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!)

.

Coast Diary – April 9th

After a warm patch, its cold again this week with hail pelting down yesterday from the boiling cumulus between April showers. But there’s the palm tree I can see from my house and I am mesmerized by its spiky green leaves against the ultramarine blue of the sea. Over lockdown I tried – and failed to paint it – to convey those tropical palm tree vibes. As you can see, I am probably more suited to the hawthorn.

Growing up, I was entranced by the TV, by the children’s shows (Flipper), westerns (Bonanza), the comedies (The Brady Bunch, The Beverly Hillbillies) and the cop shows (CHiPs). Hollywood, California was a technicolour Utopia only reachable through the tube. I was in my 30’s before it occurred to me you could actually go to California in real life and in my 40s when I finally got there. And even though I realised it was a lot more real than you might think – where the desert meets the sea its often foggy and Santa Barbara can look like Ireland on certain days – I am still entranced by Americana, by motels, neon lights and freeways. So while some friends complain about invasive species on our shores, I quite love the ‘palm’ trees that are ubiquitous in the gardens of our coast. On a sunny day I am in LA, I am in technicolour, I am alive. Palm trees are to our gnarly, knuckled hawthorns bent under the weight of a history of servitude to the south westerlies, what Marilyn Monroe was to Peig – a promise of a bigger, better life, with no pain no tragedy…

So much for that, as Marilyn could tell us. Our palm trees aren’t palm trees, or even trees. The cordyline australis, cabbage palm or cabbage tree is a plant and native of New Zealand. It was popularized in Ireland in the early to mid 1800s, presumably in the posher gardens. They began to spread into the wild in the 1970s when they became popular with the burgeoning middle classes. And they continue to proliferate despite coming under threat during some of our colder winters. Perhaps they are at once Peig and Marilyn…

***

For any one in Waterford today, I am launching an illustrated book based on my South Russia blog at Garter Lane Theatre at 3pm. All Welcome.

References

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/palm-trees-in-ireland-36548780/

https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/homes-and-property/2.770/cordyline-crisis-hits-country-1.568415

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 – March 26th

The Church of Fergus…probably.

What weather we are having this week; clear blue skies and deliciously warm sun, a treat after an extra long, extra wet and dreary winter. So what if there’s a razor of chill in the air and a haze that lingers, especially near the coast. It only adds a sharpness to the taste of spring and layers the landscape in misty blues. Even if you have been working in the city all week like I have, this weather is balm for the soul. I have caught the tail end of some of these days, racing out the road to see the blue sea fade to white, the metal man’s pillars glow warmly before their familiar shapes dwindle into the dusk and everything is still and pinky-purple. What days for swims too in water smooth and silky yet viciously icy enough to wake hibernating innards. So I imagine but my blasted ear and its lingering, occasional stabbing pain – someone with a voodoo doll perhaps?- prevents me from taking the plunge for now.

Last Sunday I walked out for an hour or so on the narrow road parallel to the coast. I have heard it said around here that Cromwell’s army marched this way, most likely to Waterford from Dunhill (where they took that castle after an unfortunate incident involving beer – a lack of it believe it or not) although I remember looking for evidence of the route before and not finding any. I stopped at the old church on top of the hill going down to Kilfarrasy. It is a ruin and is on private land but you can just about see it over the spring-time ditch. This is the townland of Islandikane – once O’Kane’s Island, though it is not an island rather a headland – and it may possibly have been a possession of the Templar Knights but I can’t be be bothered checking. Kilfarrasy means Church of Fergus so perhaps that is the name of the church.

