world where the media are owned by Big Biz.

Meanwhile the Green Party are holding a session next Wednesday in Dungarvan

For those of you in despair or who just don’t want to know about such portentous events, I will be starting a diary of our coast with illustrations next year. We might as well record it and enjoy it while we have it.

Links

Read more here from Tripe and Drisheen: https://tripeanddrisheen.substack.com/p/east-corks-celtic-interconnector?fbclid=IwAR1z21_b_faEWG1NRYzlHMW8o4voBEFkHVG5NIP7e2ODv5c4-_x7jEk_2Z4

https://renewablesnow.com/news/france-pre-selects-10-bidders-in-250-mw-floating-wind-auction-754176/

https://www.iberdrola.com/about-us/lines-business/flagship-projects/saint-brieuc-offshore-wind-farm

https://www.idom.com/en/project/saint-brieuc-496-mwe-offshore-wind-farm-on-the-coast-of-french-brittany/

The Winds of Change: What are Turbines made of?

Today we’ll look at the turbines. For the purpose of this post, I’ll divide turbines into three components: Foundation, Tower, Blades. But first here’s an image showing the overview of an offshore wind farm which I thought might be useful.

Overview of a wind farm from On the Use of Scaled Model Tests for Analysis and Design of Offshore Wind Turbines – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323118519_On_the_Use_of_Scaled_Model_Tests_for_Analysis_and_Design_of_Offshore_Wind_Turbines [accessed 5 Nov, 2021]

Foundations take up a quarter to a third of the cost of constructing a wind farm and their feasibility is the making or breaking of a project. There are several types of Foundations – Gravity bases, Suction Bucket Bases, Monopile, Tripod, and Floating (which SSE and DP energy are planning for Waterford and Cork respectively). Today I’ll cover Monopile Foundations in a little detail as they are most likely for near shore turbines in Waterford. I include a little on Jacket Foundations too as they can act as artificial reefs which is often cited as an advantage. The floating systems we will leave for another time.

Different foundations to support offshore wind turbines based on water depths. Reference same as previous image.

Monopile is a single foundation inserted into the ground or seafloor and are roughly the same diameter as the tower. They are used closest to shore and will likely be what Energia and others are considering for the Waterford Coast. Monopiles have a simple design that installs quickly. Disadvantages are that installation noise can disorient, injure or kill marine life sensitive to pressure waves and wind, wave and seismic loading can cause early fatigue damage to the structure if it is not accounted for during installation.

Jacket foundations are used for turbines further offshore and I don’t believe they are proposed for any Waterford wind farms. The larger surface area of the lattice configuration may provide an artificial reef location, providing a new habitat for local species though it also may allow invasive species to establish and spread. Installation requires pile drivers the noise of which may injure or kill some marine life. Changes to local water patterns may be detrimental to native marine ecosystems.

Towers: Turbine towers are made from tubular steel and come in sections, usually three. They are easy enough to recycle. There. That was fast.

Blades: The bigger the blades are the more energy they generate. GEs Haliade X, which is likely to be considered for Waterford, is now being fitted with blades (made in Cherbourg) over 100 metres long. Turbine blades are made from fibreglass (older blades) or carbon fibre (newer blades). This means they are light and strong but it also means they are hard to recycle. This is becoming an issue now as the first generation of wind farms reach the end of their lifespan (wind farms currently last 20-25 years before they are decommissioned). There are experiments with converting the blades into useable substances, for instance into pellets to use in concrete or as glue, but the energy required for such transformations can be an issue.

Some people are getting creative. In Denmark, bike shelters are being made from turbine blades as are a number of playgrounds in the Netherlands. However, a lot of old blades are buried in places like the turbine graveyard, by the North Platte River in Casper, Wyoming in the U.S. Between last September and this March, it became the final resting place for 1,000 fibreglass turbine blades. Here in Ireland, UCC are looking at using parts of turbines for a Greenway bridge but how many old blades a country the size of Ireland can dispose of may be an issue. Perhaps we could live in them? As a non-home owner I would certainly consider it!

