NTAB at sea

On Friday 23rd June we had an outing offshore. Our cruise to visit the wind turbine park at Thornton Bank took place in glorious weather, although we were anxious about this, as the previous day had produced torrential rain – good for the gardens, but not ideal for a sea excursion.

The afternoon began as we cast off in Oostende shortly before 3pm – earlier than advertised, but luckily the last lost sheep turned up just in time. Our extremely knowledgeable guide started talking at once – and didn’t stop for the next few hours! We learnt an enormous amount about the history and workings of the wind farm, from the first turbines in 2009 to the latest ones, making a total of 399. They were all still when we were there, as there was not enough wind, but this situation doesn’t often arise!

The original parks had individual cables to land, but the current system connects all those cables to a central hub, from where a single line goes ashore. The intention is to join up with a network covering not only Belgium, but also neighbouring countries, including the UK.

There is currently a debate on what should happen to the oldest turbines, as they are nearing the end of their useful life. Recycling the blades presents problems, as they are fibreglass and the huge amount of this substance will be difficult to process. The bases of the pylons can also not be re-used, as they are not strong enough to support the new, larger towers. An interesting development is that a new ecological system has evolved round the bases of the turbines, so nature organisations feel that they should not be removed, but left as a sort of reef, supporting fish and other organisms.

Altogether a fascinating day, and a wonderful sea voyage.

By Margaret du Maine – Simpson

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