Then yesterday, Friday, a day off, was spent mostly pottering and putting the house to rights, a house thats somehow seems to upend itself when I am not in it. Is it possible I have a raft of giant toddler poltergeists? Still, I got a good walk in the evening, down to the nearest little beach. The smell of fresh cut grass mingled with the occasional hint of a turf fire and the primroses are peeking out. The daffodils are still with us, nodding or stretching earnestly towards the light. The hedgerows squeak and chirp and rustle with the busy shapes within. On the beach the tide was low and as the sun set I poked around some of the rock pools for anenomes. To my delight I not only spotted a common Beadlet Anenome, those jelly-like reddish, brown ones but a small, chubby, pale lavender Jewel Anenome as well as another small one I have not seen before and have not yet found a name for. I also spotted a small, deliciously spotty, Strawberry Anenome. Except perhaps for the Beadlet Anenome, these anenomes are not immediately visible so if you want to see them you need to crouch and crawl around the rocks. It’s a surprisingly soothing past time, teetering on slippy rocks, staring into what, initially anyway, seem to be dank pools. Disregarding how nerdish this may seem or the funny looks you get, you find, as with life, the closer you look the more treasure you see.

Coast Diary – March 5th

Very little coasting this week and lots of computery stuff and deadlines. I went for a walk on the main beach earlier in the week. I was hoping to be inspired for this week’s post but all I got was my ear infection rebooted. Well not entirely true. I also saw a dead, thick-lipped grey mullet being pecked at by seagulls, a part of a sea potato and some crushed crabs. The insides of their shells are always such pretty colours. Hardly a consolation to them I suppose. What good is a pretty house when you’re dead?

I had been expecting some dolphins or porpoises to wash up up after all the storms we’ve had but happily I hadn’t heard of any, or not in these parts at least. A young fin whale washed up in east Cork in an emaciated condition. Perhaps, after possibly being seperated from its mother? I heard of it first through an organisation who have recently started competing with the IWDG (Irish Whale & Dolphin Group) for the public’s ceteacean reports. It emerged a few years back that the IWDG’s research, which they were sharing online for free, was being sold on – I suppose to companies who do surveys for developers. The IWDG do consultation work themselves, it is part of how they fund themselves in their mission to campaign to make Irish territorial waters a whale and dolphin sanctuary.

The IWDG’s more detailed information is now, as far as I can see, harder to access. Perhaps others still want in on the consultation business though because I can see no other reason for setting up companies to collect information on our wildlife. It makes me wonder if we will end up with developments getting green lit on the basis of incomplete environmental information? These are entirely my own thoughts but I, for one, will continue making my reports through the IWDG alone.

Typically enough a report of a dead dolphin came in the day after my walk, on exactly the part of the beach I had been poking at dead crabs on, but by then I was too busy to go back and take tissue samples. My new colleague, an old friend who has just volunteered to help with strandings, will hopefully get to it.

The rest of the week was writing and working in the city. I finally got the best of my biggest deadline yesterday. When I arrived back on the coast after what looked to have been a beautiful day by the sea, I sat and watched the pink clouds shading to purple then grey in the robin’s egg blue sky over an impossibly blue sea, its intensity deepening before brightening and fading into dusk. I thought then I would write about how the telegraph wires and poles – which I once appreciated for their sketchy, swooping lines – now, in their continuing profusion, are dissecting my sea and sky into ever smaller slivers. But I didn’t. Not really.

Coast Diary – February 26th

There were some beautiful days out after the storms at the weekend, though a bit chilly and there was still a big swell going. I walked my usual loopy route a couple of times, down to the sea and back, saw the neighbour, saw Buzz in his tree, and the heron laboriously flapping his way from the main beach overland to one of the coves to the west and wondered what I am going to keep writing about for the rest of the year…

I was distracted from my pondering when, as I walked towards the emergency access point I mentioned last week, the one that runs down through the woods to the cove, I came across a car parked up right between the gate that said NO PARKING EMERGENCY ACCESS POINT and the sign that said NO PARKING EMERGENCY ACCESS POINT. The rest of the road was empty. The registration suggested the owners were ‘inlanders’.