I have read elsewhere that there are experiments with lighter fabric-based skin on frames but I am not sure how that is developing. I’ll look at alternatives to the traditional windmills on which the turbine is based – which having been in use for 1000s of years are not really as innovative as they are made out to be – in another post.

I think I’ll start looking at impacts on wildlife, what they are and how they are measured, next Saturday…

Other posts in the series are

The Winds of Change: Introduction to a series

Windy Wednesday: The distance to the horizon for Dummies

The Winds of Change: The Proposal(s)

Windy Wednesday: Some Windfarms

The Winds of Change: Block Island

Windy Wednesday: An Artist’s Impression in Progress

Links and References

https://www.windpowerengineering.com/comparing-offshore-wind-turbine-foundations/
https://www.designboom.com/design/denmark-repurposing-wind-turbine-blades-bike-garages-09-27-2021/
https://www.bbc.com/news/business-51325101
https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Different-foundations-to-support-offshore-wind-turbines-based-on-water-depths_fig5_323118519

Windy Wednesday: An Artist’s Impression in Progress

When I started looking into wind farms a few months ago, I wanted to visualize them. The developer’s artists impressions aren’t exactly telling us anything. So I set about making images. It turned out to be more complicated than I thought.

The first image shows the height of the turbines proposed relative to Brownstown head, 5km away in this photo. I did this by finding out the height of the towers on Brownstown (c.20metres) and stacking up towers to the height of 250 metres at their very tip. I got a turbine graphic from Blue Horizon’s page. This gives a good impression of size and I know how big a turbine 5km from me – if I am standing 60metres above sea level – will look. (See post on elevation here). I measured the turbines at 10km using the container ship. But of course, the turbines are not going to be right next to Brownstown (I think I hope) so I figured I needed to create a more realistic view before causing a mad panic.

I tried some 3D modelling software but I didn’t last long at that because even if I got more ‘professional’ measurements, I still had some problems. How many turbines will there be? How far apart? And then how do I allow for rows of turbines moving diagonally away?They will appear closer together. I can place them on the horizon relatively correctly but what about the ones closer than the horizon? Or the ones beyond the horizon but still visible?

The second images show turbines a lot further out than the 5km or 10km that Energia and ESB are proposing and a lot less than the 60-80 turbines Energia are hinting at (they are a bit vague). It is an impression of 19 turbines in 2 rows, the first row about 22km away, the second row (every second turbine) further away. 22km is the minimum distance Blue Horizon are suggesting for the windfarms. I have also made them around 200 metres high rather than the max 260 metres. There is the issue that ships on the horizon will look bigger than they are…but then again so will the turbines. There is a larger version of the main image with one row of turbines at the end of the post.

I stress that this is a work in progress but I have erred on the smaller size and dulled the colour of the turbines (usually white) which I believe will be more visible in reality. And keep in mind images are not reality. In reality, the impact is usually much stronger.

I’ll work on a 10km wind farm impression next. See you Saturday with another post…probably on what turbines are made of.

Other posts on #windfarms on this blog: The Winds of Change: Introduction to a series Windy Wednesday: The distance to the horizon for Dummies Windy Wednesday: Some Windfarms The Winds of Change: Block Island

The Winds of Change: Block Island

The story of Block Island caught my eye. Block Island off Rhode Island is a permanent home to 1000 residents. In the summer times, daily visitors number between 10 to 20,000. Electricity supply has been problematic with some using generators and their own wind turbines. An application by the community for a grant for an undersea cable to connect to the mainland grid was rejected. The proposed wind turbines, 5 Haliade 6MW turbines, seemed a no-brainer for most though there were those who objected to it. But this small, private wind farm went ahead and began commercial operation in 2016. But there have been problems. Within a couple of years, the undersea cable connecting to the mainland (as part of the wind farm project) became uncovered at the island end for it had only been buried in places at four-foot depth to save money. Warning flags appeared on some beaches for a while and the cable had to be reburied at the cost of $31million. This reburial also has also problems with blockages and sediment.

There is some controversy over who paid for this reburial with claims that the National Grid profited by $46million from customer surcharges for maintaining the cable. The National Grid denies this.

The Block Island offshore wind farm  [FROM –  cleanpower.org/resources/offshore-wind-public-participation-guide]. Taken from Green City Times.

This June, 2021 it was noticed 4 out of 5 of the turbines had ceased operation. The community on the island struggled to get any information from the operators, the Danish-based Orsted, who claimed that the turbines were down for regular maintenance which was best performed in summer. Ignoring the fact that it is the summer when the island needs the power most, this caused a lot of frustration and the turbines were down for the best part of two months. It emerged then that stress fatigue was noted on the support structures of the “helihoist” platforms on some of GE Haliade turbines in the Merkur project in the German North Sea. Stress lines were subsequently found in Block Island’s turbines but a risk assessment has deemed them safe and repairs were also undertaken.

The Haliade turbines are the same turbines being considered for some of the Copper Coast windfarms – though likely they will be of more recent versions and of higher wattage – which will have well over 100 turbines if projected output is anything to go by.

In the end, the shutting down of the turbines caused no power interruption for the island as the cable, though still being reburied, continued to connect them to the national grid. As far as I know, the turbines are operational once again.

Block Island. Image GE/Sharon Radisch. Taken from Duke Energy/Illumination.

Previous Posts

The Winds of Change: Introduction to a Series, The Winds of Change: The Proposals, Windy Wednesday: Distance to Horizon for Dummies, Windy Wednesday: Some Windfarms

Links

https://www.blockislandtimes.com/article/national-grid-returning-finish-cable-reburial/59851

https://eu.providencejournal.com/story/news/2021/08/14/block-island-offshore-wind-farm-offline-two-months-due-to-maintenance-and-safety-concerns/8122841002/

https://electrek.co/2021/08/10/egeb-us-first-offshore-wind-farm-is-currently-offline-heres-why/https://splash247.com/turbine-stress-issues-bring-merkur-offshore-wind-farm-offline/

https://www.theday.com/article/20210807/NWS05/210809578

https://www.ge.com/renewableenergy/stories/block-island-construction-process

Windy Wednesday: Some Windfarms

Below I have picked out four wind farms and listed their specifications. I have also added my own notes as to why they are of interest in the case of the wind farms planned for the Copper Coast, three of which I have listed below for comparison

Energia’s North Celtic Sea Project (5-10km offshore) proposes a 600-800MW(approx.600,000 homes) wind farm and suggests that between 40-60 turbines are the usual amount (many factors will determine that, geography, turbine type and height, distance from shore. For example the London Array at 600MW has 175 turbines).

ESB/Equinors’ Celtic Offshore Wind proposal (10km offshore) is also for 600MW (approx. 600,000 homes) and has no mention of the amount of turbines.

SSE Renewables floating wind farm The Celtic Sea Array(25km offshore) proposes an 800MW wind farm with no turbine estimate.

Beatrice

Beatrice. Irish Independent June 2020.

Beatrice Up to 2007, wind farms were only built in depths of 20 metres and less. Then came the experimental two turbine Beatrice wind farm off the east coast of Scotland (25km from shore and at a 40 metre depth). Beatrice has since been expanded closer to shore. What’s interesting to note is that Beatrice powers homes in southern Scotland via a 160km long subsea cable and underground cables to Blackhillock Substation in Northern Aberdeenshire via underground cables. This required the construction of two new converter stations, one at Blackhillock, which, at the size of 24 football pitches, is now the largest substation in the UK.

Of added interest re:the length of this cable to us on the Copper Coast is that the governments of the UK, Northern Ireland and Ireland commissioned a study about a decade ago which concluded that the development of an offshore interconnected grid would provide the UK with an increase of imports in the form of renewable generation from the Irish market and improve the interconnector capacity between both markets (Aoife Foley, Paraic Higgins, The evolution of offshore wind power in the United Kingdom, 2013). Could the power generated on the Copper Coast be used in the UK?

Distance from Shore: 13km

Area:131 square km

Water Depth: 56 metres.

