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!

 

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.

ZCBlog: Global climate change and reducing carbon emissions in Europe

 

During October Jan Labohy has been working as an international intern for CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain research team, analysing how other rapid decarbonisation scenarios within the international community are similarly exploring how we can rise to meet the threat of dangerous climate change.

Jan studied political, media and environmental sciences at Masaryk University in the Czech republic. He has been working in the Ecological Institute Veronica as the Climate Protection Coordinator since the beginning of 2011, specialising in climate protection on a city-wide scale. His work involves organising the Czech Earth Hour campaign; working within the Czech NGO Climate Coalition to organise conferences or excursions in the field of energy efficiency and climate protection.

Jan’s one-month intern placement with ZCB has been focused on exploring objectives and methodologies used in different scenarios on how to reduce carbon emissions. Fortunately there are many similar initiatives around the globe tackling the big questions present in ZCB2030. Projects are under way, across Europe and beyond, looking at how we all produce and consume energy. Reports such as Energy [R]evolution, published by Greenpeace, illustrate how the international community can reduce their carbon output by cutting the use of fossil fuels. WWF have also proposed energy scenarios for a number of countries. But while many of the energy reports are published by independent organisations, some are sanctioned by governmental bodies with different hopes for decarbonisation. However, every one of these scenarios has one primary concern that unites them: How can we minimise carbon heavy energy production?

By analysing twelve scenarios from eight different European countries, Jan’s research highlights key differences or common threads within each report. It has been an enlightening project and the team are keen to use his findings to improve their research for the third report of ZCB2030.

Unfortunately Jan’s time with the ZCB team has already come to an end. His work has been invaluable and the results will be a great asset for the ongoing direction of ZCB2030. Jan has just begun his PhD studying sustainability communication and the ZCB team wish him all the best.

ZCBlog will be publishing a summary of Jan’s findings soon.

For more info on the zerocarbonbritain2030 project visit our website!

 

ZCBlog: The new Zero Carbon Britain 2030 blog

 

Welcome to the new blog for Zero Carbon Britain 2030! All of the team have now settled in and we’re speeding ahead with the current research phase of the project. Learn more about who we are here.

In addition, we have been joined by Nuria Mera, a chemical engineer on a placement from Spain, and Jan Labohý from the Czech organisation, Veronica. Our brand new Artist in Residence, Joanna Wright will also be following the development of the third ZCB2030 report and incorporating a zero carbon future into her output.

The ZCB office is getting full!

In between bouts of rigorous debate, the team have spent half the time with their heads buried in ZCB2030, really probing and testing the work from the last research phase. We’ve been listening to feedback, and adding our own questions and critique. Part of the scientific method relies heavily on a critical mind – asking difficult questions and challenging assumptions. That is exactly what we’ve been doing.

The remainder of our time has been spent starting work on the larger project areas that had already been identified for further work. The two main research streams that we have started looking at in more depth are how to keep our lights on whilst depending on a highly variable renewable power supply, and also how to keep us healthy eating a low-carbon diet.

Over the next few months, whilst work will continue on all of the above, we’ll also be stepping further outside ZCB – looking at research produced by other institutions and organisations. We’ll make sure that the scenario we describe in ZCB is up to date, and incorporates fully the current scientific understanding, and any recent developments in research and technology. We look forward to having you along for the ride and we will be keeping you updated with regular posts, so watch this space!

There may be some exciting new discoveries along the way, but our main aim remains the same. As our new favourite quote states:

“The right target for both mugging little old ladies and carbon dioxide emissions is zero.”

– Ken Caldeira, Carnegie Institution of Washington