World's Largest [Illegal] Geoengineering Experiment
In carrying out what's being called the “world's largest geoengineering experiment,” a man has gone rogue in his pursuit to prove to the world that his theory on combatting global warming will work. Russ George, the head of Planktos, believes that by dumping iron into the ocean, creating a massive algae (phytoplankton) bloom, the carbon dioxide absorbed through photosynthesis from the algae will be enough to combat climate change.
The problem is, algae dies, emitting methane, which is worse for the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. When the idea was first put out there in 2007, most were skeptical about dumping chemicals in the ocean given the risks. Without the support to back him up, George disappeared for a while, abandoning his focus to carry out the experiment near the Galapagos Islands. Instead, he came to Canada, deceived locals about the intentions of his experiment, and dumped 100 tons of iron sulphate into the Pacific, creating an algae bloom large enough to see from space.
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The dump took place 200 miles west of the islands of Haida Gwaii, after George convinced the local council of an indigenous village that the project would restore the salmon population in the area. With the help of a team of unidentified scientists, George obtained equipment loaned from US agencies including Nasa and the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration.
Lawyers, environmentalists and civil society groups are calling it a “blatant violation” of two international moratoria and the news is likely to spark outrage at a United Nations environmental summit taking place in India this week, according to the Guardian.
After George's failed efforts in the past, the US Environmental Protection Agency warned him that carrying out the experiment in the Galapagos would violate US laws. Regardless of the outcome of the situation off the Canadian coast, it's likely he'll face legal pressures from environmental groups throughout North America in the upcoming weeks.
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