Number of Turbines: 84

Turbine Height:188 metres (maximum pile depth to the highest point of the blade sweep up to 288)​

Turbine Type: Siemens Gamesa 7MW

Foundation: Jacket (with the jacket substructures up to 81m tall).

Operator: SSE on behalf of a joint venture partnership.

Electricity Generation: 400, 000 homes.

The London Array

London Array wind farm as viewed from the air in February 2019 Source:Bodgesoc

Once the biggest offshore wind farm in the world, the London Array is 20km off the Kent coast. Maintained and operated from the port of Ramsgate. Turbines are between 650 and 1200 metres apart. The blades have a swept area of one and a half times the size of Wembley Stadium’s football pitch. The turbines are designed to run for more than 20 years. That means basically that after two decades or so many wind farms will be decommissioned. Like our Metal Man and his pillars. Only eleven times taller. And more numerous.

Distance from Shore: 20km

Number of Turbines: 175

Turbine Height to tip of blade:147 metre

Turbine Type: Siemens 3.6MW

Water Depth: 25 metres

Foundation: Monopile (i.e. basically an extension of the turbine underwater)

Area: 100 square km

Operator: RWE, Orsted, Masdar & La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ)

Electricity Generation: 500, 000 homes.

Hornsea 1 Image Credit: Volodimir Zozulinskyi/Shutterstock.com

Hornsea 1

Located off the Yorkshire coast, Hornsea One spans a huge area over five times the size of the city of Hull. The offshore wind farm uses 7 MW wind turbines, with each one 190 metres tall – larger than the Humber Bridge concrete towers.

Distance from Shore: 120km

Number of Turbines: 174

Turbine Height to tip of blade:190 metre

Turbine Type: Siemens Gamesea 7MW

Water Depth: 25 – 30 metres

Foundation: Monopile

Area: 407 square km

Operator: Orsted

Electricity Generation: 1 million homes.

Dogger Bank

Dogger Bank. Image Windpower Monthly

Dogger Bank Wind Farm is an offshore wind farm that will be the largest in the world when it’s finished, knocking Hornsea 1 off the top spot. It’s worth noting as it is located between 130km and 190km from the North East coast of England. Turbines are GE’s Haliade X 13 and 14 MW, over two and a half times taller than the Statue of Liberty and are likely to be considered by some developers for the Waterford coast. Dogger Bank will be capable of powering up to 6 million homes on completion in 2026. The subsea export cables will make landfall in Yorkshire, where around 30km of underground cables will take the electricity to converter stations near Cottingham before passing through the adjacent Creyke Beck substation onto the National Grid.

Distance from Shore: 130-190km

Number of Turbines: 600 (up to 200 for each phase).

Turbine Height: 260 metres

Turbine Type: General Electric’s Haliade X 13/14MW

Water Depth: 18-63metre.

Foundation: Monopile

Area: 8660 square km

Operator: SSE Renewables/Equinor/Eni

Electricity Generation: 6 million homes

Block Island Wind Farm ©John Supancic

BONUS Farm: Block Island off Rhode Island. America’s first offshore wind farm was operational in 2016 and its operation has since been taken over by the Danish company Orsted. Though it is a pilot windfarm – 5 Haliade 6MW turbines less than 5km offshore – this ‘little’ windfarm deserves its own post because for most of this summer the turbines were shut down and the island’s residents did not know why. I’ll post about it on Saturday and move the planned post for creating an artist’s impression of turbines further along.

Other Posts: The Winds of Change: Block Island, The Winds of Change: Introduction to a Series, The Winds of Change: The Proposals, Windy Wednesday: Distance to Horizon for Dummies,

The Winds of Change: The Proposal(s)

Proposed windfarms of the Waterford and Cork coasts: Map http://www.bluehorizon.ie

The above image from Blue Horizon* is probably the simplest way to illustrate what wind farms are being proposed for the coast of Waterford and Cork. In addition to these blocks, imagine 12 x 4km strips leading to shore at various points from Cork to Ballycotton to Bonmahon to Bannow. Those are areas to be surveyed for potential cable corridors – ultimately about 1km wide – for burying cables. They are included in images below. You can stop reading now if you like but I will go in to a bit more detail on companies and cable corridors below. There is a post on calculating distances from shore here.

