Feb 8, 2017

Sustainable tomorrow

Tasmin Oxford
6 min
Global emissions need to drop by 80 percent by 2050 or the world is set to experience the true reality of the global warming crisis. In les...

Global emissions need to drop by 80 percent by 2050 or the world is set to experience the true reality of the global warming crisis.

In less than 35 years, extreme weather, higher sea levels and pollution will be the norm, and delicately balanced natural ecosystems will be permanently disrupted or destroyed. Global warming is no longer a maybe, a possibility or a threat uttered by a madman on the corner of the road with a cardboard placard and an interesting beard. Sustainable energy sources and solutions must be sought out and implemented, emissions must be drastically cut and countries must keep to their global warming promises. Or else.

Fortunately, there are entrepreneurs and enterprises with sustainability top of mind, inventing alternatives to the traditional fossil fuels which power the globe. In Norway, Seaweed Energy Solutions AS cultivates seaweed as an energy source, planting a forest and finding ways to harness the endless potential of this versatile weed. At the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, researcher Khanh-Quang Tran is investigating a way of turning seaweed into a biocrude which can be refined and used as a biofuel. Thanks to the fjords and restless oceans of Norway, the area is ideally suited to the growth and development of this plant, and the research is showing positive results.

Interwaste in South Africa is a company which pulls energy from waste. Considering the vast expanses of rubbish which lie across lands around the world, the ability to harness it as a sustainable energy source is both brilliant and essential. The solution has seen a 648.82 percent increase in the diversion of hazardous waste from landfill with statistics pointing to continued success - in 2014, 2, 239.85 tons were used, in 2015, the figure rose impressively to 16, 772.55 tons.

“The blending platform is the first of its kind in Southern Africa and is a 50:50 joint venture between Lafarge and Interwaste,” says Jason McNeil, Sales and Marketing Director at Interwaste. “We have developed an environmentally sound solution for combustible waste products that are banned from landfill. By blending it in this processing facility, we produce a sustainable replacement for coal that services the high fuel demands of Lafarge Cement and indirectly takes pressure off South Africa’s existing natural resources.”

Still sitting under the African sun is a company called Solartrack. Started by Russel Bowden in 2013, the idea behind Solartrack was to create a solution which could move or track Solar PV panels so they remained permanently perpendicular to the sun. The technology available at the time wasn’t cost-effective nor did it justify the level of energy yield it delivered. His research found that dual axis tracking systems could yield up to 35 percent more energy than static panels and that a single axis system could deliver up to 27 percent more energy.

“After three years of development, we have finally produced a cost-effective product which is ready to go to market,” says Bowden. “The dual axis tracking system on our test site has shown increased energy yields of up to 39 percent. We have designed it from scratch and the electronics have a very low energy consumption while delivering great energy output. They use 0.1kWh of energy to yield 20kWh of additional energy.”

Moving up along the coastline to Mozambique finds Rolls-Royce investing in sustainable energy through the use of its B35:40V20 natural gas engines. A perhaps unexpected enterprise to be investing in the sustainable energy demands of a small African country, but a welcome one nonetheless. The power plant consists of 13 of these engines, each one delivering an electrical output of 120MW and helping an energy-strapped country stabilise its power supplies.

“This is a very successful and efficient project for Rolls-Royce Power Systems and we are ready to scale into Africa,” says Andrea Nono, CEO of MTU South Africa, a wholly owned Rolls-Royce Power Systems Company.

From engines to geysers – Amahlathi Eco-Tech recently made the finals of the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme in South Africa for the development of the Hot Spot. This geyser sleeve or conduit can be retrofitted to any standard geyser element to push hot water from the bottom to the top. This delivers 50 litres of hot water within 30 minutes at 50 degrees Celsuis and helps alleviate the impact of geysers on grid consumption – 6.2 million geysers consume 40 percent of monthly electricity at an average heating time of 1.5-3 hours.

Still on the awards track, at the 2016 Ashden Awards, 12 sustainable energy organisations and programmes from four continents won top spot for sustainable work. In the UK, the Low Carbon Hub won the Ashden Award for Sustainable Communities thanks to its focus on scaling up renewable energy generation in local areas. Their work has included solar panels for schools and a micro-hydro project on the Thames. Then Greenlight Planet won the Ashden Award for Increasing Energy Access by developing and manufacturing reliable solar products which anyone can afford. They sell their products across 40 countries and focus on delivering them to remote regions so people in rural areas gain access to light at night.

Back in Africa, Energy Partners has decided to put tyres to good use by extracting oil from them while in the recycling process. The pilot plan is capable of producing around 50,000 litres of oil per month from used tyres using a process which is both cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

“The environmental impact of the recycling plant cannot be discounted,” says Andre Agenbag, Head of Business Development, Energy Partners. “You need to be able to manage and dispose, or create a market for the by-products of this process. We are looking at expanding the plant next year and our process is set to produce a low-cost and environmentally friendly alternative fuel.”

Another notable company, Hyperdrive Innovation, has recently announced it is about to become the first commercialised product using Nissan LEAF technology for electric vehicles and energy storage. This addresses one of the biggest challenges which has surrounded solar and sustainable energy sources – storage. Most solutions are either too big or expensive for installation in homes or rural locations so there is always a need for a solution which is low on price, but big on capability.

“The commercial availability of this technology allows for homeowners, businesses and network operators to expand their energy storage capacity,” says Stephen Irish, Hyperdrive Innovation’s Managing Director. “For homeowners they can store the energy they generate from renewable systems such as solar panels and for businesses it will bring operational benefits, energy cost savings and grid continuity.”

Finally, at the end of October 2016, Elon Musk, eternal driver of all things sustainable, revealed a new range of energy products. Two of these were of particular interest – the Tesla Powerwall 2 battery with extended capacity and the company’s new solar roof tiles. The latter look incredibly stylish, a far cry from the usual solar seen on rooftops today, and are both durable and adaptable. The price point is, according to Musk less than a traditional roof plus solar, and for the design-conscious, they make solar look sexy.  

Coupled with reliable storage and stylish design, perhaps these entrepreneurs and their solutions are going to be the reason the planet cuts its emissions enough to prevent the warming crisis.


Read the January 2017 issue of Energy Digital magazine

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May 13, 2021

All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency

Dominic Ellis
2 min
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only UK regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil

Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.

Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.

According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.

Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.

“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."

He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."

North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).

The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.

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