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.

Nature at Work

This is a post from 2014 but I thought it might be useful now…

I work long shifts in a factory in an industrial estate. During the time I am at work I sometimes think of my real self as being switched off. I knuckle down, my focus narrows, I apply myself to the job at hand. If I didn’t do this I fear I might spend the whole time sobbing.

It’s not that it’s a bad place to work. The conditions are very good and I consider myself lucky but being in a bright indoor place pounding with noise, working hard and staying focussed on a nuanced but repetitive job among metal moving parts can seem like an unending assault on all the fraying senses.

I take my breaks outside in my car and it is this that redeems me. For the most part I bury myself in one of the books I am reading, escaping into another world. At other times I am so drained that I sit and look out the window slack-jawed if not actually dribbling.

The other day in the scrub at the bonnet of my car a flash of red caught my eye. A Bullfinch and his lady were flitting about chirping to each other and disappearing occasionally into the ivy cover of a tree trunk. I don’t think I have ever seen a Bullfinch though they are common and I was captivated by the jet black of the males cap and the striking red of his breast deeper and more crimson than the Robins.BULLFINCH SM

Above them a Blackbird bobbed, tail fanning out for balance while a portly Wood Pigeon bowed on a branch and another Pigeon, his intended victim I suppose, fled the cover of the trees to fly across the tarmac closely followed by the suitor. They passed over one of the local Magpies who often patrol the car park and a Hooded Crow that I could see marching around in my rear view mirror. The starlings criss-crossed the sky. It made me remember all the other welcome intrusions of nature that have captivated me in this unlikely place.

The building where I work is low and slightly sunken below the car park. There are two fish ponds at either of its main entrances which were, until recently at least, stocked with fish:orange and piebald and one which looked like it had its brain on the outside which tickled me. FISH SM

The fish attracted a Heron of course. I saw it on the roof once, its still silhouette tacked to the roof by its needle like legs, head in profile, beady eye pointed down. In recent times the fish seem to have finally disappeared along with the foliage that protected them.HERON SM

There are Cherry Blossom trees, now blooming, and an Apple tree among the trees and shrubs planted on the trim grassy slope beside the steps between the building and the big car park which spreads out from the plant~there are three or four car parks in fact~and is edged with high hedges and saplings. Beyond the farthest kerb a scrub land stretches to the nearest road lined with its car dealerships and hotels.APPLES SM

Big bellied conifers, tall, frowning and dark, shimmy and shake in the wind over the road leading up to the car park. With a moody grey sky behind them they are imposing. If they sang~and I often imagine they are singing~ they would be baritones, those baddies of the operas, their song low and deep rumbling up from their roots as they elbow and jostle each other.TREES SM

At certain times of year the car park is alive with birdsong the whole night through, the birds who nest in the trees and hedges being fooled by the lights into thinking the dawn is arriving. It sounds not unlike what a jungle must sound like. I imagine the birds exhausted and slumped in their nests by afternoon the next day feeling like they have just drunk a slab of Strongbow cider and wondering why the night seems so short.

A Fox roams here at night, trotting from one side of the car park to the other, stopping sometimes when he senses someone is watching, then resuming his unhurried journey past chrome bumpers that reflect the street lights and down concrete paths and trimmed grass and back into the night.

The day after I saw the Bullfinch a Rabbit hopped out of the hedge and began digging around a couple of feet from the car. Occasionally it paused to look about then after five minutes or so it lolloped slowly under the hedge and into the field beyond where cows grazing showed in rusty patches through the branches.

BUNNY SM

My colleagues teased me after my break for being so pleased to see a bunny and I felt a little silly. A Rabbit along with a Bullfinch, a romantic Pigeon, a Heron, a Fox, a Magpie, a Hooded Crow and some singing trees are little enough to be happy about but it reminds me of who I am, reminds me that I am alive and in the world.

Though I like the countryside and the cliffs and the sea I am quite captivated by the urban environment, by concrete and brick, by straight lines and right angles, by the contrast between organic and inorganic, by weed pushing up through the kerb stones, by the wildlife that pops up everywhere.

In the dark of the long night when the exhaustion is upon me, when life feels as if is being suffocated in stainless steel and noise and the smell of nothing at all, when I look out into the night speckled with the jewel-like street lamps reflected in the shivering drops on my windscreen the faint aroma of wet earth in my nostrils and see a silent silhouette pause in a pool of acid orange light nose to the breeze before slipping from the shining path back into the dark I can remember how big the world is and all the mystery that pours unceasingly from its hands and I can breathe again.FOX SM

Image of the Week: Holdfast

DSC05977.JPG

I am noticing a temptation during this series to ‘one-up’ myself, to do a more ‘interesting’ or weird photo than the previous week. It’s a temptation that  I am going to try and subvert as it is not only a denial of missteps or failure or process but it is a drive that seems to say there is only one way to take a perfect photograph, paint a painting, or write a piece of writing. This is clearly not so. There are different tones and contexts. There are thoughtful works, shocking works, works that comfort us or unsettle us or make us think. Even a bad work- especially a bad work – teaches us something or inspires us to do better. Sometimes, what seems to be a weak work may not in certain contexts be weak at all. A weak work can make a collection of works more interesting, provide a low note to a high note. Perhaps it’s attributes may be harder to uncover yet more interesting for that difficulty.

I have only grappled with these thoughts since I started writing this piece but I recognise it as an important issue for me in my work. In every artwork I do I am trying to get it perfect, include everything in the world in it and while that impulse can lead to wonderfully chaotic results its a huge pressure that denies the importance of development. I only see now, five years after returning to college, the path my work has taken, how each work relates to the others, how everything is joined up, how it makes sense in its context in my developmental arc despite my innate anti-structuralism – or whatever you’d call it, this weird dissociated, disjointed take on the world.

Why do I think this photo is weak?It’s pretty(I think) and it is well enough balanced. It speaks of sun and the beach and nature but there are far better nature/sea/beach photos out there. It is not saying anything new. It’s a bit ‘nice’. I like things a little twisty and a little dark and maybe funny or unsettling.

What I do like about this picture is the subject. The holdfast is the root system of kelp. I always liked that name – holdfast. It speaks of strength, determination and persistence in the face of stormy seas.

***

I was on the beach today in the sun after a rare swim surrounded by nature my mind wandering idly about when it occurred to the saying ‘all we have is each other’ might mean something beyond a do-goody imprecation to be nice. Maybe it means that in the world that is wild and untamed where nothing makes sense, not really, all we have are the stories we tell ourselves and each other about how life is. Our shared beliefs hold us togther, allow us to map out paths, to evolve, develop. These narratives on which we balance are made up, not real, but without them we have nothing…

Another thought floats to the surface. A friend and ex-colleague of mine, Nigel. He equally inspired love and exasperation. He was in a word, indefatigable.

adjective
  1. (of a person or their efforts) persisting tirelessly. Tirelessuntiring, never-tiring, unweariedunwearyingunflagging;

Nigel was always Nigel. He was everyone’s friend, he was the same with everyone. He had advice for all, attended all the work night outs and excursions and trips. He would go to the opening of an envelope it was said. He was always doing something. He was proud of his garden and one day he asked me to let him know when there was kelp on the beaches so he could collect some for compost. I did. And he did.

Nigel died suddenly four years ago this weekend. Today when I saw the kelp on the shores I thought of Nigel and how he enjoyed his life and how we must hold fast in honour of friends who are gone, we must hang in there, we must not give up.