ZCBlog: A round-up of last week’s wind news with added gas!

Oh boy, was last week a blustery time for the future of British energy! Wind is a free resource and the sheer abundance of it across the UK during the past seven days highlights how important renewables can be for future energy strategies.

Over 9% of the UK’s electricity was generated by wind turbines on the 19th , 20th and 22nd of November. However, the total amount would have been higher because this value does not take into account turbines connected to local grids. On the morning of 22nd November, energy generated from wind-farms was more than gas. Indeed, wind power on that morning contributed over 4GW to the national grid, which is equivalent to four nuclear power stations.

This percentage of the UK’s daily electricity demand equates to around 90 GWh. That is as much as you get from burning 30,000 tonnes of coal, which would produce 90,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide because coal is pretty much pure carbon. When burning it, carbon atoms are combined with two oxygen to make a CO2 molecule. One carbon dioxide molecule has the atomic mass of 3.7 carbon molecules. Therefore by burning 1kg of coal you produce more than 3kg of CO2.

Wind is already making a valuable contribution to our energy supply. The growth rate is impressive. There is now over 6 Gigawatts of capacity compared with 2 Gigawatts in 2007. However, to create the type of low carbon energy system described in CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain 2030 report, we will need to see continued rapid deployment of onshore and offshore wind. And further changes to our energy system will be required, such as storage so that wind power can continue to supply ever greater quantities of clean energy.

Sceptics often claim that wind farms are not nearly as carbon efficient because wind needs to be backed up by burning fossil fuels. They argue that when the wind is blowing, gas turbines will have to be switched to a lower efficiency that negates any carbon savings. Combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) are one of the most efficient gas-fired turbines in use. In a recent study, Loughborough University researched how different operation profiles influence the energy efficiency of a modern 800MW CCGT. The results show that when the turbine output modulates between 400MW and 800MW then the carbon footprint of the gas turbine per unit of electricity produced is only increased slightly compared to optimal constant operation at full 800MW capacity. This illustrates that when the wind blows harder and wind turbines produce more electricity we can reduce the amount of gas we use in turbines without having to pay a significant penalty in terms of turbine efficiency.

The evidence suggests that when we have more wind power we burn less gas and emit less CO2. The truth is that for every megawatt hour of wind generated energy, gas-powered electricity is reduced by the same amount. But how would the variable nature of wind fare during times of high demand if it became a primary resource? Well, current work by the ZCB team suggests that even with offshore wind farms spread all around the UK there will be times when almost no power is produced, and sometimes this will happen at times of high energy demand. On the other hand, it is worth noting that the UK is Europe’s windiest country so a lot of the time energy production from wind will exceed demand.

The ZCB team are busy researching methods of storing this excess energy chemically in the form of hydrogen or methane. Electrolysis can be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, using renewable electricity. The benefit of this is simple. It produces an energy store that can be re-used when demand requires it. Unfortunately, hydrogen is more difficult to store and handle than the natural gas (mostly methane) our gas grid uses today. The good news is that there are chemical processes to produce ‘synthetic’ methane gas from hydrogen and CO2. Methane produced in this way could be a great substitute for natural gas, which is a fossil fuel, and could be used as fuel for backup gas power stations to keep the lights on when the wind doesn’t blow. The Department of Energy and Climate Change(DECC) certainly seem to think this solution has potential as they have just awarded ITM Power a research grant to investigate this exact process. ZCB are very excited by the possibilities of synthetic methane. You can read more here.

And to end on a bit of extra good news – A major wind turbine manufacturer is now planning to open a factory in Scotland. The country is the windiest in the UK and politicians there have previously spoken out in defence of wind-farms. This deal is expected to create 750 jobs so let us hope this bolsters more interest in British wind power and aids further job creation within the renewable energy sector.

