Hello all, Harry back again with another blog.
I am changing my tactic and topic onto my other passion at work. The environment. More importantly, the news of the new lagoons that have been published and are proposed to be implemented in Swansea by 2018. (links can be found at the end of the blog for further research).
I must say I am neither for or against this idea of Lagoons. I am still undecided. The plans have been unveiled although not certain yet, but on first glance all seems well.
At first glance….
Firstly how do they work, well see the link below…
The tide comes in and the Lagoon wall keeps out the water until a certain height, then gates open at the bottom of the wall which leads to a turbine, the water rushes through the turbine and powers a dynamo. The reverse happens when the tide goes out. It is all really simple to be honest. Amusingly it is technology that we moved away from years ago, as in tidal power and water power. Ever heard of a water mill?
SO why this blog? Well, is it any good? On the surface the whole concept seems amazing. It will generate jobs, tourism, power (electricity), reduce environmental impacts? That last one seems to stick in my throat as I say it.
The fact is, what ever we do as humans and I really mean whatever we do, we have an impact on the environment. You buy clothes? That has an impact somewhere on the environment. Someone had to make it, they had to get the resources from somewhere, you have to wash your clothes and you at some point will send the clothes out to rubbish. All of which had an impact on the environment. (Please do not think that I am now going to suggest or try to convince you, to now grow hemp clothing and not wash your clothes!).
So then look at these Lagoons, we have to construct the parts for the lagoons, tonnes upon tonnes of metal. That will have to be made somewhere in the world (mostly UK, however Europe and China too) and delivered to Swansea. The ore will need to be dug to make the metal, blasted and melted and poured into shape. The actual construction of the lagoon, machines needed to complete the tasks, the destruction of sea beds that are already there, the man power and overall scale of this thing is immense. All of which have an immediate impact to the environment.
Then will it actually deliver what is being proposed? Take for example the off shore wind farms. I do like these. I think they look nice looking out to sea. However famously, they don’t always work. If its too windy (believe it or not) they have to turn there backs to the wind and isolate the fans, otherwise, they spin too fast and the fans come off. If there is no wind, they don’t work (obviously), and actually they also do not produce that much power, a drop in the ocean really (see what I did there, ocean-off shore wind farms- I’ll let one sink in…..).
So will lagoons actually work? Well I have no hard evidence to suggest they will nor won’t, that still remains to be seen. This plan of the lagoons is a world first by the way and the UK government has pledged £1bn towards its construction.
I do have my concerns, the water around our shores is not, lets say, completely clean of debris. So imagine these turbines underwater, my first thought is that they will clog up regularly. Hopefully this is something the developers have thought of, you would hope. If they do become clogged (and at times they well need maintenance and be required to be shut down) will they all be effective? Its alright stating that this turbine can produce XXX amount of Kw of power when its real production will be a lot less. My car says on the speedometer that it will do 150 mph, will it? I will never take it that far for sure. The point I’m making is, sure, something could state in can produce this but actually will it? Potential outcomes against realistic outcomes? Maybe just a Unique selling point or a white elephant.
Then the local impact. Many surfers and beach lovers, love that area and that area will be changed permanently by the lagoon. No waves will hit the shores at this area any more and the impacts to the local area and unknown. Will that change the local biodiversity? Will animals, insects and wildlife have their habitats changed? The answer is yes. But we don’t really know how much or to what impact that it will have. My concern, as an angler is fish. Swimming along the Lagoon wall minding their business and the turbine kicks in. Bad times for fish, well not just fish all sea creatures will have the risk of being sushi in seconds. This has a massive impact on the sea. Each sea creature is vital to the food chain in the sea and removing or many will simply dry up that part of the sea making it dead. This again, you would hope that the developers have thought about and have a plan to combat this but we do not know yet.
As I have said at the beginning of the blog, we as humans, just by being alive, will have an impact on the environment for sure. Each decision we make on a daily basis, effects the environment we just need to weigh up what is going to make the less impact for the long term. Yes we need energy more than ever now and in future we will need it more (as electricity can be the cleanest and sustainable most source of energy compared to coal, gas and nuclear). But will a Lagoon be the right answer? As an environmental professional I do want to see improvements but I do want to see the right improvements. I just don’t want to see these Lagoons wasted, the environment damaged and more people becoming anti environmental because of another poorly conceived and executed scheme that was purely based on PR and short term goals.
Here is the link to the Swansea Lagoon Website http://www.tidallagoonswanseabay.com.
I hope they get this right and it is a success, but I have my doubts.
Hope you enjoyed the read and Ill blog again soon…