Coast Diary – June 18th: Newtown Woods Resources

This post is a resource for those wanting to send a submission to Waterford Council in regards to Newtown Woods. It’s far from comprehensive but feel free to use this information and copy and paste what you need Submissions in writing or by email, to reach Ian Ludlow, Staff Officer, Active Travel, Waterford City & County Council, Menapia Building, The Mall, Waterford  iludlow@waterfordcouncil.ie before 4p.m. on Tuesday 28th June, 2022.

Old Wall, Summer 2022.

Back in 2007 a lot of locals here campaigned against a big development on our coast which is a Special Protected Area (SPA). At the centre of the campaign was the chough, a bird of the crow family that lives on cliffs. The campaign group was ignored by the County Council, who supported the development, with one councillor saying on local radio that ‘Choughs could go and live in trees’ for all she cared. To which I say ‘may a rat take up residence in your underpants’. 15 years on, in response to the current proposals at Newtown Woods, the Council Heritage Officer devotes a paragraph of her memo (See References and Links below) to choughs who, as noted, don’t live in trees. Perhaps in 15 years they will survey the trees to measure impacts on dolphins…

It’s true that the rest of that memo deals with use of modified lighting with regards to wildlife, particularly birds and bats, and the conservation of trees, but time and again it only commits to protect and preserve ‘where possible.’ And in their own proposal vis a vis lighting they add the rider that ‘PUBLIC LIGHTING TO BE RENEWED AND EXTENDED WHERE REQUIRED’ (Appendix 1). All of which leaves a lot of room for manoeuvre.

It should also be noted that in the memo, the developers have been asked to keep construction within the boundary fence and not store flammable chemicals outside it but as is obvious to all they have continuously stored construction materials outside the fence and under the trees, which is skating a bit close to the line if you ask me. That’s how much such agreements and conditions are valued.

Anyway the the main points of my submission are below.

  • Street lighting limited to the entrance of the housing development and not continue down the roads by and through the woods.
  • The containing wall is vital and needs to stay. 
  • Scrap the one way system.

Of specific concern in regarding the council’s proposals:

  • The proposed street lighting (even modified lighting) – disturbance to bird and bat life.
  • The possible planned removal of the containing wall – disturbance to flora and fauna, removal of food source, removal of insect habitat. Added light pollutions from passing cars.
  • The increase in traffic through the wood by the one-way system and by additional proposed apartments.
  • That these developments and proposals will pave the way for further developments including further lighting and impacts.
  • Lack of a proper survey of the woods itself, it’s flora and fauna and how they integrate.

I will also request a survey to benchmark the woods. In the best case, the woods will be ring fenced and managed for future generations. In the worst…well I have to try. As far as I am concerned, we cannot afford to lose the Newtown Woods habitat or have it changed even one iota. Below, some more information and links, including the Heritage Officers memo.

Next week I’ll be back to giving out about other stuff…

Appendix 1: Irish Woodlands and Newtown Woods in brief.

Ireland is one of the least wooded countries in Europe with only 9% wooded area and most of that being made up of commercial forests. Older woodlands are incredibly important and in fact are in an emergency situation. Newtown Woods contains Native trees such as oak and ash – which is under threat from ash dieback, a disease which came to Ireland in 2012 and is expected to wipe out most of our ash trees. Also present are sycamore and beech, considered non-natives but in fact long term resident on the island of Ireland.

Appendix 2: Heritage

Newtown Cove & Woods, Ordnance Survey Map, 1840.

This area is also part of our heritage, the woods and wall – which is also a habitat in itself as well as a provider of food for birds and a protection from traffic noise and light – being part of Lord Doneraile’s estates. Lord Doneraile was a title owned by the St. Ledger family who had estates in Cork and Waterford from the mid 1600s. Newtown House was built around 1750. By the early 1800s, Newtown was being managed by the Power family, still the dominant name in the area. Above is a map from 1840 which includes Newtown Woods. It was supposedly planted for commercial use – most likely for building carts, tools and out-buildings on the estate, and there is likely evidence of woods management from that period. It has not changed much since then however it has decreased to the northern edge where the developments are creeping in. But with the extra traffic this habitat will surely not last as long again.

Appendix 3: Benefits for Humans

Connection to nature is important for humans and this is acknowledged by initiatives like An Coillte’s Woodlands for Health program. Without going into it too deeply, Here is a recent evaluation of the program. Another evaluation (2014) noted that participants mood and sleep was noticeable improved by the program (Nairn, R,. 2020, p.58).

