Centuries Old Trash Buildup in Sydney Harbor
Sydney Harbor, one of the world's most beautiful seaports, hides an ugly underbelly: a seabed blanked with garbage as old as 200 years. As a busy coastal city, the loose garbage has long accumulated offshore—out of sight and out of mind to the average Australian.
Environmentalists say the waste causes a plethora of problems, including leaching toxic chemicals into seawater and harming local marine life. Fortunately, Australians are pulling together to alleviate some of the damage done. A coalition of local divers have begun volunteering their time to remove some of the mass amounts of trash from the harbor floor.
"The stuff on the bottom has been accumulating for 200 years, and it's only now we're really trying to pull it out in any sort of quantity," local diver Dave Thomas tells Australia's Seven News. "It's been out of sight and out of mind."
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Eco Divers and the Two Hands Project are leading the effort, but it won't be easy. Picking up small debris will be a labor intensive job, while the rest will consist of removing larger objects such as old bicycles and bathtubs. The cleanup crews will cover some 12,000 acres of waterways and 170 miles of shoreline, where over 900 metric tons of garbage washes up every year.
Regardless of the amount of garbage the organizations pick up or the extent of time it will take them to make an impact, the progress is well worth the trouble from their point of view.
"Unless someone cleans it up, it could be there for years," Two Hands' Dean Cropp tells BBC. "It could be there for hundreds of years — doing damage the whole time."
Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
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Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly