Duke William harnesses the tides

A map of UK tidal and wave power, produced by the sucessors to William’s office.

(For those of you looking for something as far as possible from the campaign)

Duc Guillaume was, you may recall, deeply interested in the management of his English conquest, and commissioned the totally unromantic Domesday Book, basically a survey of land taxpayers. The successors to his diligent curia regis are still at it, managing Crown property: now distinguished from the private assets of the Queen like Sandringham, these include the foreshore and the seabed out to 10 miles. The Crown Estate have therefore carried out a survey of the tidal and wave resources of the UK – out to the 200-mile edge of the exclusive economic zone, where the Crown doesn’t SFIK have any property rights, but maybe they know something about the Statute of Westminster (1275) I don’t.

On the basis of pure technical feasibility – ignoring the economic issues for now as the technology is immature – they estimate total theoretical UK resources at:

  • Wave: 69 TWh/year (27 GW);
  • Tidal stream: 95 TWh/year (32 GW);
  • Tidal range (barrage schemes): 96 TWh/year (45 GW);
  • Tidal range (lagoon schemes): 25 TWh/year (14 GW).

The last two are to a considerable extent alternative uses of the same estuaries.

For comparison, total UK electricity production in 2011 was 374 TW/h and capacity 89 GW. So wave and tidal power could in theory meet up to 70% of UK electricity demand if they were continuous, which they won’t be. But even on the more limited scale that will be imposed by economics, this isn’t chickenfeed.

There’s a nice map on page 9 showing where the resources are:

The accessible high-quality wave energy is off the Hebrides and similar remote places, implying large transmission costs. Nobody will be mad enough to place wave farms in the shipping lanes of the Western Approaches, or in the storm-tossed fishing grounds between Scotland and Iceland. The good tidal range sites are in estuaries close to centres of population, but there are big potential conflicts with other environmental uses (such as bird wetland habitats). The least-hassle technology is tidal stream, which in many places doesn’t SFIK interfere much with anything else.

The Crown Estate leave out the Alderney Race in the Channel Isles, which can support a 3GW tidal stream array. The currents are ferocious there: the Casquets rocks west of Alderney have a fine collection of 300 seabed wrecks.

The reason may be that Alderney isn’t part of the Crown of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but held by the Queen as Duke of Normandy and therefore vassal of the King of France, as laid down in the Treaty of Paris, 1258-9. Does the Grand Coutumier Normand have anything to say about underwater tidal turbines and DC cables?

William would have liked this. Canute only used the tides to make an elegant moral point. But William’s successor can make them pay real dues and service. Book it, clerk!

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

11 thoughts on “Duke William harnesses the tides”

  1. I learned several things from this post, including the bit about QE II being the Duke of Normandy. Fascinating!

    But… in the future, could you do us all a favor and drop “SFIK” as an abbreviation? It’s dreadful.

    1. QE II isn’t the Duke of Normandy. The only parts of Normandy that are still British are the Channel Islands, Guernsey and Jersey, which are British Crown Dependencies. The rest of the territory comprising the duchy is very much a part of the French Republic.

  2. So has anyone done anything like this for the US?

    Off the top of my head I’d think of the Bay of Fundy, Hell Gate in New York, the moraine extending from the tip of the North Fork of Long Island to the Connecticut coast (including Plum and Fishers Islands), the Delaware estuary, Hampton Roads and south of the Florida Keys as places where tidal ranges or streams could be exploited. I’m fairly sure there’d be others. I know absolutely nothing about the Pacific coast.

    1. Ideally it would be recognized that the Bay of Fundy is almost entirely in Canada, so most of it is not necessarily ‘for the US’ … though we have been known to export energy resources to you for appropriate compensation.

  3. Hey guys, I looked for a general contact email but couldn’t find one. Just an FYI the last two posts with embedded videos have really screwed up he formatting of the entire site on safari on my iPhone. I have iPhone 5. Looks fine on Mac and iPad. I’m not complaining! I just thought you’d like to know.

    What I’m seeing is the entire site is super skinny, like an inch. So posts are really long. Then when you get down to the embedded video it sticks out to the right a couple inches from the rest of the site.

    Sorry for the o/t. Carry on.

    1. Thanks for the heads up, noseeum. Looks like iOS6.0 has triggered some faults in our styling; we’re getting on it and will have a fix soon.

  4. I have known about that Duke of Normandy bit for a long time — since James mentioned it previously. This reference raises a new question. For “vassal of the King of France” purposes, does the current French government hold those rights? If not, does anyone? Would it make a difference or have any practical consequences for these purposes if France reinstated a limited monarchy?

    1. I think William Pitt would say: you can’t abolish feudal rights and execute the King, and then claim the King’s feudal rights against the Royal Navy. In historical fact, while Louis XV did mount a serious invasion of Jersey in 1781 to help a bunch of rebellious colonists somewhere, neither Revolutionary nor Napoleonic France tried anything similar.

      1. I am thoroughly exhausting my fragmentary knowledge of this stuff here, but my recollection that theoretical bosshood of Andorra is shared by a Spanish bishop and the government of France — as successor to you-know-who. Accurate? Relevant analogy?

  5. out to the 200-mile edge of the exclusive economic zone, where the Crown doesn’t SFIK have any property rights

    It acts as the British Government’s agent.

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