The Sustainability Lab shaping brighter futures

Thinking outside the box (or inside the pipe!) – innovative solutions to meet local energy needs

IWA and BU Blog

by Gwenith Elias and Prysor Williams

The 2017 National Eisteddfod is being held in Ynys Môn, the Energy Island. Challenges associated with global climate change and keeping the lights on are well known and the arguments for and against large electricity generating schemes can be acrimonious at times.

The Institute of Welsh Affairs in partnership with Bangor University’s Sustainability Lab would like to focus on the positive contributions individuals and communities can make to help themselves meet local energy demand, reduce fuel poverty and prepare ourselves for the inevitable economic, social, environmental and cultural changes.  This will be the first from a series of short blogs, where Dr Prysor Williams will explore some of the challenges associated with meeting our local energy needs.

Being innovative, and thinking outside the box are essential.  One example of a project doing just that is Dŵr Uisce (‘dŵr’ and ‘uisce’ are the words for ‘water’ in Welsh and Irish respectively) and is a partnership between Bangor University and Trinity College, Dublin.  A large proportion of the energy used in society originates from water use.  There are two parts to the project, with one focussing on recovering energy from the water industry, and the other recovering energy from waste water.  The project combines expertise from technology and engineering, business and economics, social sciences, and the natural sciences to try and find solutions to some of the challenges facing the water industry.

The majority of the water we use in Wales (and many other countries) originate from lakes in the highlands.  However, the majority of the population and industry are usually located on low lying land, such as coastal areas.  Therefore, a huge volume of water needs to be transported from the highlands to the lowlands. This means that there is a substantial increase in pressure as water flows through the pipes, resulting in potential bursts.  The first part of the project looks at installing small, micro turbines within water transporting systems that are already in use.  The goal then is to capture and use some of the energy that is dispersed from the pipes in order to avoid bursts.  Naturally, in order to undertake this, the project will be working closely with the water industry.

The second part of the project will be focussing on heat.  Heating water is a process that takes a lot of energy.  Many of our industries also use a lot of water.  However, if you consider sectors such as hospitals and hotels, they also use a lot of energy to heat water from around 5-100C to 400C.  Often (e.g. in a shower), the hot water flows directly down the drain within a few seconds, taking a lot of energy with it.  The project will be looking at utilising technology to capture this energy.

I, Dr Prysor Williams, will be explaining more about the project in a short presentation at the Eisteddfod, explaining some of the innovative, complex, and simple ways to reduce the energy associated with water usage.  Visit our event page for further details about the lecture ‘Diverting the water/wind to our own mill: local solutions to meet local energy needs’ held at the National Eisteddfod on Monday the 7th of August 2017.  Simultaneous translation will be available.

Notes from the organisers                                                     

We are keen to hear from individuals and communities who might be interested in developing their own schemes beforehand. Our hope is that as a result of this event inter-community collaboration and co-creating will be facilitated and enhanced and that new ideas will emerge.  To contribute to the discussion you can use social media @planetdotcymru #LocalEnergyWales or contact Einir Young or Gwenith Elias


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