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/