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Staying safe in the sun

September 1, 2009

News on the Health and Safety front today.  It seems SolarUK’s installers – who didn’t come and work here expecting a cushy existence, though it’s surely more fun than clinging onto a storm-buffeted oil rig on the North Sea – have cause for good cheer in research carried out by Steve Sumner, physician at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina.  For the New Scientist reported last week on his preliminary research findings which suggest green energy sources such as solar are unlikely to take the same toll on workers as those involving the extraction of fossil fuels.

Geography plays a part in career choices, so those of us born and raised in the South East of England where there aren’t many coal seams were never likely to earn a living down the pit, and a Northern Petroleum exploration well near Chichester is probably the closest Sussex will come to becoming the Texas of Europe.

Research on safety is still ongoing, and there’s apparently not enough evidence yet to back up the somewhat obvious-seeming conclusion coming from Duke University.  Meanwhile, US Department of Energy researchers have placed solar’s occupational health costs alongside nuclear, though they disregarded the possibility of radiation causing long-term damage.

The solar industry is relatively small at the moment, but when it grows – as it surely will – there will be a more solid evidence base for comparison.  Unfortunately, with more companies coming on board there’s more chance of some adopting less-than-sound safety practices.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 2, 2009 4:15 pm

    Somebody needs to study their Geography a bit more. Kent has been blessed with rich coal seams extending out into the English channel. Last century there were a number of coal mines, mostly in the Dover area with Tilmanstone, Betteshanger and Snowdon the last to close. Much of the above ground works of Snowdon which is next to Nonnington are still visible though degrading. I think there were other pits immediately next to Dover and one nearby Thanet.

    Earlier last century, I believe through till the 2nd WW there was a cable way that ran from Tilmanstone to Dover where the coal was then loaded onto ships. I remember the coal trains coming through Sandwich, I guess on their way to the power station at Richborough which for many years had a statue of a miner at its entrance.

    Snowdon, one of the last pits to close was of course named after the mountain, many of the miners moving from Wales, and for Snowdon into the local new town of Aylsham.

  2. solarukweblog permalink*
    September 3, 2009 9:30 am

    Well, thanks for the information.

    I had underestimated Kent’s coal heritage, but I think my point still remains valid in that there hasn’t been a large-scale commercially viable industry in recent years. I grew up and went to school in Sussex and Kent in the mid 1980s and I don’t remember seeing hordes of striking miners and riot shield-wielding policemen.

    Something you might be interested to know is that natural gas was found near Heathfield station in E. Sussex in the 19th century, and this generated some excitement for a time, though it didn’t get much further than powering the station lights until the 1930s. BP found some gas in a further hole in the 1950s but not enough to justify more drilling.

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