 

Climate change: It’s even worse than we thought

On Monday November 26th the international climate talks open in Doha,  an article published in the New Scientist this week carried the startling headline, Climate Change: It’s even worse than we thought. Climate change is happening faster and quicker than expected. Artic sea ice was not expected to melt to the end of the century but current trends indicate it could happen a lot quicker than that, the loss of sea ice means sea level rises. Weather events are more unpredicatable than imagined, with superstorm Sandy topping the bill after a year of heatwaves, droughts, floods and blizzards. The world is heading for an average 3-5 deg C temperature rise this century barring urgent action.

A faster response to climate change is necessary and possible,Doha must make sure the response is accelerated.” UN climate chief Christiana Figueres

Continue reading “Climate change: It’s even worse than we thought”

A WISE use for Local Charities

The Centre for Alternative Technology is offering local charities the opportunity to use meeting rooms at its educational and conference centre, the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education (WISE), for free. If you work or volunteer for a charity in the SY20 area and are looking for a special place to hold meetings, then the WISE building could be the place for you. Situated in the stunning Dulas valley in mid-Wales, WISE has impressive facilities that can deliver successful conferences, meetings, training sessions or one-off events.

“ The WISE building is a tremendous resource, with its state of the art  facilities and outstanding sustainability credentials, CAT would like to be able to share that with the many organisations in our local area who are doing important work” Kim Bryan, CAT spokesperson.

The WISE building opened in 2012 and has won several national awards for its ecological credentials. Based at CAT’s site near Machynlleth, the building hosts several meeting rooms, workshop space and a 200 seater lecture theatre. En-suite accommodation and catering can also be arranged for delegates.The offer is open to all charities in the SY20 area, six times per year and is available for meeting rooms only. Please contact Sarah at  venue.hire@cat.org.uk or on 01654 704973 for reservations and more information.

Empowering communities to take action – Renew Wales comes to CAT for training

CAT is excited to be hosting the first training course for coordinators of Renew Wales in the WISE conference centre today and tomorrow.

Renew Wales is a Big Lottery funded project aiming to empower community groups throughout Wales to take action addressing the challenge of climate change. The two-year project is led by the Development Trusts Association, and CAT is a key project partner.

The project activities are targeted at groups like rugby clubs, Women’s Institutes, youth organisations and housing associations, and will include developing community renewable energy resources, starting local food clubs, making sustainable use of land and buildings, establishing community owned enterprises and engaging schools and business in climate change action.

Initiated in June 2012 the project has recently employed a network of coordinators from across Wales. Their role will be to identify and support community groups in their area who are interested in taking action relating to climate change, including those who haven’t taken action before.

The coordinators being trained at CAT today and tomorrow will be involved in linking community groups to ‘peer practitioners’ – people like those in the community group who have learned valuable lessons by going through a similar process – and also with ‘technical mentors’, who can offer more specialised help. They will help communities take action, but just as importantly, help increase each group’s level of knowledge and skill. The success of Renew Wales will lie in creating an ever-expanding pool of people who can support others like them in taking action for a more sustainable future.

Paul Allen, CAT’s External Relations Officer, commented: ‘We are delighted to be part of the Renew Wales project because its whole ethos fits so well with our mission of inspiring, informing and enabling people to make change in their communities. The project has the potential for really significant impact in Wales, and to act as an inspiration further afield.’

Renew Wales’ website – www.renewwales.org.uk – will be live in the near future. In the meantime, for more information about Renew Wales, please contact Robert Proctor on 02920 190260, or by email at robertproctor@renewwales.org.uk.

ZCBlog: A response to John Hayes’ comments on wind power

CAT disagrees with John Hayes’ recent comments on the development of wind power in the UK.

As a long industrialised nation, the UK should be doing more than the minimum required to meet its targets. We should be pioneering a shift toward renewable resources, which we can continue to rely on in centuries to come – unlike rapidly dwindling fossil fuels. Wind – which the UK has an enviable abundance of – remains an integral part of that shift.

The Centre for Alternative Technology’s Zero Carbon Britain report shows how we can harvest a substantial share of our energy from wind power. The proposed use of on-shore wind power is much smaller to that of off-shore wind but we do believe that the benefits of on-shore wind farms has yet to yield their maximum potential. Wind power is an established energy source with a proven track record, the UK has significant wind power resources and therefore it should be cornerstone of our energy policy.

We believe that the next stage in the development of on-shore wind should be to increase local benefits by developing structures for increased local investment, to enable developments to share a much higher proportion of the returns with local communities.

New ecological sewage book launched to help off-mains householders

 

The Centre for Alternative Technology has launched a new book called Choosing Ecological Sewage Treatment to help people without a mains sewage connection to treat their own sewage.

There are approximately one million properties in the UK that do not have access to mains sewage. Each one needs its own sewage system, and each system must be appropriate to its site, place and usage. Choosing Ecological Sewage Treatment helps people who are moving into existing properties and those planning a new build to choose and understand a system that will deal with the waste of up to 50 people.

Many existing off-mains sewage systems are in a state of disrepair or are not doing the job they were set up to perform, or are doing it in an ecologically harmful way. Choosing Ecological Sewage Treatment allows property owners to weigh up all the options available and make the best choice for their situation.

Authors Grant, Moodie and Weedon: “Often a little information and orientation is all that is required to enable an old system to be brought back to its former glory. Choosing Ecological Sewage Treatment will provide these insights. The book is also intended as a first step for those who need a new system but who do not know what technological options are available, or what it would be useful to understand in order to make a sensible choice between the different possibilities.”

Choosing Ecological Sewage Treatment is also full of humour, tackling its subject with wit and verve.

Publisher Allan Shepherd: “Choosing Ecological Sewage Treatment was a pleasure to edit. All the authors have a great sense of humour and this comes through in their writing. Many people who move to an off-mains property have no previous experience dealing with their own sewage. The authors demystify the subject and give people the confidence they need to manage a small sewage system.”

Editor’s notes
1. Choosing Ecological Sewage Treatment, Nick Grant, Mark Moodie and Chris Weedon, September 2012, ISBN 978-1-902175-78-2, £19.95, Centre for Alternative Technology, fully illustrated
2. Please contact annika.faircloth@cat.org.uk for review copies, pdf’s, interviews, extracts or any media enquiries related to the book
3. Authors Grant, Moodie and Weedon are all experience practitioners in their field and each has installed numerous sewage systems. They are also all former employees of the Centre for Alternative Technology.
4. The Centre for Alternative Technology is home to the Graduate School for the Environment, the Zero Carbon Britain project and the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education. Contact rosie.strickland@cat.org.uk for general media enquiries about CAT. Visit www.cat.org.uk
5. CAT Publications publishes a range of renewable energy, environmental building and ecological books. Go to: http://publications.cat.org.uk

Studying sustainability requires a global discourse

The Centre for Alternative Technology is located in a beautiful site in mid Wales. The masters courses run here are taught in a world leading environmental building – the Wales Institute for Sustainability Education (WISE). In many ways, the unique location is one of the things that make studying renewable energy or environmental building at the Centre for Alternative Technology so special. So why do we offer a distance learning option where students never have to actually attend CAT? The answer is that it enables us to create a course that gives sustainability a global perspective.

Doing a course by distance learning puts you into a classroom that spans the whole world. It means the range of perspectives that are brought into that classroom are more diverse than any other method of learning. For a course based on sustainability this is crucial. Sustainability shouldn’t be taught as an abstract theory amongst a group of people that all basically come from the same background, it should be taught as a discourse amongst people with diverse experiences of its practical application.

Of course, all university courses will have some international dimension to their intake. But the barriers of increasingly restrictive visa regulations and cost mean that in reality physically attending a course in the UK is increasingly difficult for many overseas students. Distance learning courses, on the other hand, are accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

We offer a distance learning option for our MSc Sustainable Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Systems course (we call it AEES). The course is open to people from all backgrounds and professions who are interested in getting the edge in sustainability, sustainable design and the built environment. There is ample opportunity for students to pursue their own interests in depth, choosing eight modules from a wide range of topics covering global energy issues, renewable energy system design and sustainability in the built environment.

Each unit is taught through the online learning environment. Students attend seminars and discussions online, but can access the lectures at a time to suit them. They can access support online from academic tutors and student support officers as well as UEL library staff and UEL technical and student support staff.

Anna Pamphilon has recently graduated. She valued the course for its technical depth:

“I wanted to find a course with sufficient technical depth that would compliment the knowledge I had already acquired. The course at CAT was detailed and technical enough to do this, whilst also being offered in a long distance format that enabled me to choose when I studied, which was ideal for my situation.”

Flexibility is at the heart of the course. We are still accepting applications to start in September but there is also a March intake. Students can study where and when they please, and also pause the course for a period if other commitments arise. We find these things mean that the students that are attracted to AEES are often professionals already, with their own wealth of experience that they can bring to the course. The other students you interact with on the course become as much as a learning resource as the lecturers, books and exercises – they also form a great network for professional collaborations.

Click here to find out more and apply now

 

Get involved with CAT’s oral history project

The Centre for Alternative Technology will be 40 years old next year. To commemorate, celebrate and investigate its history we are looking for up to 10 local volunteers to help create the CAT Oral History project. Each volunteer will receive oral history training from the British Library (given at CAT) and will interview at least four people. In total the oral histories of at least 80 people will be recorded and then delivered to the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, where they will be made available to the public. Oral history projects are very rewarding experiences for interviewees and interviewers; they provide participants with a unique connection to the past. All the oral histories we record during the project will contribute to a history book and during the project we hope to explore possible future projects to bring CAT’s past to life, perhaps through local events and performance. Join us in this unique project. Contact me at allan.shepherd@cat.org.uk The CAT oral history project is supported by GLASU.

 

 

Programme for Arts and Sustainability Fair

We’re really excited about the Arts and Sustainability event happening at at CAT tomorrow. With a photography workshop, comedy, music, visual arts trail, childrens activities, poetry, craft stalls, wood fired pizza, green woodcrafts, storytelling and talks there is a lot to be excited about!

You can now download the full programme for the day here (or see below). Highlights include:

– Comedy from the acclaimed performer ‘Pete the Temp

– Photography workshop with award winning photo journalist Glenn Edwards

– Wind Band

– Arts trail involving nine artists

– Childrens activities, wide games, storytelling

– Green woodworking demonstrations and workshops

 

Get creative and experience local talent at CAT Arts event on 29th August

A whole host of artists will be exhibiting at CAT on the 29th August as part of an Arts and Sustainability Fair. The day-long event will include creative activities for children and adults as well as a diverse Arts Trail around the CAT site and a craft fair.

The Arts Trail will exhibit the works of more than a dozen diverse artists around the Centre for Alternative Technology Visitor Centre. There will be several exhibits from local artists including painting from Julia Wilson, photography from Amanda Jackson, participatory green woodworking with Joseph Bloor and CAT staff, an art installation from Buddug J Francis, impressionist painting by Marie-Genevieve Pierre, a fresco by Julie Jones and a nomadic studio from Sarah Poland.

A series of workshops will be open to all visitors at no extra cost. Glenn Edwards, an award winning photojournalist who has worked for the Western Mail, Wales on Sunday, The Times and The Independent will be running a digital photography workshop for visitors at 2pm – so bring your camera along. Visitors will also be able to get a taster of green woodworking, poetry writing, storytelling, rag rug making and illustration.

There will be lots of activities for children too at Arts and Sustainability Fair, including wide games across the site, storytelling, illustration workshops and other creative activities. Children and Adults will be able to enjoy live music and pizza tasting from the earth oven.

The Arts and Sustainability Fair will bring together local people interested in the role of art and creativity in creating a sustainable future. The Arts and Sustainability Fair is part of Festival of the Future at CAT – six weeks of fun and inspiring activities at CAT for adults and children.

Don’t forget to enter our photography competition if you are visiting CAT throughout Festival of the Future. Send entries to visit@cat.org.uk for the chance to win a £50 Short Courses voucher.