Archives for category: Environment

In 2014, the world’s first research centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage at the University of Birmingham established a five-year research chair appointment under the leadership of Professor Yulong Ding. The Royal Academy of Engineering and Highview Power Storage created and funded the Chair to explore the limits of this emerging technology, which could drive the development of variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, converting excess/off-peak electricity into multi megawatts of stored energy. 

Andy Bounds now reports in the FT that this partnership has developed the world’s first liquid air energy storage plant which will open today in Bury near Manchester:

“The Pilsworth liquid air energy storage (LAES) plant, owned by Highview Power, will act as a giant rechargeable battery, soaking up excess energy and releasing it when needed. This is particularly useful with the rapid growth in renewable energy, which accounted for 29% of all electricity generated in the UK in 2017. It generates excess power when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing but is not reliable at times of peak demand. Coal-fired power stations that typically handled peak electricity demand are being shut down and National Grid, which owns and operates the electricity transmission network, pays small gas and diesel generators to bridge the gap”. According to Gareth Brett, chief executive of Highview Power. “LAES is arguably the only viable, non-polluting, long-duration, locatable energy storage technology available”.

The Highview system has already attracted interest from potential customers, including Enel, the Italian utility. Gianluca Gigliuci, head of energy storage Innovation at Enel Green Power, said storage technologies were needed to “enable renewables to satisfy baseload”. These storage systems need durability, long useful life, flexibility and reliability. Highview’s LAES is one of the more promising solutions we have seen.”

 

 

 

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Note one of their forthcoming events: A Future for All

 Read more about the Priory Rooms here.

 

 

 

 

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Birmingham Friends of the Earth’s building, The Warehouse, enters the final stage of its refurbishment project.

The building is really starting to look like the plans developed for the Share offer. Jericho has continued to reshape the building internally. New windows and doors have been installed on the ground floor which let in a lot more light than the old shutters.

Middle Bay has been cleared and is now the seating area for the Warehouse Cafe. A new kitchen has been installed for the Warehouse Café which is up and running again.

A lift has been installed and was officially opened. It will allow volunteers not previously able to access the top floor of the building, to do so. The ribbon cutting ceremony:

The new Meeting Room spaces will soon be finished and will be open for bookings. Existing tenants – businesses and community groups – will thrive in the improved building which will also offer opportunities to new businesses and community groups.

Shaz Rahman writes:

“The building looks dramatically different. I was amazed when I saw the new shop front for The Warehouse for the first time. What was once a dreary entrance, which had no appealing features, is now an inviting shop front. The glass makes the space look really large. We are really proud of what has been achieved at Birmingham Friends of the Earth. An incredible amount of time and effort went into the Community Share Offer, and even more time and effort has gone into implementing the building project. Internally the building is unrecognisable from what it was a year ago and so we thank our investors for helping to make this idea become a reality”.

 

 

 

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“Is it possible, for example, to have a city where potholes get fixed autonomously, before they become dangerous and expensive?”

In the Financial Times* Mark Miodownik, a professor of materials and society at University College London, asks this question. He reports on research which aims to create materials and engineering systems so complex that they can sense when they are damaged and are able to repair themselves. His article is summarised here.

The main drivers of such self-healing technology are economic and environmental.

The 20th century saw the invention of “smart” materials that could respond to changes in their environment. For example, shape memory alloys were discovered that respond to heat by changing shape. These are used in many walks of life, from windows that open automatically when a building gets too hot, to surgical operations where heat expands the shape of an implant so it fits exactly.

The aerospace industry has been developing self-healing composites to deal with microscopic cracks that grow in aircraft fuselages. Such self-healing materials improve safety, increase the lifespan of the aircraft and so reduce costs.