There’s something about NO PARKING signs that seem to draw certain motorists like a beacon. It’s a huge problem at the beaches during the summer, cars parking for hours at a time blocking all access to the water, risking lives and….but there are many, many idiots in the world and there was no point ruining my walk so I continued on down to the cove where there were some swimmers about. Scanning the sea with binoculars in the hope of seeing some dolphins or whales, I became lost in looking at the horizon, the wind on the water, the current as the tide dropped, the birds flying back and forth or bobbing on the waves, the sun slanting to catch the white caps or illuminating the water an electric green here and there. There’s something of eternity about the sea as it stretches to meet the sky so, as I wandered back up through the woods, I composed a piece on the serenity the sea inspires for this week’s blog post. But. The car was still there. My serenity, accelerating from 0-60, took off.

I thought about snitching to the Garda Síochána* but they would be more likely to put me through the mill for disturbing their serenity. Don’t think its our ‘síochána’ they’re keen on protecting. I didn’t even consider posting on one of the Facebook community groups because anyone who posts there about bad parking- in disabled spaces or at the supermarket door (who are those ‘special’ people?!) – gets piled on by lazy idiot skanger trolls who write things like…

“That was me and I’ll f****** park where I like lol”

But there was no need for me to outsource my ire because before I had gone much further the driver of the car returned. A couple and a kid. The woman had been swimming. I waited until they were driving towards me and I stepped out and flagged them down.

I calmly told them that they had parked in an emergency access point. I said our search and rescue need those access points. I asked them to please not do it again and I said I hoped that they would never need the search and rescue services. This last was a lie because I was simultaneously picturing them all being carried out to sea on a burning raft. I believe I spoke calmy and neutrally but with my ‘resting bitch face’ and my articulacy, I have unknowingly frightened the bejasus out of people in the past so who knows?And who cares.

The guy took what I said with equamanity. He may have been one of those men who just hears ‘blahblahblah’ when a woman speaks. A possible reason for this was in the seat beside him where his partner, newly out of the swelling sea, looked like she would have few things to say to me once she had spat out the mouth full of lemons that she habitually chewed on. The salt water didn’t seem to be doing her any good anyway so, as she slammed her body back against her seat in irritation – and as a possible prelude to spitting lemons at me – I walked away.

Maybe they were having a bad day.

LOL.

Further up the road I ran into another neighbour, one of the group of women I used to swim with. She’s a veteran of many years. I asked her had she been in this week

No no, the tide’s not right at our time, and anyway the water’s still unsettled. I wouldn’t chance it.

She knows that anyone of us could get into trouble and need help, even the veterans. So even if you might not mind a few inlanders being carried off, it’s still best if we…

DON’T PARK IN THE F******* ACCESS POINTS!

Thank you.

No LOLS.

*An Garda Síochána is our police force here in Ireland and it translates as The Guardian of the Peace.

Coast Diary – February 12th

It’s thirty years this month since the Toulouse Experiment but you won’t have heard of it. It was the early ’90s when three of us, on another samey night out in Waterford, decided to buy one-way tickets to France. Plans for escape are not unusual on boozy Tuesdays in February but, to my continuing shock, we actually went ahead with it and within a week we were off. We went to Paris for a few days, slept on someone’s floor and had adventures – we had a gun pointed at us, one of us went missing – then planned to fly on to Toulouse (the missing one had turned up). My two flibberty-gibbet friends managed to miss the flight even though they were right beside me in the airport, so I landed in Toulouse alone, without a word of French. I survived and stayed on there for four months, mostly drinking wine. What has this to do with the coast? Not much except that one of those flibberty-gibbet gals turned up last Sunday on a visit home from Switzerland and suggested we go for a swim. Though Switzerland is land-locked, she’s a coastal gal and she has been dipping a few times a week in Lake Geneva. I would like to try that one day but I think I will always prefer the salt and the tumbly waves.

We went to Garrarus and, though it was windy, grey and rough, the tide was low enough that we could safely dip in Johnny’s Pool, a part of the beach which at certain times is protected from the worst waves. I don’t know exactly who Johnny was except that he was one of the numerous regular sea swimmers at Garrarus and he has since passed away. There have been all weather sea swimmers here for a long time.

I started year-round swimming with a group of women about 15 years ago. Back then, when most aspiring, upper-middle-class women declared proudly that they would only swim in the Seychelles in mid-summer in a hot tub, those sea-swimming women were practically thought of as witches. However, since lockdown, every Tom, Dick and Harriet is in the water. There’s a saying swimmers here use – ‘The sea is like soup!” – they’ll say, meaning its bloody baltic! Now its more like thick stew, full of people. I didn’t even bother going for the usual Christmas swim as I imagined it would be like the Ganges with dryrobes®and prosecco.

I have to admit here that I received a dryrobe®as a present a couple of years back and was over the moon. Up to then I had been using an elasticated towel (also very handy). However within a few weeks of receiving the dryrobe®, they had become a cultural byword for ‘idiot poseur’, with people wearing them around the town as they shopped, to indicate they had been swimming. So while it’s too practical not too use, I always don it with a slightly apologetic air that suggests that though I am not of the same vintage as the Johnny of Johnny’s Pool, I am definitely not one of those Johnny-come-latelys.

So last Sunday was my Christmas swim – finally! – with my flibberty-gibbet pal who I hadn’t seen in a long time, though she did manage to reach Toulouse that time, as did the other one, before they both headed straight back to the more interesting Paris. The slower south suited me better. She is still a flibberty-gibbet, as am I. We had tea and chocolate. And it was lovely.

Coast Diary – February 5th

Totally Tropical…

This week I was rushing around the country again, first to a weekend workshop in Clare, which was a great experience, but it was a few miles from the sea and we spent the whole weekend tucked away in the countryside, working. When I left I decided to hit the coast. But once again, I found myself as unimpressed by Clare’s coast as I am by the rest of the county. It quite bemuses me that people rate it as a destination. I suppose there are some good views from the Cliffs of Moher though there’s too much tourist, car park and interpretative centre for me – and if you’re a surfer, Aileens and other places are quite beautiful to surf, at least judging from Mickey Smith’s filmwork. But for land based stuff…meh. So I got as far as Spanish Point – so exotic sounding I actually thought I hadn’t been there before. I imagined standing like a lady pirate, windswept, on a high headland, weeping for my lover, a dashing survivor of the Armada, whom I had to kill as he was drawing attention to my piratey behaviour…but its just another scrubby beach that had slipped my mind. Sorry Clare – the only good thing about you is your name.

I headed north to Connemara then, because really, once you navigate the trauma of the N24 as far as Limerick, its best to get as many visits in as possible. Connemara beaches are my favourite , though the much vaunted Roundstone leaves me cold – alright, I’m picky, sue me – so I travelled through it in order to visit a coral beach I am fond of. The tide was in and the weather grey and blustery so the white sand and turquoise sea was not much in evidence but I went for a brief walk on it anyway and the magic struck again. I don’t know if its the tiny pieces of coral, washed in from far tropical places on the north atlantic current, the shells, or the pink, red and black rock, scored by time’s passing, all vibrant even in dull light but even the little bit of rubbish – two oranges lying in the sea weed some distance apart and further up two cartons of Tropicana orange juice – seemed to tell a story. What story it was I still haven’t imagined. I looked for signs of life or death, but the only other creature I saw was an unfortunate Portuguese man o’ war tangled in the seaweed. These beautifully blue/pink, gas filled, bladder like creatures are siphonophores – often mistakenly identified as jellyfish – travel at the mercy of the sea and wind, trailing their deadly, prussian blue tentacles. They can be lethal even to humans and better not touched even in death.

Later, I travelled on, deeper into Galway, towards other favourite beaches which will remain nameless. At the end of the line my artist friend, not seen for a number of years, had set up a bakery. Heaven is here.

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/