*Blue Horizon are a group of interested indviduals who have come together calling for all offshore wind projects to be placed at least 22km from the Waterford coast, following the approach taken across the EU. Their website is a great resource

The Companies Proposing

Energia (once Viridian) is an Independent company and ESB’s main competitor. It used to be Irish owned but in 2006 it was sold to a Bahrain based investment group Arcapita and in 2016 sold on to US private equity firm I-Squared Cap, an independent global infrastructure investment manager. Energia have just been granted a licence to carry out Site Investigation works related to the potential development of a fixed (that is with turbines built into the sea bed) wind farm with an output capacity of 600-1000MW in the Celtic Sea off County Waterford. That MW would power very roughly half a million homes. It is the biggest single area being surveyed and the one closest to the coast. They are exploring 7 options for cable corridors and landfalls. Energia have recently been saying this wind farm is to be 10km offshore but as we can see it is (or was) planned for considerably closer than the ESB/Equinor proposal which is 10km and I certainly heard of a 5km distance some time earlier in the year. Watch this space.

Potential cable corridors for Energia’s wind farm. Image take from WLRFM’s website/Blue Horizon interview.

DP Energy Ireland is a Cork-based company owned by Maureen De Pietro and Simon De Pietro. DPEI are investigating the feasibility of Inis Ealga Marine Energy Park (IEMEP). Their’s is one of the few websites with photos of their team. They seem to be particularly interested in floating rather than fixed platforms. They are exploring 3 options for cable corridors and landfalls.

Potential cable corridors for DPEI’s wind farm aka ‘Marine Park’.

ESB, sure we all know them right?The Irish Government-owned power company and Energia’s rival are working with developers Equinor – a Norwegian government-owned group – on a number of projects. In my reading so far the ESB and Energia proposals for the Waterford coast have not had any distinction made between them and it’s possible they are in competition for the same area. ESB’s Helvick Offshore Windfarm is planned for 10km off shore and will take up 140 square km. ESB/Equinor are also working on Celtic 1, a fixed wind farm planned for 8km off Ballycotton. It will take up 120 square km. Its planned to be 600MW which would power over half a million homes. After that Celtic 2 is planned which is a floating wind farm. They are also working on a project, Sea Stacks, 12km off Dublin which will be 800MW.

SSE are a Scottish registered company (they also have pictures of some of their team on their site) and they are exploring two potential cable corridors and landfalls at Bannow Bay Wexford and Bonmahon, Co.Waterford for, I assume, their proposed floating windfarm planned for 25km off shore.

I am not going to go near Shell…we’ll the Cork lads deal with that.

A note about cable corridors and surveys.

SSE Renewables from their application to survey potential cable corridors and cable landfalls.

Cables carrying power from offshore to land need to be buried in the sea bed. Above is an image from SSE’s application for permission to survey for cable corridors. The requested area to survey for the corridors is 4km wide. In actuality they say they may survey a 1km strip of sea bed and after initial surveys may possibly only survey only one corridor in detail. I imagine this framework also applies to the other ten cable corridors being investigated for this clutch of windfarms. Surveying involves both geophysical/non-invasive (e.g. acoustic soundings) and geotechnical/invasive (e.g. vibrocore, boring, sampling) methods. This seems to suggest major disturbance over a wide variety of areas from inshore to off. Sadly, no matter how far out the windfarms are, the cable corridors – and cable landfalls (which I will look at along with shore based assemblage/construction/supply bases when I know more) will likely be a major consideration.

In the cable corridors there are echoes of Shell to Sea’s campaign against the natural gas pipeline. Anyone wishing to read more on that – and perhaps brace themselves – should read Once Upon a Time in the West:The Corrib Gas Controversy by Lorna Siggins. It’s a sobering read.

Next Wednesday I’ll do a short post describing some of the biggest existing and planned wind farms. Next Saturday I’ll have a look at creating an artist’s impression of an off shore wind farm. Comments are turned off but any information, comments, corrections etc are welcome via the contact form on this blog. I will consider guest posts too.