A long, long time ago … 1993 to be precise… I wrote a small descriptive science fiction piece about the North Sea. The edited version is below:
That strange interregnum between the last of the winter storms and the first blossoming of spring held sway over the land. The dull clouds portended yet more rain, dampening the air and drowning the hope of better things to come.
Occasional beams of sunlight broke through. One such shone on the extensive glasshouse canopy to the southeast, turning it into a solitaire diamond on a low grassy plateau.
From it, a black line of road curved down and made a beeline for the west. Behind it a yellow sandbank, with its grey-green patches of saltwort and marram grass, rose up to the abrupt horizontal line of the seawall’s hidden rampart. Without either sandbank or wall, the land would have long since sunk beneath the battering waves of the North Sea. The road disappeared into a wind farm that, at this distance, had the aerofoils looking like delicate white toy windmills, their blades ceaselessly turning.
The road reappeared, to come northward on a ridge to a village, where the orderly terrace houses with their immaculate vegetable plots and scrappy chicken runs surrounded the village hall, general store and hotel. All were bedecked with the dark blue sheen of solar panels, much needed to ward off the biting cold of the winds. At the northern end of the village, the preserved wreck of a wooden ship stood with quiet dignity beside a long low hut that housed a maritime museum.
Spurs of gravel embanked tracks led off the road to various farmhouses and barns. Their owners were custodians of the precious green and brown acreage that stretched out in every direction, even encroaching to the very edge of the nearby fish pools. This agricultural land was broken into regimented squares and rectangles by dark chilly-looking canals, a lot mere drainage ditches, but a few were large enough to carry barges. Near some farms, power-generating waterwheels fitted snugly in the step down in levels along the canals.
Fields were linked at one or two corners by grass covered bridges wide enough to hold farm gates whose design had stood the test of centuries. On the odd green field slowly wandered the white, cream and black blobs of sheep, ducks and geese. Most of the fallow fields were lined with the furrows from the plough and were awaiting their spring seeds. Here and there, were lines of trees; straight bare plane trees were lower down whilst the gnarled and twisted willows were higher, acting as wind breaks.
The four fish pools, remnants of the days when this was just a fish farm, were covered by a fine translucent netting to ward off the ever-squawking, wheedling gulls. The wind ignored the obstacle to make the pools ripple and dance in pretty patterns.
Such was the view now through the window of the old lighthouse on Dogger Isle, once the Dogger Bank twenty metres and more below the North Sea.
Now comes the news that the National Grid are in talks over a plan for an energy island in the North Sea. (See link here.)
It seems to be just a wind for now, which given my description above is disappointing. After all, why not use other mechanisms in the same sea space to maximise the energy output? It would make a lot of sense from the engineering and maintenance viewpoints. For instance, they could use the same transmission cables to transfer the energy. And if they’re going out there to do maintenance anyway, why not add some fish farms or shellfish infrastructure. Then they could minimise the number of journeys made.
Yes I applaud the idea of a wind farm in the North Sea, provided it is done with respect to the sea habitat. But where is the joined up thinking with other potential industries to maximise the use of the infrastructure that they will have to put in place?
This is where science fiction could have helped, had the above piece been published. (Oh yes, I did try to get it out there – but that is another story not for this post.) After all, science fiction is the speculation about what is possible in the future. Now I fear the plans are too far advanced to be able to do anything about the energy island.