Appendix 4: Impacts

However, Human interaction with the woods demands knowledge and for that we need it surveys. For instance the recent building of dirt bike ramps in Newtown Woods and using branches cut from trees is a serious threat to this fragile environment and the council and others need to work harder to make sure this environment is properly appreciated.

Two of three dirt bike ramps, Newtown Woods.

Traffic

Traffic has already increased hugely on the road through the woods. Visitors to Newtown Cove have swelled through lockdown and will increase more with the added developments. Every single visitor to Newtown Cove now leaves by car through the woods. This must have impact despite any surveys which were conducted, apparently without local consultation. As a local I would calculate the one way system could have increased traffic by the power of ten.

Knock on Effects on Wildlife

The lack of surveys of the specific area of Newtown in relation to developments means that we cannot tell what knock on effects there are because of those developments. In the past there was a badger sett at the north east corner of the woods. This has now been abandoned most likely due to the building of the Newtown Glen estate. It is also likely that the recent influx of rabbits to Westtown is a result of the new Newtown Cliff development. What impact will they have on the Westtown habitat – for hares for instance? And the increased traffic – what species will we lose? The owls, the nesting sparrowhawk? Some birds will stay but lighting has in other areas caused disruption to sleep and therefore breeding patterns. There’s some more species mentioned in previous posts.

***

Waterford City and County Council Memo including conservation recommendations for Newtown Woods

To: Anne Doyle, Executive Planner
From:Bernadette Guest, Heritage Officer
Re:21/836 Residential development of 27 houses comprising 24 no. detached two storey houses and 3 no. single storey terraced houses and ancillary site works. This development is an extension of the already complete Newtown Glen housing development in Tramore.
Date:16th October 2021

It is noted the proposed development is located adjacent to the northern section of Newtown Woods.

Under Section 6.2.3  New Residential Development in  the Tramore Local Area Plan 2014-2020 ; The Council will aim to protect and preserve mature and semi-mature trees where possible and will require new developments to be so designed as to integrate existing trees into any new schemes. Sufficient distance should be maintained between existing mature trees and new buildings

Policy GI 1  states; The Council will preserve and enhance the amenity and biodiversity value of Tramore by preserving as far as possible trees, woodlands and hedgerows and will consider Tree Preservation Orders in order to protect trees of significance in the Plan area.

To ensure compliance with these policies the following conditions are recommended;

The development shall establish a 5m buffer zone from the boundary of the existing treeline of Newtown Woods.

All trees within the development site shall be protected by way of a 2m high wire mesh fence and be continuous outside the canopy and root protection area. The fenced and root protection area shall be a construction exclusion zone with no storage of fuels or chemicals in this area. The RPA fence shall remain in place for the duration of construction works.

Public lighting in the area adjacent to the woodland shall be designed to avoid unnecessary light spill in the  interests of  wildlife such as birdlife and foraging bats. Lighting scheme shall comprise low-pressure sodium lights  on low height  columns  and shall minimise light spills  by use of shields or louvers. Lights shall be restricted in this area to ensure dark periods for foraging and commuting birds and bats.

The site is approximately 120m north  of the Mid-Waterford Coast SPA designated for Chough, Herring Gull, Peregrine and Cormorant. The proposed development will not incur loss of habitat  from within the ecological footprint of the SPA and does not have direct or hydrological connectivity to the  SPA being separated by Newtown Woods. The proposed development will not incur loss of grassland habitat within or close to the SPA essential for feeding Chough  or lead to  reduction in water quality. It is considered the proposed development does not have potential  for significant effects on the conservation objectives  of the qualifying interests of the Mid-Waterford Coast SPA and can be screened out for further assessment.

References & Links

Ancestry Network, (2022), Tenants of Lord Doneraile in Cork & Waterford. Available at https://www.ancestornetwork.ie/tenants-of-lord-doneraile-ck-wd-1765/ [accessed 17/06/2022]

Nairn, R., (2020), Wild Woods, Dublin: Gill Books.

Waterford Council, (2022), Active Travel Scheme, Newtown, Tramore, Available at https://waterfordcouncilnews.com/2022/06/17/active-travel-scheme-newtown-tramore-pedestrian-cyclist-scheme-3/amp/ [accessed 17/06/2022]

Planning Drawings https://waterfordcouncil.ie/media/projects/public-consultations/2022/newtown-hill/Newtown%20Hill%20-%20Part%208%20Planning%20Drawings.pdf

***Please note other plans and drawings are available on the Waterford Council Active Travel Proposal. Link in Reference section.

Coast Diary – May 21st

I’m back – what did I miss?