A drone, equipped with the ability to repair a leaky drain, could save millions on the repair and maintenance bill of cities These technologies work by incorporating microcapsules of liquid resin inside the material and by coating the reinforcing fibres inside the composite with a catalyst. If a crack forms, the microcapsules burst open and liquid resin flows into contact with the fibres. The catalyst then causes the resin to solidify rapidly and heal the crack. At present, this only works for micro-cracks because the capsules are so small.

Infrastructure is a major area for self-healing materials. In the UK alone, it is estimated that the repair and maintenance of structures costs £40bn a year and during these repairs the services provided by such infrastructure become unavailable. On rail and road networks, this leads to disruption, economic impact and pollution due to traffic jams.

A major project funded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, led by Leeds University, with engineers from Southampton, Birmingham and Mark Miodownik’s institute at University College London all part of a research consortium.

See https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/how-potholes-roads-causing-more-13034551

Consider an alternative future, where information from a driverless vehicle that continually surveys the city infrastructure identifies the pothole at an early stage. The information of the size and shape of the nascent pothole is relayed to another autonomous vehicle, which is deployed at night when traffic flow is low. It locates the pothole, stops for a few minutes using hazard lights, and then uses a 3D printer to deliver tar to precisely repair the hole. Repairing it at an early stage saves money by preventing the congestion caused by road closure.

Leeds City Council is making the Yorkshire city a test-bed for the new technologies. The city is painfully aware of how much of its annual budget goes on repair and maintenance —tens of millions of pounds. It sees that creating autonomous repair systems that act as a metropolitan immune system will slash the bill drastically.

*https://www.ft.com/content/9870fa7a-314d-11e8-b5bf-23cb17fd1498, paywalled

 

 

 

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TUESDAY 13 MARCH from 6.00p.m at Locanta restaurant, Ludgate Hill, St Paul’s Square B3 1EH

All welcome

locanta (2).jpg

Enemy of the People?

Did your grandmother use phrases such as ‘Make do and mend’; or ‘waste not want not’?   In which case she was clearly an enemy of the people.  Why?  To quote Peter York FRSA, “this language is fundamentally anti-growth.   We all know that our future depends on us consuming like mad.  The engine of our economy is property prices and footfall in Next and M&S”. 

Yet on Tuesday our guest, Woody, (Planet Centred Forum), is proposing a 25% reduction in our CONSUMPTION as a counter balance to global population growth.

Woody’s “Population Equivalent” thesis weighs consumption against numbers.  He calculates that 25% of ‘Western’ consumption equates to the global average consumption of 3 billion people.

The thorny issue of population control is dealt with by comparing the environmental impact of different levels of CONSUMPTION rather than focussing simply on numbers.

All very well, but what about the economy? Join us on Tuesday evening at Locanta to find out.

General information on the web page  http://www.greendrinks.org, then go to  http://www.greendrinks.org/West%20Midlands/Birmingham

You don’t have to have a meal in order to join in, but if you do, it helps us to have an idea of meal numbers in advance.  Erkan, provides an excellent menu, plenty of choice, including vegan and vegetarian dishes.  Dishes can be tailored to individual tastes

 

 

 

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An air pollution campaign mounted by Birmingham Friends of the Earth calls on the City Council to adopt a city-wide approach to tackling air pollution which is linked to 900 premature deaths a year in the city.

Birmingham City Council will have to implement a Clean Air Zone by 2020 and within the next few months, the Council’s plans for a Clean Air Zone will be released for public consultation. The city’s poor air quality needs to be taken seriously and we need the best possible plan in place to ensure that the health of everyone who lives, works and travels to Birmingham is protected.

The Clean Air Zone should be in place as soon as possible before the government’s deadline of the end of 2019, with much stronger commitments from national Government to help Birmingham and other local authorities to deliver cleaner air for all. Read more about Clean Air Zones in the government’s Clean Air Zone Framework publication.

BFOE is calling for a city-wide approach to tackling air pollution, with a wide-area Clean Air Zone including all vehicle types and other measures to support it such as improving the walking and cycling infrastructure and public transport. The campaign has gained support from hundreds of people across the city along with community groups and councillors.

