Tilting At Ocean Windmills to save the planet

Tilting At Ocean Windmills to save the planet

For the money it cost to operate just one of the 145 windmills in the multi-billion dollar London Array an ocean pasture can be restored to health and sustained for decades!

Restoring ocean pastures in all of the world’s Seven Seas will repurpose billions of tonnes of CO2 into new/revived ocean life and feed our hungry with billions of additional fish!

Don Quixote taught some great lessons about what not to forget as we spend our lives, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges  – imagination, commitment, joy are not to be forgotten. It doesn’t take so much to succeed as my own story reveals.

Of course then there is the saga of any and all things ‘Don Quiote-ish’ as news has come my way that after 17 years of development and filming hell the film “The Man Who Killed Don Quiote by famed Monty Pythoner Terry Gilliam is in the editing can. Ah well let’s continue Sancho. In the context of the world of concern over the collapse of ocean ecosystems the determination of the ‘climate industrial complex‘ to prohibit restoration of damaged ocean ecosystems stands out in UN Sustainable Development Goal #14 that calls only to conserve and protect explicitly excluding restore.

london array

175 Giant windmills in the offshore London Array doing good but perhaps we can do better

The cost of giant ocean based windmills is currently a bit less than $20 million per unit.

Some installations like the UK’s London Array of 175 such windmills has been reported to cost about $3 billion. Annual operating and maintenance costs are conservatively put at about 10% per year or $300 million in yearly recurring costs.

Of course the 630 MW of power produced, enough for 500,000 British homes when the wind is blowing, is the worthy and financial incentive. But we have not forgotten the  well directed government subsidies for each windmill that amount to yearly $1 million each giant machine locked in for 20 years. In effect the London Array subsidies are equal over that 20 yr time frame to the entire cost of the installation!

The power from the London Array works out to cost about £150 per MWH, that’s triple the cost of fossil fuel powered electricity in the UK which sells for £40 per MWH or even less with present low oil prices.

But the environment benefits so ocean wind power is still a good thing … right?

That’s the tough question as what might $3 billion be able to accomplish in terms of providing environmental benefits via other means. But the question is truly moot as the London Array is built!

Here on this blog I present information about how vital and important it is, or ought to be, that we deliver ecosystem services to our oceans. My passion and dedication is toward restoring damaged ocean ecosystems, what I call the ocean pastures. Our Seven Seas are not some generically identical bucket of water being everywhere more or less the same. From the point of view of ocean life they are diverse ecologies just like we see on land. Not every patch of land is a pasture and in just the same way not every patch of ocean is an ocean pasture.

Pastures everywhere are tremendously important as they produce the food upon which all of their wildlife and livestock survive and thrive. We all know that when droughts or our neglect that tragically diminishes both pastures on land and at sea they do decline and become unproductive. When our pastures do decline it is up to us to set things right through our dedication and care.

Walt Whitman the America poet once put his admonitions about taking care of pastures very simply by saying,
“All beef is grass.”

It is surely just as true to offer our admonishment about taking care of ocean pastures by saying, “All fish is plankton.”

Good Ideas

If we agree that it is a good thing to be investing billions into projects that are good for the environment as the London Array is in terms of its million of tonnes per year of CO2 reductions, then surely restoring the ocean pastures makes fantastic sense. Here’s some of the economics of ocean pasture restoration in the context of ocean wind power.

Restoring just one modest scale ocean pasture per year in the Atlantic west of the British Isles will cost perhaps $1 million! This will be a recurring cost every year, but not more than the recurring cost to keep one of the London Array windmills operating, indeed about the same as the subsidy provided by government for the London Array!

That pasture and its revived ocean plant life, phyto-plankton, will capture and repurpose into additional ocean life 50-100 million tonnes of CO2 each year! This will be the gross CO2 uptake and surely much of it will be eaten by hungry marine life but surely not less than tens of percent of it will be sequestered in the ocean for time frames at least as long as carbon is sequestered in forests!

That additional ocean pasture plankton will feed all manner of ocean life and will provide at least 100 million additional fish that will be swim into fishermen’s nets and onto our plates! The direct value of that fish alone in the UK is in excess of $500 million (£350 million).

The UK annual domestic carbon footprint is about 500 million tonnes of CO2 per year. The operation of the London Array is managing to reduce that footprint by just 1 million tonnes each year, a small fraction of 1%!  Restoring and sustaining just one UK ocean pasture for the same cost maintain just one of the London Array Windmills will produce a UK carbon footprint reduction of tens of times that of the entire 175 windmills in the London Array!

Scorecard – London Array vs. UK Ocean Pastures

London Array UK Ocean Pasture
 Installation cost  $3 Billion  $0
Annual maintenance cost $1 million $1 million
Annual cost/subsidy –
per windmill/pasture
 $1 million  ???
 CO2 Reduction  1 million tonnes  10-30 million tonnes
 UK Carbon Footprint reduction 
1 windmill vs. 1 pasture
 0.2%  2.0% – 6%
 Value of product power vs. fish
145 windmills vs. 1 ocean pasture
 ~ $150 million  $~ $500 million

Wondering if this could really be true?

It is proven technology, safe, sustainable, and as you can see very inexpensive. Below is a newspaper clipping from Alaska where following my work the previous year, 2012, to restore the ocean pasture of the Pink Salmon, the fish came back, just as I had promised! Click the story to read the details.

Record salmon returns

My 2012 ocean pasture restoration project worked so well it brought back record salmon returns To Alaska the very next year – click to read more

Join me this year as my ships set sail to restore ocean pastures of the world to Bring Back The Fish!