Natural Energy Wyre, the Fleetwood based company, announced the launch of the UK’s first Tidal Hydro Energy Plant (THEP).
Natural Energy Wyre (NEW) has been working on a project to generate electricity from tidal range, where its power (referred to as “tidal head”) is converted into electricity at the mouth of the River Wyre, powering over 50,000 homes.
The UK has some of the highest tidal ranges in the world, which makes the British Isles an ideal location for THEP technology. Harnessing this energy represents a valuable resource that could provide British homes and businesses with affordable electricity for generations to come.
The team at NEW have been studying tidal flows for several years, investigating ideal locations for the THEP within the UK.
The River Wyre, which flows into Morecambe Bay at Fleetwood, experiences tidal ranges of more than 10 metres on spring tides, and combined with an unusually narrow estuary of only 600 meters span, it provides the ideal location.
Tidal Head Energy Plants convert energy four times a day with each tidal movement producing large amounts of energy, which is converted into electricity. THEP technology combines tried and tested hydropower with state-of-the-art, specially developed power conversion electronics.
Tidal power has the greatest overall value because it is predictable and sustainable. Energy captured from wind or solar is less predictable, not always available when needed, and not always needed when available!
With a total build cost of under £300m and producing over 200GWH of energy a year, a THEP at Fleetwood’s unique location competes strongly with all other technologies. However, there is one very distinct feature that cannot be overlooked. THEPs have lifespans in excess of 125 years and after capital repayment, produce the cheapest electricity on the planet!
Global demand for electricity continues to rise and “Post Brexit UK” must now focus on self-sufficiency, particularly in the energy sector.
Today’s investment in THEP technology will not only ensure our ability to harvest the vast amounts of free energy at our coasts, but will also provide protection to wildlife habitats, limiting the effects of rising sea levels and increased rainfall.
Bob Long, MD, of NEW comments, “We have involved the local public in this project from the start and constructing a THEP at the chosen location would be a major step for this small town.”
Fleetwood has suffered the loss of many 1000’s of jobs since the Cod-Wars of the 70’s, which saw UK fisheries excluded from catching in Icelandic waters.
The THEP not only produces valuable energy, but is also a catalyst for commercial growth, providing opportunity for employment at many levels, pre and post construction.
An online poll designed to evaluate local support was hosted by the company’s website (www.naturalenergywyre.co.uk) and returned a positive figure of 93% in favour of the project.
The company continues to work closely with government departments, ensuring the project remains economically viable and within all applicable limits.
Where government support is required, taxpayers need to see a clear return on their money.
The anticipated lifespan of THEP technology provides sustainability for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
With an annual production capacity of more than 200 GWh, NEW can show the world that a carefully managed and strategically located tidal energy plant is a sustainable, profitable, environmentally beneficial and valuable producer of green energy.
The technology that is fundamental to the build of the Fleetwood THEP is comparable to that which has been used by projects in other parts of the world, such as Brazil, France, South Korea and Russia.
Our closest example is the La Rance Tidal Power Plant in France, which has just completed its first major refurbishment after almost 50 years of completely dependable electricity production.
The THEP at Fleetwood will not only ensure the environment remains unchanged in relation to grazing birds, available habitats and fish life, but will also ensure the river remains open to pleasure and commercial traffic via two specially designed sea locks.
NEW is sensitive to the importance of the environment and adopts a completely open stance, working closely with local and national agencies.
Moreover, THEP technology provides essential flood defences on rivers. At crucial moments, the turbine mechanisms can be used to hold back incoming water, or in an emergency, reduce water levels further by pumping it out seaward. This feature reduces the risk of flooding in the towns and villages further upriver.
Similar projects have brought numerous ancillary benefits with them. La Rance in France brings in over 500,000 tourists per year to view the site. Tourism brings with it numerous jobs in addition to the skilled roles needed to run a THEP. The whole project will give a significant boost to employment in Fleetwood, with many benefits to the town and surrounding area. The project also includes plans for enhanced local leisure facilities and environmental benefits that favour the future security of fish and bird life on the river.
Employing state-of-the-art power management technology, this THEP will be a global first, championed in the UK and potentially the start of many. It will be good for Fleetwood, good for Lancashire and good for British technology.
Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?
Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?
But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?
The Big Picture
The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.
That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.
One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.
There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.
As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.
Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.
Make and Model of Car
Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.
On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.
The Bottom Line
Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?
Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.
New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.
Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.
Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”
The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.
Zero net emissions by 2050
Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.
Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.
She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.
Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”
A worldwide shift to renewable energy
Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.
Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.
Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.
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