Will This Tidal Project Spark a Global Energy Revolution?
By Richard Sadler
Ambitious plans have been drawn up for a network of "tidal lagoons" around the UK coast that could provide up to a quarter of the country's electricity—and there is potential to roll out the technology in many parts of the world.
Tidal lagoons work by using a wall to capture a body of water in the sea or a tidal estuary pushed in on the rising tide. The water drives turbines as the tide comes in and then, as the tide falls, the turbines are reversed and the energy from the falling tide is harnessed again.
As Geoffrey Chaucer, one of the earliest English poets put it: "Time and tide wait for no man." Unlike with wind and solar, the amount of energy being produced from tides is predictable months in advance and is now being recognized as a major renewable resource.
More Tidal Lagoons
Planning approval has already been given for a £1.3 billion pathfinder project at Swansea Bay, South Wales, described by developers as "a scalable blueprint for a new, global, low-carbon power industry." Another nine lagoons are planned around tidal hotspots in the Severn Estuary and North-West England/North Wales. These would have the potential to generate 25,000MW of electricity—enough to provide 12 percent of the UK's electricity needs.
The company behind the proposals, Tidal Lagoon Power, already has teams working in Northern France and India and is studying opportunities in Mexico and Canada's Atlantic coast. Further tidal lagoon markets may exist in South America, China, South-East Asia and Oceania.
Tidal power is recognized by the EU's Joint Research Centre as a key contributor to the continent's future energy mix. Its main attraction is that, unlike other renewable energy sources, it does not require the wind to blow or the sun to shine.
An oceanographer at Southampton University, Dr. Simon Boxall, said the technology has improved to the point where tidal energy was a "no-brainer," with the latest bi-directional turbines capable of generating power on both incoming and outgoing tides. He said that with sufficient investment it could provide up to a quarter of UK electricity needs within 20 years.
"We can always rely on tides—they come in and they go out and they will continue doing so for thousands of years. Parts of the UK have tidal ranges in excess of 15 meters, so that's a heck of a drop of water and that's happening twice a day—or four times a day when you count the water coming in and going out," said Dr. Boxall.
"The other great advantage is that the tides aren't the same in different locations, so if you've got a network of tidal power stations you are always generating electricity: 24 hours a day, seven days a week," added Dr. Boxall.
In December a former UK energy minister, Charles Hendry, published an independent review, concluding: "Power from tidal lagoons could make a strong contribution to UK energy security, as an indigenous and completely predictable form of supply."
He said the UK was well-placed to take a global lead and with economies of scale and mass manufacture of turbines, turbine housing and other components costs could be substantially reduced.
To be viable the new industry would require subsidies, with a guaranteed premium price for electricity generated. However, Hendry calculated that in the long term tidal lagoons will work out cheaper than wind and "significantly less expensive" than nuclear. And they could go on generating for 140 years—providing clean, subsidy-free energy long after other energy plants have been decommissioned.
The technology is not without its drawbacks. Artificial lagoons can cause increased silting-up of shipping lanes. Tidal estuaries are also important for wading birds, marine mammals and migratory fish and conservation groups have warned that the ecological impacts of tidal lagoons are not well understood and that any roll-out of lagoons in the UK should be conditional on the Swansea project being tried and tested. Backers of the technology say management practices can be adapted to address such concerns—and they point out that lagoons can provide environmental benefits, acting as artificial reefs for marine wildlife.
The UK government is expected to announce a final decision on the Swansea Bay project within the next few months.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
Santa Barbara Becomes First California City to Pass Resolution Against Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling
The Santa Barbara City Council approved a resolution Tuesday opposing new drilling off the California coast and fracking in existing offshore oil and gas wells. The resolution is the first in a new statewide campaign to rally local governments against proposals to expand offshore fossil fuel extraction in federal waters.
The vote—which makes Santa Barbara the first California city to oppose both fracking and new offshore drilling—follows President Trump's April 28 executive order urging federal agencies to expand oil and gas leasing in federal waters. The order could expose the Pacific Ocean to new oil leasing for the first time in more than 30 years.
Starting Wednesday, the vast majority of Americans can learn about every potentially harmful chemical in their drinking water and what scientists say are the safe levels of those contaminants. The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) new national Tap Water Database is the most complete source available on the quality of U.S. drinking water, aggregating and analyzing data from almost 50,000 public water systems in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The organization has earned a reputation for ambitious data-mining research projects that shake up policy debates and consumer markets. EWG's online Farm Subsidy Database, listing millions of subsidy recipients, and its Skin Deep guide to more than 70,000 personal care products, draw tens of millions of visitors every year.
By Stacy Malkan
Ever since they classified the world's most widely used herbicide as "probably carcinogenic to humans," a team of international scientists at the World Health Organization's (WHO) cancer research group have been under withering attack by the agrichemical industry and its surrogates.
In a front-page series, The Monsanto Papers, the French newspaper Le Monde described the attacks as "the pesticide giant's war on science," and reported, "to save glyphosate, the firm [Monsanto] undertook to harm the United Nations agency against cancer by all means."
The lengthy report from the Energy and Policy Institute uses reams of archival documents to demonstrate that utility industry representatives knew as far back as 1968 that burning fossil fuels could trigger "catastrophic effects" on the climate.
By Sharon Kelly
The Pennsylvania's Environmental Hearing Board ordered Sunoco Pipeline LP Tuesday to temporarily halt some types of work on a $2.5 billion pipeline project designed to carry 275,000 barrels a day of butane, propane and other liquid fossil fuels from Ohio and West Virginia, across Pennsylvania, to the Atlantic coast.
On July 19, three environmental groups presented Judge Bernard Labuskes, Jr. with documentation showing that the project had caused dozens of drilling fluid spills and other accidents between April and mid-June.
By Andy Rowell
The UK has followed France in banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, as part of its plan to tackle chronic air pollution in cities. The government has been coming under intense pressure to act, with an estimated 40,000 people dying prematurely a year from air pollution.
By Colleen Curry
People traveling across America today can, if they're lucky, pitch a tent in the same exact spot that early American explorers and map-makers Lewis and Clark did, amid the jagged rocks and sweeping plains of the Upper Missouri River Breaks in central Montana.
Brent Rose, a journalist and filmmaker who has been traveling around the U.S. in a van for two years, was one of the lucky ones.
Kyara, a killer whale born at SeaWorld San Antonio just three months ago, died Monday at the park, as reported in this video from Newsy. Kyara is the last orca to be born in captivity under the SeaWorld breeding program, which shut down in 2016.
In a statement, SeaWorld said the cause of death was "likely pneumonia" and that "Kyara had faced some very serious and progressive health issues over the last week."