On Tuesday 13 March at 12:15pm, come and join campaigners who will be gathering outside Birmingham City Council House to hand in their petition to Councillor John Cotton.

The councillor will then present the petition to the full council meeting later in the day.

The petition is calling for Birmingham City Council to:

  • Implement an enforceable Birmingham-wide clean air zone by 2020.
  • Ensure nitrogen dioxide levels meet or are below EU limits everywhere, all of the time.
  • Make certain that monitoring of all areas in Birmingham is regularly carried out and reported and this information is publicly available.

To support the campaign, sign the Birmingham Friends of the Earth petition here and join the petition hand in on Tuesday 13 March at 12:10pm outside the Council House.

 

See also: https://ourbirmingham.wordpress.com/2014-2017-birmingham-air-pollution-blogs/

 

 

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The loss of Eastside Park (above) to HS2 , ‘more of a square than a park’, strengthens the case for greening Smithfield. Photograph: John Newson. 

John Newson points out that Birmingham Friends of the Earth earlier responded to the council’s 2011 Big City Plan, proposing that the open space on the Smithfield site should have should have functions of stalls/market space which could be combined with trees and some green space. He comments: “A park, in the sense of extensive grass and flower beds may not be achievable, given the intensity of pedestrian footfall, which is likely, and indeed desirable.  Eastside Park is more of a square than a park”.

The CityPark4Brum  2015 petition was followed by the council’s Smithfield Master plan (March 2016)  which may be downloaded here, with the August ’17 memorandum. There was a new consultation which included a proposal for a new park on one part of the site.

The petition, masterminded by James Tucker, now has over 5000 signatures and will be resubmitted to the council and the metro mayor. As he points out, “Birmingham does not have a large park in its city centre – a glaring omission for the UK’s second city. However, we currently have a unique opportunity to address this . . . Birmingham Smithfield is less than 5 minutes’ walk from New Street station and the Bullring, an ideal location for a green park that could truly transform our city’s landscape”.

He feels that the space allocated for this new park is too small – smaller than the Cathedral Green and  wedged in between other buildings adding: “ Therefore the CityPark4Brum campaign is continuing and is now into its third year”.

The artist’s impression

Though one correspondent concedes, “Green space is always nice” he continues: “it might well become repositories for litter and poorly disposed of dog poo bags. Probably best if fenced off and excluding humans”.

Steve Beauchampé expresses no such misgivings, writing firmly in the Birmingham Press: “Birmingham needs a city centre park, not the thin strip of tree-lined greensward offered in the Smithfield development”.

He found Birmingham City Council’s vision of a future mixed use of retail, residential, offices, eateries, a brace of public squares and some undefined cultural activities, ”all very predictable” and had replied by posting on the Press website that they should abandon the masterplan and simply lay out a park, one where you could walk a dog, kick a ball around, sit on a bench, enjoy an ice cream in a tearoom.

The CityPark4Brum has had some influence, with BCC agreeing to incorporate a grass and tree-lined corridor (linear park, illustrated below) into their revised masterplan although Beauchampé notes that the total amount of greenery promised still appears to be very modest – ‘a truncated boulevard’. He continues:

“Apart from the grounds of St Philip’s Cathedral, and St Paul’s on the edge of the Jewellery Quarter, there is almost no usable green space in or near Birmingham city centre. Taken as a whole Birmingham probably has more parks than Venice has canals, but the central core and its immediate surrounds – where the population is rapidly increasing (and will continue so to do) – remains bereft of anything resembling a park.

“One need look no further than Birmingham’s geographical neighbours to realise how notable Birmingham’s lack of a gloriously unstructured and unregulated, egalitarian central zone park is: Coventry, (War Memorial Park) Solihull (Tudor Grange, Brueton and Malvern Parks), Walsall (Arboretum), West Bromwich (Dartmouth Park) and Wolverhampton (West Park) all boast large parks on the periphery of their centres, easily walkable from their respective retail and civic hearts”.

