The question of energy production is a hot topic in the P-O

We are all aware (except perhaps the American president?!) that climate change poses a very real danger to our way of life, particularly with the unseasonal weather we are currently experiencing! Temperatures are rising, ice shelves are melting, rain patterns are shifting, and all as a result of human activity.

The European Environment Agency states that, although emissions decreased slightly in 2016, irreversible impacts are expected to increase. As such, member countries have pledged to ‘decarbonise’ their energy production systems by 2050.

During his election campaign, Emmanuel Macron promised €15 billion to facilitate this energy overhaul in France. Given that today, almost half of all French energy is produced from fossil fuels, the transformation is sure to cause significant disruption.

What are the alternatives for us here in the P-O?

With an average of over 300 days of sunshine each year and the Tramontane making a regular appearance, solar and wind energy would seem to be the obvious choices. But are they really viable? Let’s take a look…

L'éolien (wind)

How it works:

Based on the traditional windmill concept, when the wind blows, it catches the propeller-like blades and causes them to spin around a rotor. The rotor, in turn, spins a generator within the main shaft to create electricity.

Arguments for...

Local renewable energies association, Club EnR 66, gives the following reasons for wind turbines.

  • No design is ever going to please everyone but we believe that a wind turbine is less of a blot on the landscape than a smoking chimney, a fracking drill or the electrical cables that currently zig-zag across the region.
  • Disruption to the surrounding environment is minimal; farmers can graze animals and cultivate crops as soon as installation is completed.
  • The price of dismantling wind turbines pales into insignificance when compared with nuclear- we know how to recycle concrete, iron and copper!
  • Much progress has been made in storing energy, combining production methods, improving consumption behaviours etc. Portugal ran 4 days with 100% renewable energy and research is on-going!

Arguments against...

Local association, Le Vent Tourne, shares with us their arguments against wind turbines.

  • Wind turbines threaten the landscape, our historical heritage, the value of our real estate and the quality of life for residents of the P-O
  • Wind turbines jeopardise not only tourism opportunities but also the residential and agricultural potential of our region
  • Wind turbines are a costly, private industry and subsidies could be far better used in search of more efficient new sources of renewable energy
  • Wind turbines only operate sporadically and therefore cannot compensate the CO2 produced during their fabrication, transportation, installation, connection to the grid and finally their demolition

Solaire (solar)

How it works:

The sun releases energy called photons. When photons come into contact with solar cells, they dislodge electrons from their atoms. When connected to a positive and negative source, electrons flow in a circuit, generating electricity.

Arguments for...

  • The prerequisite for solar energy – the sun – is readily available in the P-O and is a viable option if used in conjunction with other renewables
  • Solar panels can be installed almost anywhere without disrupting the principle function of the space: rooftops, car parks, warehouses, fields…
  • Photovoltaic modules are safe and durable, with a long performance guarantee of 20-25 years. The energy payback time can be as little as 1.5 years!
  • On an individual level, solar can render your household independent from the grid and on an industrial scale, solar power feeds into the public network without creating any emissions

Arguments against...

  • Solar panels cannot function in bad weather or at night, which is when most people are at home and in need of electricity for heating, hot water, cooking, lighting etc.
  • Solar panels are made using heavy metals such as lead and cadmium, which could contaminate surrounding eco-systems if they were to leak and must be disposed of at the end of a panel’s productivity.
  • The energy created by solar panels cannot offset the fossil fuels on which the rely for mining, fabrication, installation and maintenance.
  • The high initial investment puts solar energy out of the means of most households.

So where do we go from here?

Fossil fuels MUST be replaced if we are to preserve this beautiful planet for future generations but so far, none of the renewables are able to perfectly meet our current consumption demands. So whilst you’re weighing up the pros and cons of different production methods, why not take a moment to revise and adapt your daily behaviours? Less is more… economically and environmentally!

Useful Vocab

L’environnement = the environment
Le développement durable = sustainable development
L’effet de serre = greenhouse effect
Les gaz à effet de serre = greenhouse gases
La couche d’ozone = the ozone layer
Le dioxyde de carbone = carbon dioxide
La nappe de pétorle / la marée noire = oil slick
Les énergies renouvelables = renewable energies
Le réchauffement climatique = global warming
Les inondations = floods
Les canicules = heat waves
La sécheresse = drought
Les espèces en voie d’extinction = endangered species

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