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The University of Southampton
Engineering

Research project: Can we maintain efficient energy supplies? Adaptation and Resilience of Coastal Energy Supply (ARCoES)

Currently Active: 
Yes

Energy is a key requirement that underpins economic sustainability and wellbeing. Without it, our world will change entirely, so making sure we have secure, safe uninterrupted and affordable energy supply for years to come is very important. Energy can be generated in many different ways, such as from coal, gas, nuclear wind, waves. This project involves a cross-disciplinary team of scientists who aim to better understand how the energy network can be sustained in the future. It also considers how the energy network will be affected by climate change, and how it can become more resilient, meeting our energy needs as we move to a low carbon future.

Project Overview

Over the last century, relative sea levels (that's vertical changes in the land level, plus changes in sea-level) have risen over much of the UK by a few millimetres each year. It is very likely that this will continue. Although this amount sounds very small, over many decades this can add up to significant amounts. This has worried engineers and planners as they believe sea-level rise and any increase in storminess (i.e. how big the waves are) could damage energy infrastructure situated on the coast, such as nuclear power stations. This project documents what engineers are particularly concerned about, and then scientists analyse whether these concerns will actually happen. They also think about what would happen if any energy infrastructure was flooded, and what that would mean for the wider network. The project aims to supplement existing energy assessments, by looking at the long-term threats posed to future energy generation and the distribution network. 

Scientists and engineers will undertake this by developing a computer model of the coast which integrates data from many different sectors and properties of the environment. The model has the capability to predicting how sea-level rise and changes in storminess will affect the geography, morphology and behaviour of estuaries, gravel beaches, sandy beaches and dunes, and cliffs.

Scientists will analyse the model outputs are will be able to tell where future flooding, erosion and sedimentation is most likely to occur as the climate changes. They will interpret how this will affect water quality (temperature and turbidity) and coastal habitats. Of course, they expect this to change over time, so will be looking at the effect in the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s. They are also going to look at very long term changes in 2100, 2200 and 2500 – although they have much less confidence the results will be right! But by doing this it will give a feel for the potential problems we could face – who know what energy types we will use in 200 years time?


Once they understand how the environment will change, scientists will investigate what the implications are. They will look at energy production, how energy is distributed around the country and whether this is economically sustainable.

Sizewell nuclear power station
Coastal energy supplies

Related research groups

Energy and Climate Change
Coastal Engineering and Management

Staff

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