Warning that in a year or two there may simply be no parcels of land available on which to develop a central park, he foresees future generations looking at:

  • a plethora of apartments that they will not be able to afford to rent,
  • hotels that they will never need to stay in
  • offices that they will probably never be needed to work in
  • and nowhere to walk their dogs, kick their footballs
  • or relax with their friends.

Beauchampé points out that national and even international perceptions still imagine Birmingham as the motor city, an unattractive urban sprawl, full of underpasses, flyovers and rain-soaked concrete, concluding:

“A well-designed city park or green space would change perceptions of Birmingham in a way that 25-30 additional 25-30-storey high new buildings never could . . . potentially as ‘impactful’ on the city as staging the Commonwealth Games or the arrival of HS2: a gift that truly would keep on giving, day after day, decade after decade. A place for relaxation, exercise, for cultural and communal experiences, where the city can celebrate and commemorate and which can be enjoyed without cost by rich and poor, young and old.”

 

 

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Climate Action Network West Midlands invites you to the official launch of our exciting Big Lottery Funded project.

It’s a free public event for anyone in the region interested in sustainable community development and climate change. Hear some inspirational speakers on whole systems approaches to “green cities” and community development, followed by workshops to agree priorities for the project.

The project goals are to support and encourage better links and communication between community / environmental groups and activists in order to increase engagement in climate change at community level in the region.

The meeting will start with short presentations on:

  • aspects of community development
  • transition to renewable energy at whole-city level
  • an outline design of a web portal to support the “circular economy”.
  • an overview of the project and our crowdfunding campaign for a community-level climate action fund.

After a question and answer session with the speakers, there will be a “World Cafe” style workshop to discuss priorities for the project.

Climate Action Network West Midlands (CANWM) is a free and open network of groups and individuals. List: https://www.climateactionwm.org.uk/climate-action-groups

Membership is open to anyone in the region who wants to support the international and UK goal of limiting global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C. 

When: 

31 Jan 2018 – 18:00 to 21:00

Location: 

The Studio, 7 Cannon St., Birmingham B2 5EP

For more details about the project or to offer expertise and information, please contact Jules Todd FRSA or email canwestm@gmail.com

Cost: 

Free

Procedure for booking: 

Please click the link below

Link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/further-faster-together-project-launch-tickets-41093290137

After the launch on 31st Jan, there will be six themed workshops at the John Lewis Community Hub (above New St Station):

  • Feb 28, 2018 5pm to 7:30pm  Workshop 1: Transport
  • Mar 28, 2018 5pm to 7:30pm  Workshop 2: Food
  • Apr 25, 2018 5pm to 7:30pm  Workshop 3: Energy and Resources
  • May 30, 2018 5pm to 7:30pm  Workshop 4: Housing
  • Jun 20, 2018 5pm to 7:30pm  Workshop 5: Employment
  • Jul 25, 2018 5pm to 7:30pm  Workshop 6: Education

October 2018 – date and venue to be confirmed – End-of-Project Conference

There’s some more information and links to background papers here: https://www.thersa.org/fellowship/fellowship-news/fellowship-news/further-faster-together–towards-the-1.5-0c-target-for-global-warming

 

 

 

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Birmingham’s Professor Rex Harris (FREng) is drawing attention to a recent article in the Guardian Review on wind energy giving an up-beat view of off-shore wind farms which, he agrees, are showing a lot of promise, particularly compared with the very expensive and increasingly problematic nuclear option. He comments:

“However, in this article, there was no mention of the vital role played by NdFeB-type permanent magnets in the direct drive generators provided by companies such as Siemens”.

The untutored writer consulted a second engineer who said that readers may have noticed wind turbines of rather different shapes starting to appear. The more traditional ones have a nacelle behind the rotor – the gearbox to convert slow rotation to a higher speed required by the generator.

