Buildings as Power Stations in UK to be Revolutionary
A new pilot manufacturing facility producing practical, functional coated metal and glass which can store and release energy at point of use is set to revolutionise the UK’s renewable energy industry.
The products are suitable for use as the actual fabric - roofs, external and internal walls and ceilings – of both new and existing buildings, such as retail outlets and corporate office blocks, where metal and glass predominate, and will turn buildings into ‘power stations’ capable of generating, storing and releasing their own energy.
Representing a major shift in energy generation for the built environment, it is forecast to deliver huge economic benefits, including up to 10,000 new jobs in the supply chain, once it is taken up for large-volume manufacture by industry, anchoring advanced manufacturing in the UK and providing global export opportunities.
The development has been achieved by a partnership of government, academia and industry, a powerful fusion of expertise, brought together under the Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) initiative. It has been triggered by a £20 million investment over five-years, led by Swansea University and based at the Baglan Bay IKC near Port Talbot, in South Wales – codenamed SPECIFIC, short for Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovative Functional Coatings.
SPECIFIC has adopted an ‘open innovation’ approach, bringing a multifunctional team of engineers, scientists and business people together under one roof to develop and test potentially world-class technology.
In addition to Swansea University, the partnership involves leading university groups, including Imperial College, Bath, Bangor, Cardiff, Glyndwr and Sheffield, and multi-nationals such as Tata Steel, BASF and NSG Pilkington.
The IKC is backed by £10 million funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Technology Strategy Board, and a further £2 million from the Welsh Government.
Kevin Bygate, chief executive of SPECIFIC, said: “What we are achieving at the Baglan Bay Innovation & Knowledge Centre is of global significance. It has the potential to create a range of renewable energy applications which will be available commercially within a few years.
“The funding secured to date and the unique collaboration between government, academia and industry has enabled us to make rapid progress within a relatively short timescale. We are delighted to be launching this pilot production line today which will pave the way for rapid commercialisation and the creation of a major UK industry.”
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1. In the UK there are more than four billion square metres of roofs and walls forming the building envelope. Most of this could potentially be used to harness solar energy.
2. SPECIFIC aims to develop practical, functional coated materials on metal and glass for large-volume manufacture by industry to produce, store and release energy at point of use. These products will be suitable for both new and existing buildings, such as retail outlets and corporate office blocks, where metal and glass predominate.
3. SPECIFIC is a unique business opportunity bridging a technology gap, and also creating new export opportunities. It will ultimately create the potential for thousands of supply chain jobs.
4. Swansea University is a world-class, research-led university. Founded in 1920, the University now offers around 500 undergraduate courses and 150 postgraduate courses to 15,921 undergraduate and postgraduate students. Visit www.swansea.ac.uk.
5. Tata Steel Europe Limited (formerly Corus) is Europe's second largest steel producer. With main steelmaking operations in the UK and the Netherlands, the company supplies steel and related services to the construction, automotive, packaging, material handling and other demanding markets worldwide.
6. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800m a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK (RCUK).
7. The Technology Strategy Board is the UK’s innovation agency. Its goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation. Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy. For more information please visit www.innovateuk.org.
8. BASF is the world’s leading chemical company: The Chemical Company. Its portfolio ranges from chemicals, plastics, performance products and crop protection products to oil and gas. BASF combines economic success, social responsibility and environmental protection. Through science and innovation it enables its customers in almost all industries to meet the current and future needs of society. BASF products and system solutions contribute to conserving resources, ensuring healthy food and nutrition and helping to improve the quality of life. The company has summed up this contribution in its corporate purpose: We create chemistry for a sustainable future. BASF posted sales of about €73.5 billion in 2011 and had more than 111,000 employees as of the end of the year. Further information on BASF is available on the Internet at www.basf.com.
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Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
How optimistic is the outlook for the UK’s turbine bid?
Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly