Sunday, 22 November 2015

Opportunities for a Low Carbon Economy

I've been following Richard Priestley's blog for a while - he lives in Herefordshire and writes about environmental issues, and is always interesting and well informed. So when I heard that there was a chance to hear him speak in Hay, I was interested in going along. His blog can be found here: and I've added it to the sidebar.
He was giving, in fact, the same talk twice, at 2pm and 3pm on Friday, at the Old Electric Shop. The intention was to have a "dry run", as he's been invited to speak at the House of Commons on 25th November. He's also done his talk in Leominster, and was going on to do it again in Birmingham.
The idea was to look at the solutions to the problems that climate change is causing around the world, and how we can use renewable energy efficiently now.
So he talked about floating wind turbines in Japan which also have a marine turbine underneath. The oceans around Japan also have the greatest differential between surface and deep temperatures, and there is technology to extract energy by pumping the sea water (there was a diagram, which made sense while I was looking at it!). Still with the oceans, he talked about desalination plants which run on solar power. The extracted salt can be used to store heat energy from the solar panels so that they can provide energy day and night, all year round - but only in hot countries. Morocco is very keen on this technology, and they already have a cement factory which is partially powered by solar energy.
Meanwhile in Australia they are using desalination to provide water for crop growing in the desert, also powered by the sun - and are growing bumper crops of tomatoes right now.
He talked about Fintry in Scotland. When a company wanted to put 14 wind turbines next to the village, they expected opposition - but were surprised to find the villagers in favour, as long as they made it 15 wind turbines, and the 15th was to be the property of the community. The profits from that wind turbine have transformed the village - all the houses got extra insulation, to start with, and they have been doing all sorts of other community projects.
Also in Scotland, he said that the Orkneys have such abundant electricity now that a company making electric cars in Leicester opened their second branch in the Orkneys.
He also mentioned a company making refrigerated lorries which run on liquid nitrogen. So instead of using diesel to run the engine and more diesel to run the refridgeration unit, they can combine the two into one engine which uses the liquid nitrogen to cool the refridgeration unit and run the lorry. They're looking at exporting the lorries to China, and maybe India, where there's a great need to keep food from going off on the way to market.
So all sorts of things can be done now - if there is the political will (he wasn't very complimentary about certain members of the present government - and laughed, and said he'd have to tone that down when he was in the House of Commons committee room).
And when he threw the session open to questions from the audience, there was a lady there who knows people who live close to Fintry - and her grandfather was a wind power pioneer in Scotland right back into the 1930s.
She made the point that MPs and other people in government have all sorts of information they need to cram into their minds, and to be most effective, Richard Priestley's talk has to get straight to the point and give them the most pertinent information - he obviously has a huge amount of knowledge at his fingertips, but he needs to edit it down precisely to what they need to know to take the ideas further.
She also discussed wave power with him - the scientists from Edinburgh University who were working on that in the 1970s (and I remember a programme on Radio 4 at the time that sounded as if they were getting somewhere with the scheme) had their funding cut - and some of them moved to Portugal, which is where they developed a commercially viable wave power scheme.
And then he said that, when he had first been contacted, he had understood that he would have an audience of MPs, most of whom would have no background in science, but now he has been told that there's a debate on the Budget that day and the whips want all the MPs in the Chamber - so he's been drumming up another audience to fill the committee room, which will include several venture capitalists who might be interested in investing in some of the schemes that are happening in this country now.
When I left, he was just starting his slide show again for the second audience of the day.

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