ZCBlog: Nuria Mera Chouza’s Internship

¡Hola! My name is Nuria. I am the one wearing red in the team photo and I’m a volunteer for the Zero Carbon Britain team until the end of December. Now it’s my turn to tell you something about what I do for ZCB!

I studied Chemical Engineering for five years at Cádiz University, Spain. I have been trying to focus my career on the energy sector, mainly renewable energy, so I applied for the European Leonardo da Vinci grant, to do an internship abroad. The scheme offers grants for Europeans to come and work in Britain. Knowing what I studied and my interest in sustainable energy, they told me about CAT. When they told me the tasks I would have here, I searched “Centre for Alternative Technology” on the internet and I said “I want to go there!”

Before arriving, I thought I would enjoy my work but living here would be hard. I am far away from home, and I am not as fluent in English as I would like! But things are never that hard when you are surrounded by nice people. Everyone at CAT has made me feel at home since my very first day here. They work hard on things that they really believe in. It proves that with just a little perseverance and an open mind, a brighter way of life and another future is possible. Having a walk through CAT you soon realise how many things we are missing and forgetting by living the way we do.

But what I am doing here?

In the Zero Carbon Britain 2030 scenario, wind power is a very important energy source. But renewable energies are not perfect yet and the people who are against them say they are unreliable, they say it’s “because you can not have them when you need them”. Yes, wind is a variable source of power. It doesn’t blow every time we need it and sometimes it blows when we don’t need it. In fact, some wind farms need to stop even when the wind conditions are perfect because the energy demand is low. That means that the chance to produce energy is lost because we don’t need the power at that very minute.

“Wind power can’t be as good as fossil fuels,” say the pessimists. “Because it can’t be stored for later use.”

So I have accepted the challenge! For the new ZCB report we are studying how to store the energy produced from off-shore and on-shore wind turbines. It’s my role to research the feasibility of producing hydrogen as an energy carrier, from electricity by electrolysis, and then recover the energy stored in it. Electrolysis is an electro-chemical process which uses electricity to split water molecules (H2O), which produces hydrogen gas (H2) and oxygen gas (O2). This hydrogen gas can be used in hydrogen engines or fuel cells to recover energy, or it can be combined with CO2 to produce synthetic fuel in a chemical process called Fischer-Tropsch, where hydrogen and carbon are combined to build hydrocarbon chains or in other words, carbon-based fuels. So by using hydrogen in this way, we can make an intermittent energy source like wind power far more reliable.

Because I have been researching this, the rest of the team have been able to look at the bigger picture while I focused my energy on what I enjoy! The team have given me the support I needed to research my ideas and I’m proud of my contribution to the project. I am scheduled to leave CAT in December but I really want to stay and continue working in such a great environment! Everyone here keeps on telling me how important it is to have volunteers and different nationalities working here.

ZCB is a scenario for Britain but why not let people from other countries play their part!

 

  • I think that this work is one of the most important aspects of zero-carbon technology. The wind doesn’t blow all the time, and the sun doesn’t shine all the time! The electrolysis of water and the recombination of oxygen and hydrogen to release energy is much overlooked.

    I would love to know more about your work.
    Mark.Wrigley@me.com
    http://www.Alternative-Photonics.com

    • Nuria_mch

      Hi Mark, dealing with the variability of energy is one of the current research topics. The report will be published next summer, but we will hopefully publish some of our findings in this blog before then.

  • Have you considered the effect of charging the batteries of electric cars during periods of low general demand for electricity? To my knowledge there are in excess of 30 million cars registered in the UK. The percentage of electric cars amongst them is very small at present, as there are still issues with rechargability and cost of batteries, but this should change as fossil fuels become decreasingly competitive in terms of cost and battery technologies improve over time.

    • Nuria_mch

      Hi Gerhard, electric cars are also considered in the ZCB2030 scenario, including the option of “smart charging”.

  • Gabriel Belenguer

    Hola! I’m Gabriel Belenguer, two weeks ago I was visiting CAT facilities to complete my research on the development of Renewable Energies Experiments Range, I found very usefull information and examples to how apply RE. I have some questions I’d like to ask you.

    Gabriel Belenguer
    gabbetor@upv.es

    Muchas gracias!