May is in full swing – its been sunny and rainy and occasionally even warm. The big field below is a sea of green barley, the swallows are gaining strength and numbers while the rabbits continue to proliferate. I have found out that, as I suspected, rabbits are not usually so numerous here and there’s no real reason for the recent influx mentioned in a previous post. The foxes are still about according to a neighbour, as are the buzzards – though I have not seen Buzz in his tree in a while. Hatching eggs I suppose. The ditches, all a-twitter with wrens and tits and robins, are green and bursting and the whitethorn has blossomed, its flowers like exploding popcorn. It is even on the wane already in some places while I am still awaiting for the tree out the back to take off. When I was younger I used to think of summer as a time where everything stays at its peak for the set number of weeks we call ‘The Summer’. Now I know that change is constant and even as I watch this peaking I see the other side of it – the green yellowing, the flowers wilting, the swallows gathering and going. Nothing is constant.

And down the road the change is even faster than I had thought it would be when I started this diary. Recent roadworks have caused traffic havoc, but now the new storm drains are in, the local council have published further plans to cater to the latest wave of housing. If all this building I am seeing was solving the problem of where to live I’d probably keep my silence – but somehow none of us can afford these houses. Since the Celtic Tiger, successive governments have pushed the house as an investment opportunity rather than a necessity, and buying-to-let has pushed prices up to ensure profits for global investors. There has not been a concurrent evolution in renters rights either. But I digress – if you want to read more, you could do worse than follow Rory Hearne, a local lad, on these issues https://www.thejournal.ie/readme/ireland-investment-housing-5428746-May2021/

Anyway, once this side of Tramore bay was more or less rural but since the eighties the red roofs have spread like a rash that is now tipping the edge of the little woods I have mentioned here before. From afar you can see the tops of the trees of Newtown Wood springing from the narrow glen that runs down to Newtown Cove. Off to the left and right of the woods stand two tall pine trees, perhaps the remnants of a once larger forest. Down in the glen, the trees are ivy covered and tall and fragile looking. An unlit road curves picturesquely through it as the leaves above shiver and coo and croak with pigeons and rooks and robins, coal tits, grey wagtails, magpies, gold crest and others, many of them feeding on the insects living in the cracked, old wall that edges the woods. In May it is carpeted with bluebells. In summer you might hear the creak of an owl and in the evening, at dusk, you will see for certain the little bats whirling about.

As yet I have only skimmed the plans for the woods but I do know that streetlighting is planned for the road along the wall beside it and it is likely that that wall will come down to make way for the planned cycle paths and pavements – which are no use to bats or owls and just as well as the light will see them off. It is unclear whether trees will be taken down – the language is typically oblique. And I imagine, as the houses have approached the wood, the street-lighting will soon enough make its way down the road that runs through it. Apparently there will somehow be a reduction in traffic but how this will happen when there are more houses than ever is beyond me. There is a four week consultation period – which started this week – and I will be making a contribution. I suggest if you care about these woods you do something too.

Here is the link to the plans https://waterfordcouncilnews.com/2022/05/17/active-travel-scheme-newtown-tramore-pedestrian-cyclist-scheme/

Watching the rabbits this evening, I thought again of that book Watership Down and how a superstitious person might take their curious proliferation in a place they were once so scarce as an omen. The book begins just before high summer. The rabbits notice a new sign near their warren as the sun sets red, the field seeming to run with blood, and they know it means something, perhaps even something bad, but do not forsee the scale of the destruction that will be very shortly visited upon them to make way for the houses of men.

National Drawing Day: If you’re in Waterford city today, Saturday May 21st, myself and my artist pal Julie Cusack are hosting a Drawing Day at Garter Lane Arts Centre in the Courtyard. Drop in (and drop out) any time between 11 am and 4pm for as much or as little time as suits you and try your hand at drawing or mark making to salsa music, or just for a look. All levels welcome. Free tea and coffee (and biscuits!)

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Coast Diary – April 2nd

Out walking the other day I noticed a skip outside one of the last little cottages in the area. It’s occupant had died the previous week after a long illness. Her good neighbours could be seen in recent times going in to visit, or out walking her dog. Now she is gone and there is the possibility of the cottage being sold, rented or kept empty as a holiday home. The whole thing made me melancholy, not only that this lovely lady who had lived with her husband in their unassuming cottage overlooking the sea had left, but also what their departure emphasised – the accelerating creep of suburbia. Most of the houses here now are relatively modern but are modest compared to some of the newer builds which have settled like rotten teeth in the lower jaw of the coastal loop. Inexplicably it seems easier to get planning for two-storied ugly things the closer you are to the sea.

