'Underwater Windmills' Would Disrupt Sand's Flow Pattern

Farms of “underwater windmills” could affect how sand moves around our coastal seas, affecting beaches, sand banks and ultimately the risk of flooding, according to Bangor University oceanographer Dr. Simon Neill.

Writing in Planet Earth, the award winning magazine of the Natural Environment Research Council, Dr. Neill explains how tidal energy farms are like roadworks.

“When tidal currents are fast enough, they pick up grains of sand from the seabed, which are then transported with the flow. This is like cars picking up passengers en route to their destination.”

“Extracting energy from a tidal system, for example by installing a farm of tidal stream turbines or ‘underwater windmills,’ will reduce the strength of tidal flows. This is like the impact of roadworks, leading to a reduced flow of traffic. A reduced flow of traffic means fewer passengers can be transported. In the sea, tidal energy farms will similarly reduce the volume of sand transported.”

This movement of sand feeds into the natural systems which protect our coastlines from storm waves, such as beaches and offshore sand banks. If a large tidal energy scheme were to disrupt the natural flow of sand, this could make our coastline more vulnerable to storm impacts, and could lead to increased flood risk.

However, apart from the obvious benefits of low carbon electricity generation, artificial interventions by tidal-energy farms could lead to positive effects. Strategic placement of tidal-energy farms could even be used to create a natural form of coastal flood protection by artificially manipulating offshore sand deposits. However, such state-of-the-art geoengineering would have to be based on a sound understanding of the underlying oceanographic processes.

Download Center

  • Your Guide to Environmental Metrics that Drive Performance

    Translating sustainability into action starts with implementing the right metrics to assess your environmental risk and performance. Learn how to design metrics that improve your decision-making process and drive enterprise performance.

  • Unpacking ESG: 6 Questions You Were Too Afraid to Ask

    Environmental and Sustainability experts from Arcadis and Cority answer 6 of the most pressing questions EHS professionals have about getting started with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting.

  • 5 Keys to Best-in-Class Chemical Management

    Running a safe chemical program is challenging and complex: from knowing what's on-site to proper handling and disposal - all while navigating regulatory changes. Learn the best ways to mitigate chemical risk, get the most value out of your data, and gain buy-in for a chemical management solution.

  • Streamline Your Air Emissions Management

    See how consolidating all your emissions management functions into one centralized system can help you streamline your operations, more easily maintain compliance, and achieve greater time and cost savings.

  • A Crash Course in Creating the Right Environmental Scoring System

    Learn how to develop the right environmental scoring system so you can easily benchmark performance across all your facilities and gain a holistic view of your environmental programs.

  • Industry Safe