- Alternative energy - energy - oil
Keeping our coast clean and using the high seas to our advantage
This week ENVIRONMENT looks at both the volcano of oil gurgling in the Gulf and the winds of change rocking renewable energies here in France.
Its still unclear the extent of the damage being done by the oil spill in the Gulf which started gushing at the end of April. To date the worst oil spill to hit the coast of the United States was the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, back in 1989.
For 56 days a carpet of sticky slick spread along the pristine coast. The wreck dumped over 11 million gallons of oil into the sea over 1300 kilometres of coastline. Some ten thousand people and 2 billion dollars were poured in to aid in the clean up yet despite best efforts the environment there still shows scars of the spill.
In the short term, the slick killed 250,000 sea birds, 2800 otters and around 22 orcas. Today, at first glance, the shores look clean but scrap away the surface sands and the consequences of the accident can still be seen. Salmon stocks remain significantly lowered and commercial fishing of herring is still outlawed.
Meanwhile off France's oil free shores; ten sites have been picked to plant offshore windmills, part of new plans surrounding the renewable source of energy. The government has pledged to build at least 500 windmills every year. A move that isn’t being welcomed everywhere. In many small towns residents have declared war against wind turbines. They say they fear losing their peace and quiet. Consulting firms say they're seeing more and more of this kind of opposition. In France, only one in ten turbine projects sees the day. “It's become a national sport to oppose construction permits, and these people are judicial guerrilla fighters, they use French law. There are 3 levels of appeal, in all the procedure can delay the construction back 5 years,” says Philippe Gouveneur, Director of Enertrag France.
Now, in a move that further complicates issues for advocates of wind energy, the French government has tried to pass a law to put tighter restrictions on wind turbine installations. The law stipulates that windfarms hold at least 5 turbines, and that they be located at least 500 meters away from residential areas.
While residents in France are still wary of wind, one French inventor has seen the massive benefits windmills can bring providing not just power but water too. Marc Parent, says that the worlds second largest water reserve is right above our heads and that his windmills, installed in just an hour can produce 800 litres of water every day. The process is simple and mimics how rain is created. The wind turbine sucks in air. The electricity generated is used to cool the air down, transforming the steam into water. Marc and his team say their invention would be ideal for deserts and remote areas. The double edged windmill costs between nine thousand and twenty five thousand euros depending on the model. The system isn't being used industrially yet, but Marc expects to find a buyer very soon.