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/

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: 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.

The Winds of Change: Introduction to a series

The first in a series of posts on Waterford’s Copper Coast

We have all sorts of life here on the Waterford Coast, on the water and the cliffs and beaches, from the fin whales which travel east past us every autumn and winter to the the tiny sprat they chase. Dolphins, porpoise and otters frolic, seals bask and fish jump. Birds – cormorants, shags, gulls, divers, heron, kestrels, buzzards, stonechat, chough, curlew, rooks and jackdaws – are legion too. There’s fisherfolk, surfers, kite surfers, kayakers, stand-up paddlers, long and short distance swimmers, seaweed collectors and cockle pickers, bird and whale watchers, walkers and hikers. So far amenities for tourists along the coast are sparse (thankfully so some think) but a long-term, sensitive plan could bring millions to the area as Waterford is increasingly being recognised as a beautiful part of Ireland.

But now, before any sustainable tourism framework has gained a foothold, a windfarm – or a series of them – is planned for the entire 30km of our coast. Initially the closest group of turbines (said to be between 190 and 260 metres high) was to be 5km off shore, though lately Energia, the company responsible, has referred to minimum distances of 10km. This is still far closer than the recommended 22km which is roughly how far off the horizon is from much of our coast road.

My own initial and negative reaction was based on a belief that we need the wild spaces far more than we realise, but its a need that can be hard to quantify or rationalize. Later I also realised that my issues were not with wind power exactly but how it is developed and who it is developed by. For me this is a very important distinction.

But I am not yet convinced wind power on this scale is guaranteed to last. What will the cost to benefit ratio really be?Could this development make things worse in the long run?Leave us with a destroyed coastline and expensive bills?What if there is no long run?What if it is way past the time for any of us to be able to reap any benefits from such developments?Why do we have an energy crisis in the first place? Could there be more grassroots solutions?

I’ll post every Saturday for the next while as I explore these questions. I’ll try to keep an open mind but it will be a personal study and I may not reach any conclusions. Perhaps it may help others frame their own questions. I’ll keep it short, it won’t all be windfarms, there’ll be a fair amount of sea appreciation and old posts too. And hopefully guest posters. I am turning comments off on all posts on the blog because really, who has the time? But anyone can contact me privately via the contact form on this blog.

Welcome on board!

Other Posts The Winds of Change: The Proposals, Windy Wednesday: Distance to Horizon for Dummies, Windy Wednesday: Some Windfarms