‘Smart city’ project funds bids for share of £24 to green up UK cities.

The city of Sheffield is amongst those who have been awarded £50,000 from the UK Technology Strategy Board in a ‘smart city’ project. The money will go towards exploring potential improvements that might be made to the efficiency and coverage of district energy networks, and the use of smart technologies.

Over the next few months they, and other candidates, will put together a bid for a share of £24m that is available, which will be used to help make Sheffield an even greener city. They are currently working with a number of key partners within the city, including E.ON, Veolia and The University of Sheffield, looking into how the use of new smart technologies can improve their heat network; managing supply and demand, expand the existing network, and create new ones.

In regards to the applications, Joe Dignan, chief public sector analyst for Ovum, remarked “Over 50 applications which met the scope were considered for the funding, and 30 were given, rather than the 20 planned, because they were so good.”

Nottingham, Leeds, Derby and Bradford councils were also successful in receipt of £50,000 in funding for their own bids.

Onshore UK Wind Generation Increases Dramatically

UK wind generation on the increase? It’s a breeze!

According to recent findings, things are looking positive for the UK renewable energy sector. It has been reported by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) that in the first quarter of 2012, energy generated from onshore wind turbines reached a significant 3.6 TWh (Terawatt Hours), compared to just 2.4 TWh in the last three months of 2011.

There have also been large increases in offshore wind generation, which was boosted by 50%, and hydro generation, which had risen by 43% – because of unusually high winter rainfall levels.

“Today’s statistics show a clear increase on the first quarter of last year across all renewables – with rises in wind, hydro, solar and bioenergy generation.” Stated Charles Hendry, Energy Minister, “Alongside a 36% increase in renewables capacity in the last 12 months, this shows that the UK is powering forward on clean and secure energy and is clearly a very attractive place to invest.”

However, there is still a long way to go in the fight to get a larger portion of the UK’s total energy supply to be obtained from renewable resources. According to the first quarter of 2012, renewables represent 3.8% of the total UK energy supply – again an increase from 3.2% in 2010 – but still a relatively small number in comparison to non-renewables. Although with that said, there have been decreases in certain fossil fuel consumptions – with gas now representing only 27% (at a 14-year low point), and nuclear generation is down to 17%.

So maybe not quite a ‘breeze’, but things are looking positive for renewables, and certainly going in the right direction.


Small hydropower plants- on the rise.

Some parts of the world may be as yet unfamiliar will hydropower as an option for producing clean energy. Those that do may still be underplaying the role it could well play in a greener future.

It’s kind of understandable that hydropower may have been overlooked when you consider that hydropower, like any method of production, comes with a number of stern disadvantages: -

- They’re extremely expensive to build to begin with, and the standard to which they must be built is notably high.
-Their high construction costs mean that dams are an investment- in our future, yes. But dams must also operate for years before they become profitable.

-There’s also the environmental cost (go figure!) as they require large areas to be flooded at the expense of part of the natural environment- or even the relocation of any any towns/villages in the valley where the dam is to be constructed.
-Geological damage is also an issue where large dams of concerned- the construction of the Hoover dam, for example, triggered a number of earthquakes.

Hydropower does come with its own plus points though: -

-Once constructed, electricity can be produced at a constant rate.

-Dams have an impressive lifespan, and so contribute to electricity production, potentially, for decades.
-The lake that forms behind the dam can be used for the purpose of irrigation
-The build up of water in the lake can be stored until needed- the sluice gates can be shut when demand is low, thereby saving the water for use when demand is high.
-Electricity that dams produce do not contribute to the pollution of the atmosphere with greenhouse gases.

-Large dams have a tendency to become quite the tourist attraction- look at the Hoover dam again- and can be used for a host of water-sports/leisure activities.

Small hydropower plants, on the other hand, are considered to be more reliable and affordable than their larger counterparts, which is a fair indicator of their rising popularity. They don’t have the same environmental impact- rise in water levels, deforestation, or damage to the local environment.

Faster construction, cheaper costs, and a smaller impact on the environment. It’s really no surprise at all that the use of small hydropower plants is on the rise.

The road to a low carbon future- miles to go before we sleep?

London’s hopes of producing “the greenest Olympics ever”- potentially by generating enough renewable energy to cover the amount of energy the event will consume- might not quite measure up against their ambition sustainability goals, but not for lack of effort.

Understandably, London’s olympic organisers intended to showcase the region’s commitment to sustainability.

In a number of areas, England and the Uk have been pulling ahead in the race towards a low-carbon/clean energy future- recently ranking first among 12 of the world’s major economies.

There are other challenges still ahead. Plans for rolling out smart meters over the next couple of years is meeting opposition, and despite reports in the paper, The Independent, that “Britain is being powered by record levels of green energy (an increase in excess of 3% for the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same period of 2011), draft legislation under review in London could spell cuts to onshore wind energy programs- making onshore wind more expensive, leading to higher consumer bills.

We’re not alone in our predicament. Similar issues have arisen in the U.S, where smart meter installation has, in one instance, been met with extreme opposition as Thelma Taormina (55), resident of Harris County, pulled a gun on a CenterPoint Energy worker in order to prevent the installation of a smart meter on her property. Concern over the future of wind energy rings in the air as well, with the Production Tax Credit (PTC) due to expire later this year, and with their economic concerns, new tax incentives for renewables are looking less likely to be around the corner.

The Uk is still currently leading in offshore wind capacity, and aims to generate about 15% of our overall energy from renewable sources (such as wind, solar, and biomass) by 2020- and the road to a low-carbon, greener future looks to be more of a marathon than a sprint.

Safeguarding the UK’s future water supply- pirates aside

Keeping our future water supply secure- except maybe from pirates.

It might sound silly that on this little island of ours- surrounded by water- we could find ourselves running out of fresh water in as little as 40 years, but as things are, this may well be our reality. It is estimated that by 2050, the UK will have shortages in our water supply of up to 10,000 million litres a day. Innovations in technology and services will be necessary if we want to avoid this grim prospect.

Ten small/mid-sized companies in the UK stand at the ready to deliver feasibility projects designed to help businesses keep our future water supply covered. If successful, these innovative projects could be applied both here and abroad.

With business investment, the total cost of these projects is just over £1 million, with an excess of £500,000 in funding from the Technology Strategy Board, and a potential £100,000 by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), with contributions from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as well.

The aim of these projects is to give businesses the means to develop the preliminary ideas necessary for the creation of innovative new technologies. These may then become larger projects with the potential to create the new markets of the future.

It is estimated that around 1.6 billion people currently live in countries where scarcity of water is a serious issue, making it a clear and weighty environmental issue for the world as a whole.

The Technology Strategy Board intends for this new venture to find solutions for safeguarding our future water supply, but also create a market opportunity by funding companies that can find new, profitable ways of using the water sources we have at present, more efficiently.

The challenge has been set- every company that is successful will be charged with creating new technologies and processes that can either save or recycle 1,000 million litres of water a day.

Of the intended projects, a couple of particular interest are those of Xeros, and Aquamesh:-

-Aquamesh will be using their knowledge of the mining industry to create a low energy sensor network for farmers, which should significantly reduce the amount of water used in irrigation, and potentially increase the yield of crops.

-Xeros, most recently in the limelight for their innovative new washing machine which use virtually no water. Xeros will be working with the leather industry to find a way of cleaning leather without consuming vast amounts of fresh water, and reduce the polluting toxins in the huge billion pound industry.