The most recent cottage to receive a makeover around here now has a shiny new roof and modern window frames. Not bad you might say but far worse is the collection of tightly packed structures dropped, seemingly at random, into the small plot which was once a shady habitat behind the cottage. Now, with the hawthorn around it cut back, the slanting black planes, unbroken by windows, redact the skyline. It’s cramped, dark angles, senselessly crowded into the small space, induces claustrophobia even walking past. But change is inevitable and I suppose those that came before mourned the new bungalows and those living in ditches despised the cottages when they were first built.

There are still one or two old cottages left, some green spaces fiercely protected. If you concentrate on them, and on the rumpled fields and headlands, the reddish brown cliffs, the wheeling birds, you can, imagine it as it once was before blow-ins like me took root. The cottages low and drifting smoke on the chill evenings as figures crossed the blue fields behind their cows. The road, then just a track where people stopped to swap tales or along which they hurried to borrow milk or share a catch of mackerel, or visit a sick neighbour. Some things don’t change. As the night closes in and the owls and badgers and foxes start their shift, the warm lights in the windows dim and go out one by one and beyond, barely visible but constant to the ear, the heaving sea.

***

Last week I rock-pooled and as those in the know, know, rockpooling is like heroin – for anoraks like me anyway. So I was at it again this week. This time also saw some Snakelock Anemones, below. Those chaps can’t retract their tentacles. Awkward. The ones I didn’t name last week (even further below) are Dahlia Anenomes.

Coast Diary – January 8th

Buzz in his tree

The temperature dropped this week. Monday it was deliciously chill, the air like a knife pressed lightly to my cheek. Tuesday it was more like having big daggers stuck in my face. I still like that though, that sharpness. Lets you know you’re alive anyway. I have been taking my binoculars (or bins) out, in the hope of whales and I always keep my eye out for wildlife – stoats, badgers, weasels, frogs – but I never see them. I did get excited on Tuesday when I saw what I thought was a toad in the muddy margins but it turned out to be an old kitchen sponge.

The birds though, are a constant. In the fields, fat wood pigeons fed or basked in the early sun -for once it was not raining. The rooks, the jackdaws marched about and some chough, hoarsely called from the old barbed fenceposts at the cliff edge. Along the road the bright-eyed robins patrolled, two punky blue tit faffed and chattered – I love their furry yellow elbows! – and a busy-bottomed wren threaded her way in and out of a hedge. I had been worried about the local buzzard who I had not seen in his usual hawthorn – bent double by the south westerlies – but there he was on Tuesday, embraced in its thorns, staring morosely out at the opposite headland. Or pehaps looking for rats. A pair of curlew flew overhead as I walked. You’ll see them them a lot here in the cold weather, usually in a large flock. I spotted a snipe this week too, one afternoon in a field by the cliffs, which was a treat as I had not seen one in a few years.

One morning I startled four goldfinch out of a tree and they took off in their looping flight that suggests they are flying on sheer will power, rising and dropping and rising again. The more I watch the little birds the more I am in awe of them. They live at such intensity, their tiny wings, and hearts, and lungs, beating constantly as they search for food. Snug in my bed as the wind got up on Monday night I tried to imagine where they were all sleeping. The sparrows huddled in a cosy gang in a hedge maybe, the blue and great tits and stonechat with their partners. The wren, the robin, alone, deep in some gorse, clinging to precarious shelter. If you had to live like a bird you would know you’re alive then.

I did see whales this week too – or perhaps just one. A fin whale, given away by two or three blows, spotted due south from the cliffs on Tuesday morning. The following afternoon, as the sun set in a stunningly peachy sky over sea fading to white, I saw numerous groups of common dolphins travelling and feeding, dark fins cutting the silky seas. Here and there a boisterous little calf leapt clean out of the water. I reported them to the IWDG which I sometimes neglect to do. They, the IWDG, published a map recently which marked all the areas important for ceteaceans. The coast off Waterford was notably left blank which surprised me as this is a migration route. In not reporting sightings we are leaving ourselves open to developments that may not take into account our ecology. So I will report everything from now on.

Later, on the whale day, I drove further west with my sister to see if we could spot more whales but saw none. It was a beautiful day to look at the sea spread before us from one end of the county to the other. On our way home we stopped at one of the small beaches which my sister had never visited and walked the rocks and looked at limpets and barnacles. I told her how one of my friends, out on the tear in a pub far away to the north and west, realised, as he was getting cigarettes, that the illuminated picture on the front of the machine was in fact this very beach. Nature, it gets everywhere.

The day after the dolphins it was raining again.

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: 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