CREST, Grouting, Electric Cars and Half Time in the World Cup Final

CREST, Grouting, Electric Cars and Half Time in the World Cup Final

Sometimes it’s refreshing to get out and about to see what others are doing. It can help reinvigorate and refresh your mind and passion as well as gaining a perspective of what’s going on locally.

On January 28th I was invited to be Keynote Speaker at the official opening of CREST, the Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology at Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. CREST is part of the South West Colleges and is an educational building and show-case for business.

Working on the sustainability principle of being efficient with time and resources I fitted in two meetings in Bristol before flying out. The first was with The Wave, a great project I’m working with, which has planning permission to build a surfing wave on an artificial lake on the outskirts of Bristol.

The Wave will deliver an amazing visitor experience with a big social agenda around health and wellbeing, whilst being financially robust. It will do so in as environmentally sound a way as possible.

The second meeting was with a renewable energy provider Solar Sense to see how they could interact. One of the great things about renewables is that it now has a long and established pedigree. Gone are the years where this was fringe and risky, a nice to have but not a serious contender. It’s growing all the time and getting smarter and wiser.

The ‘take away’ from that meeting was one of the big reasons why we will see one million electric cars in the coming years, to act as a collective national battery for the grid.

A common argument against renewables is the ability to store the energy generated and that we will always need the big power stations in order to meet the demand surge when we all switch the kettle on at half time in the World Cup or at the end of Strictly Come Dancing.

Having a million car batteries to draw on via a smart interconnected grid would help address this and the true costs of a new nuclear power station against the financial support for a million electric cars are probably in the same ball park.

Flying from Bristol to Belfast gave me a chance to look at the grouting in both airport’s toilets. Now people may think I’m weird, but I think you can tell a lot from the quality of the grouting in any building – happy to report both were good! Tiling is one of the last jobs to be done and if a project is running late or over budget then that is bound to reflect on the quality of the grouting.

That in turn reflects on the quality of the project and cost management elements of the build. For airports this can even reflect on the civic pride of the city they serve. They are the welcome door, the first and last impression.

Irish hospitality is renowned and they certainly looked after me! It was a delight to have time to understand CREST. Designed to Passive Haus principles the building acts as a showcase for renewable energy and sustainable technologies in its very being and also in displays and exhibits. It is, as I said in my talk, “a beacon of hope and an inspiration to deliver positive solutions to some of the challenges facing us in the 21st century.”

Particular stand outs in my mind were the subtle but hugely important example of a company who had window frames that addressed thermal bridging and heat loss to the more glitzy robots that ran around on a small track adjusting the angle of the solar panels on the ground based system.

The two robots take information from the small weather centre on site and use gearing on the panels to change the angle. Rather than each row of panels having to have its own motors this system has just two robots. Savings on costs and maintenance make it an attractive concept.

The event was vibrant and positive and everyone left mentally fired.

My lift back to the airport had its own refuelling challenge. The electric car didn’t have the range to get to the airport in one hit. So on our way the satnav gave us the route and distance to a half way charging point and we sped on our way. A fifteen-minute rapid charge and we’re on our way to the airport for some more grouting inspections!

Another 36 hours working on The Wave and back to Cornwall for a late surf through till sunset! Refreshed and inspired.

By Chris Hines, WWA’s Sustainability Consultant