We hear how Scotland leads the world into research into tidal and wave technology but this is misleading as this turbine was commissioned in Strangford Lough in Ireland in 2008 and there are many other countries such as Norway, New Zealand the the US who have been developing this technology for many years. That no one has had a eureka moment and changed the world must raise the question “are we going to actually ever produce feasible wave and tidal technology”. So why are these companies committing resources to Scottish Research? Quite simply they are chasing the grants and the knowledge that who ever wins will make mega bucks from the Scottish Government and the eschewed subsidy payments renewable generators (except nuclear) get in the UK.
For the record, I quite like tidal turbines but they are very expensive and only operate for ten hours per day. Those hours can be clearly identified but they are not demand driven and for much of the year the power curve will come at times of the day of low usage. If peak flow is at 3.00am, it really is not that much use. If we are going to use the sea I see osmotic generation as a greater hope. If they can get over the algae problems it is a 24/7 generation medium. The sad fact about tidal is that the sea is a very alien environment, the salt water will corrode about anything, and the hydraulic power of water is difficult to harness in those conditions.
Now back to this accident. Well accidents will happen but this does question the placing of any subsea. floating and fixed(off-shore turbines) in the marine environment where weather conditions, tidal currents and human error can all conspire to the perfect storm. Recently we heard how the off-shore wind farm has exacerbated tidal scour and make Clacton beach very dangerous. The truth is that we don’t really know enough about the impact of these structures on coastal waters. I appreciate that we have experts who act as consultants but their track record to date is not very good. Are they following the fact or the money? The fact is that the local fishermen, who have fished these waters for generations, would probably know more than anyone with a degree in oceanography but no local knowledge. Does the Government, the DECC or the developers ever listen to them. Answers on a 2nd class stamp please. The accident at the weekend was unfortunate and I will not attach blame to anyone. This tidal turbine has been in the water since 2008. However if these structures, including wind turbines, are ramped up in number and placed virtually everywhere, what we can guarantee is that more people will bump into them and eventually it will be something serious like a crude oil carrier; and won’t such as WWF and FOE wail then as they fill their coffers. Of course it will be the crude oil tankers fault and not the prats that approved a wind or wave turbine near a shipping lane!
When all is said and done, today was Strangford Lough, tomorrow could be the Beatrice Wind Farm in the Moray Firth and the outcome may be far more serious.