Final Day of WREC 2014

By Dan Cash

08 August 2014

WREC2014 Day 5

The final day at WREC 2014 opened with Professor Kamaruzzaman Bin Sopian discussing photovoltaic cell production as a cottage industry in Malaysia.  As I mentioned yesterday the favourable economics of PV has been heavily discussed at the conference and this was another interesting perspective.

A lot was covered today, including Stan Shire’s review of work undertaken at Warwick University. They are in the process of developing a vacuum flat plate solar thermal collector. This new type of collector would have higher collection efficiency than the traditional flat plate. The evacuated tube collectors that allow it to generate higher temperature hot water could drive solar cooling as well as providing hot water. This type of collector is also much slimmer than existing designs and would therefore be easier to integrate into building facades. There is still some distance to market deployment but it is a promising complementary technology alongside PV to meet our demand for heat rather than electricity.

Wolf-Gerrit Fruh provided a review of his analysis of the integration of wind energy into the UK grid system. He concluded that aggregation of wind farms across the country combined with short term energy storage and demand management will allow integration of large quantities of wind power on the network. As building designers, we need to consider how this control may be achieved, a theme I covered earlier this week. Another conclusion was that inter-seasonal storage is still required. Bill Watts from Max Fordham raised the question of where the inter-seasonal difference comes from. It is likely that this is heat and as such can be addressed in the passive, efficiency improving measures we always recommend as a first step.

Chuck Kutscher from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) USA presented the impressive research they are undertaking to drive the reduction of energy use. The facilities and resources they have to carry out this research are incredible. The output includes software tools for quickly assessing the performance of introducing new technologies and efficiency measures and existing buildings, apps for allowing users to interact with the building and facial recognition occupancy sensors (which are much more sophisticated than the infrared sensors currently used). America’s energy consumption is often highlighted in discussions over the causes of climate change with air conditioned glass boxes but we can learn a lot from the research they are now producing as they aim to reduce that impact.

Finally Guliano Premier introduced fascinating work into microbial fuel cells at the University of South Wales. These have real potential to reduce the energy consumption associated with treating waste water and have interesting applications for the removal of valuable metals from process waste streams.

Professor Donald Swift-Hook concluded the conference with the statistic that wind power capacity globally now exceeds nuclear. This is an indication that things are moving in the right direction but there is still work to do.

As I said in my blog on day one, the strength of WREC as an event is the variety of research topics covered and the cross-pollination of ideas that are an inevitable outcome. I’ve had an enlightening week and I’ll take away ideas for investigation and incorporation into my work at Max Fordham.

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