He continued: “These gearboxes are expensive and heavy, bringing new problems to solve. One solution is the turbine with NdFeB, otherwise known as rare earth magnets. They eliminate the need for the gearbox, driving the generator directly at the speed of the blades. They can be recognised by a large ring structure behind the blades. (The traditional gearbox opposite has the low speed shaft to the left. It makes the high speed shaft to the right turn approximately 50 times faster than the low speed shaft.)

Stanford Magnets reports on the emergence – over the last two years – of commercial-scale & direct drive permanent magnet generator systems with the hub directly connected to the generator (right). Being direct drive, these turbines have significant advantages over the geared variety:

  • significantly increased reliability,
  • reduced maintenance costs,
  • reduced downtime for maintenance
  • improved efficiencies in the power conversion process and
  • greater efficiencies when wind speeds are not at full rating.

The second engineer warns that “engineering is always a compromise and there is a clue in the name RARE earth: these generators need a large quantity to make the magnets required. There is a limited amount of these materials and they are predominantly found in China”. 

Mineral reserves: resources known to be economically feasible for extraction economically and technically feasible to extract. Note that the New Scientist reports that in what is said to be the first detailed report on the country’s supply, the US has 13 million tonnes of rare earth metals –  but it would take years to extract them.

Source: https://investingnews.com/daily/resource-investing/critical-metals-investing/rare-earth-investing/rare-earth-reserves-country/.

Professor Harris and his colleagues David Kennedy and Adrian Arbib end: “With this medium to long term threat to the magnet supply very much in mind, the West, including Europe and the USA, should recreate its previous manufacturing capacity for the production of NdFeB-type sintered magnets, start to exploit alternative rare earth reserves and develop and support NdFeB-type magnet recycling. Simply leaving matters to market forces will certainly not be sufficient”.

 

 

 

 

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Reading Christian Wolmar’s article: ‘Rail’s dirty secret’, recalled last year’s  question on this site: ‘How many lungs and hearts will be damaged by air pollution before action is taken?’

There is concern about the levels of diesel-generated air-pollution on Grand Central (New Street) platforms experienced by travellers like Professor Rex Harris (Birmingham) whose work includes the promotion of a hydrogen fuelled transport system for rail and waterways.

Professor Thorne’s student monitoring air pollutants at Grand Central

Research conducted by Professor John Thorne (Birmingham) found almost seven times the annual average EU limit of particulate matter on one platform.

The TV programme Dispatches then visited New Street Station with its own monitors and found “high levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulates on one of the platforms… way above EU annual limits”. Network Rail told the programme it wanted the station to be a “safe and healthy environment” and that in the coming years it “will shift to less polluting electric trains”. Wolmar writes:

In the Rail Engineer, Malcolm Dobell wrote about a hydrogen fuel cell locomotive he saw four years ago; a team from Birmingham University had designed, constructed and entered a fuel cell powered one-fifth scale locomotive in the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Railway challenge.

He reported that Alstom’s new train, the Coradia iLint (above), which runs on hydrogen power rather than diesel, has had its first successful test run. It is the first low floor passenger train in the world to be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.

The hydrogen used for the test runs is the by-product of an industrial process, which is reasonably reused as a waste product, but because Germany has invested heavily in wind turbine technology as part of its energy mix, it will also be able to use the energy generated by the wind turbines to make hydrogen when electricity demand is low.

As Dobell mentioned, the Birmingham Centre for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Research undertook a cross-disciplinary venture with a number of Birmingham Energy Institute academics and Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, to design and construct the UK’s first practical hydrogen-powered locomotive.  The Centre’s website adds that there will be a requirement for such autonomously powered trains to serve non-electrified lines.

Hydrogen-powered locomotives, cars and boats, emitting only steam and condensed water, Dobell comments, are better for the environment, more pleasant for passengers and less disruptive to communities.

Time for change.

 

 

 

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