Professor to present vision for zero-carbon future for UK

June 10, 2010

A University of Nottingham professor is to outline his vision for a UK powered completely by renewable energy by 2030 in an open lecture taking place later this month.

Professor Seamus Garvey, of the University's Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering, will speak on the potential of vast floating offshore 'energy farms' off the UK , which could produce 'green' electricity at a fraction of the cost of its nearest competitors.

Professor Garvey said: "Imagine for a moment that was the cheapest way to source power and that this power could be dispatched on demand. Imagine further that the landscape did not have to be blighted by man-made structures to gather that power.

"The impact on the world would be profound: secure low-cost energy supplies for most countries, reduction in the environmental assault that is most mining and oil/gas extraction and some hope of curtailing not dependant on politics."

Professor Garvey recently launched his own spin-out company — NIMROD Energy Ltd — which is based on the Integrated Compressed Air Renewable Energy Systems (ICARES) research which he has been developing since early in 2006.

The technology is centred on a simple premise — using giant wind turbines to compress and pump air into huge undersea Energy Bags™ anchored to the — or geological formations where is not available. The high pressure air would be expanded in special turbo-generator sets to provide electricity as required — not just when the wind is blowing.

Professor Garvey's open lecture, Scaling Up Renewables, will address important questions relating to the future of renewable energy technologies, including:

  • At a system level, what do we actually need from renewable?
  • What do the laws of engineering scaling tell us about achievable costs per unit energy and how these vary with scale?
  • At what scale does it become essential for some devices — wind turbines in particular — to change profoundly in design?
The lecture will be held in two parts, with the first half being generally accessible to a non-engineering audience. It will outline the scale of Professor Garvey's vision — one thousand 500m-diameter with cable-braced rotors driven by nearly 1,000 tonnes of moveable pistons inside each one, all supported on 3D floating frameworks far offshore. They would store around 100 million cubic metres of compressed air stored deep under water in salt-domes and Energy Bags™ and would feature around 200 million tonnes of material (largely seawater) in floating thermal stores and around 300 expander-generator units each rated at 250 MW. Professor Garvey also envisages it providing a significant boost to UK manufacturing, with 75 per cent of the technologies being British made.

The second part of the lecture will be more technical and aimed at engineers and engineering students. It will explain what drives cost for mechanical renewable (wind/wave/tidal) and present structural capacity as a tool for quantifying cost. It will reveal why compressed air is an ideal intermediate form between wind and electricity, outline why wind turbine rotor structures, towers and main bearings must change as scale rises and examine at a fundamental level how power can best be converted from a very slow-rotating frame. Finally, it will discuss the need for a larger diameter for effective thermal storage in underwater air-containment.

Professor Garvey added: "I will be ending the lecture with a challenge for my audience of engineers — can they find any errors in my reasoning and is there anything within the laws of engineering that would prevent us from developing this technology at this scale? I would also be extremely interested in hearing views on whether they believe we have the skills and prowess as an engineering community within the UK to achieve this ambitious vision."

Explore further: Cheap and green -- new Nottingham spin-out to revolutionize sustainable energy

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not rated yet Jun 10, 2010
At least he is thinking on a country sized scale for the solution, not so sure I like the idea of one of those bags popping and what happens at the surface!
not rated yet Jun 10, 2010

The bag idea isn't very good, one the size he is talking about would rip from the anchors with billions of pounds of lift.

Using old gas, oil wells though should not only work but add leftover fuel from the holes too.

He, UK would be far better off with 2-5 million small home, business size units for the wind gens saving all that transmission lines, ect. Because there are so many and spread out they average out reducing the need for storage by 75%.

Biomass can fill in for peak power needs if managed right.

Excess energy can be used to turn water, CO2/biomass into various fuels.

Nor should one ignore inherently safe nukes, especially small ones like the Hyperion, 4th-5th generation ones. that burn both nuke waste and thorium.

There really is no single energy solution but many working together.

There is no energy shortage but the lack of the machines to make or catch it.

But the biggest, cheapest energy source of all is eff, conservation
not rated yet Jun 15, 2010
Your comment is not accurate from a fluid dynamics point of view. Keep in mind that at great depth, the pressure of the water above will compress the air within the bag so that the boyancy will be the same as if the bag did not contain compressed air and was kept at the surface. If the anchors are made out of carbon fiber material that spreads the strain evenly over the bottom surface area of the bag, this is a not a problem. Trust the intelligence of the engineers to figure out the stuctural issues. There is always a way. I agree that a zero carbon future must rely on many different technologies, but the fact is that the economics of the system outlined combined with the fact that it will be invisible from land and that the pure massive area of the ocean available for production makes it by far the most attractive and should be pursued more aggressively than any other single technology.
not rated yet Jun 15, 2010
A caveat: The single most effective use of investment towards the goal of a zero carbon future is indeed conservation. However, we must deal with the political realities that job creation must be a part of the goal of that zero carbon future. Creating factories to build the systems outlined here and the construction jobs necessary to build it will win out over the elimination of jobs that will result from purely focusing on conservation. The other way to look at it is from an energy efficiency point of view. There are many technologies that are more efficient than current technologies that would also require the creation of jobs. OLED lighting for example. The main difference is that we have the technology to impliment his vision now, but many of the energy efficient technologies will require more research and developement dollars.

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