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 They won a legal battle in 2012 on that basis and the plan was withdrawn.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 distance to the horizon for Dummies

This is a mini-post ahead of Saturday’s. The distance to the horizon varies from where you are standing on land. There are any number of ways to estimate distance to horizon.

  • If you’re standing at sea level, divide your height in half. So if you’re 5’6″ (5.5 feet) tall, the distance to the horizon is only about 2.75 miles.
  • Use an online distance to horizon calculator (link below)
  • Use the AIS Marine Traffic website which will give the position of most vessels you can see out on the water.
  • Use geographical features e.g. far off headlands, a map and a piece of string

I whale watch, most often from Dunabrattin at Boatstand, from the first car park going west. This is 22 metres (72 foot) above sea level. (I can find elevation using free online elevation finders. There’s a link to one below). Helvick head is 20 km from Dunabrattin as the crow flies on a map. So I can see at roughly 20km from 22 metres above sea level at Dunabrattin.

For more accuracy we can use formulas. This is the most simple one:

Multiply your height in metres above the ground by 13**, and take the square root of that.

So for Dunabrattin…

  • Height above sea level = 22 metres
  • Add my height up to to eye level = 23.6 metres
  • Multiply by 13 metres** (1.5 foot if using imperial) = 306.8
  • Calculate the square root (a calculator or Google does this for you) = 17.5157072366

According to this the horizon from straight out from Dunabrattin is 17km distant.

From Gallwey’s Hill in Tramore the horizon is 19km distant

From the Tramore Racecourse roundabout the horizon is 23km distant

But… that’s just the horizon. At 190-260 metres above sea level, the height of the proposed turbines is no small consideration. It seems to me that even a windfarm at 22km will be well visible from much our coast. And at 5 km or 10 km distance?Yikes.

Many of you will also be aware that it’s possible to see things over the horizon due to effects of the light. That is why one far off container ship may seem tiny while the upper decks of another one even further over the horizon is five times larger.

See you on Saturday when I’ll try and describe the proposal for the Waterford coast in 500 words or less. Any corrections, – especially to my equation! – comments etc. can be sent via the contact form on this blog.

**I am not sure where the 13 comes from. I think its something to do with triangles and the radius of the earth but as I have an allergy to sums my head imploded before I could read much more.

Links

Elevation Finder https://www.freemaptools.com/elevation-finder.htm

Marine Traffic https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/home/centerx:-12.0/centery:25.0/zoom:4

Distance to Horizon Calculator http://www.ringbell.co.uk/info/hdist.htm