The LCRI has built research capacity in Wales, linking academic research with industry and government relating to the low carbon agenda. Many projects have been near market, working with industry partners on emerging low carbon technologies. Each have a key role to play in supporting recent legislation in Wales and contributing to a more sustainable future.
The Low Carbon Built Environment (LCBE) programme based at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University, has carried out research at a range of scales, from components, to buildings, to urban, and finally to the Wales region. New products developed at component level have been integrated into the design of new buildings as well as the retrofit of existing buildings. The Sustainable Building Envelope Centre (SBEC) at Tata Shotton and the SOLCER energy positive house are two buildings that were designed within the LCBE programme. They demonstrate new technologies for generating energy from fully integrated renewable energy systems that also form a construction component of the building envelope. Energy retrofits have been investigated for housing, factories, retail and schools. Buildings in-use have been monitored and design guidance produced. Computer simulation models developed at building scale have been extended to urban scale, for new build and retroĮt applications. The implementation of new technologies and processes has been examined at regional scale, in relation to industry innovation and government policy and regulations. Research on transitions to a low carbon future has included projects in the UK, Europe and China. International collaboration activities have taken place, including, the European Smart Energy Regions COST network, and research links with China. The built environment is key to achieving a low carbon future. The challenges now are to further develop and demonstrate new low carbon technologies and processes that can be integrated into building design in an aīordable and replicable way, to measure their performance in use, to develop simulation tools to assist research and design activities at building and city-region scale, and to work with industry and government to understand the barriers and opportunities in relation to the wide-scale implementation in practice of sustainability and low carbon policy.
The Solar Photovoltaic Academic Research Consortium (SPARC) has formed a strategic link between the solar energy research in the partner universities of Glyndwr, Bangor and Swansea. This has established Wales as an innovation centre for new PV solar energy products and, together with LCBE activities at SBEC, has contributed to the establishment of the SPECIFIC centre in Swansea where manufacturing processes are being developed based on the materials research carried out on SPARC. Wales has a strong tradition of PV supply chain companies from power electronics through to module manufacture and the SPARC team have been effective in working with these industries to help to develop new products that will fuel the rapidly growing solar PV industry. SPARC has built the world’s Įrst in-line atmospheric pressure deposition system for thin film PV manufacture based at its dedicated centre for solar energy research (CSER) in the OpTIC Centre at St Asaph. It has new rapid processing techniques for dye sensitised solar cells (DSC) compatible with high volume manufacturing. It has researched new power electronics designs for eĸcient extraction of the electrical power from PV solar energy modules, leading to a new ultra-light-weight thin film PV technology for space in collaboration with Welsh industry.
The LCRI Hydrogen theme investigates the development and deployment of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies as a low or zero carbon solution for both energy and transport systems. Led by the University of South Wales, much of the research and development activity is world-leading and covers many aspects of hydrogen and fuel cell technology. Research includes hydrogen production techniques, novel hydrogen storage material development, infrastructure and distribution development, and a range of application technologies including fuel cell materials research and development of both fuel cell and combustion technologies for energy conversion. The hydrogen theme also incorporates techno-economic and environmental assessment of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. As the relevance of hydrogen and fuel cells is being understood, worldwide interest in hydrogen and fuel cell technology has dramatically increased in recent years. Industrial deployment of hydrogen and fuel cell technology for energy and transport is now a reality and future challenges centre around technological and economic improvement. There remain a number of critical R&D issues to be addressed, including, the development of hydrogen solutions for grid-scale energy storage to allow for increased penetration of renewable electricity, utilisation of existing grid assets to enable hydrogen based energy storage (power-to-gas), investigation of novel hydrogen storage and fuel cell materials and techniques including the engineering to incorporate these at commercial scale, development of improved hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle and hydrogen combustion based propulsion systems, optimisation of the deployment of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, continued improvement of fermentative and bioelectrochemical hydrogen and methane production processes, development of industrial hydrogen separation and recovery techniques including upgrading via reforming and other methods. With active academic and industrial partners and the engagement of government, Wales is ideally placed to be a leading European region deploying hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and deriving economic and environmental benefit in the process.
Cardiff University’s Gas Turbine Research Centre (GTRC) at Margam is carrying out research on a wide variety of projects including fuel variability, operational flexibility and risk and hazard assessment. LCRI capital funding has been used to set up a world leading experimental simulation facility through the addition of a flexible 5-component gas mixing station to its highpressure/ temperature facilities’. This new mixing station can accurately mix different gas fuel compositions, including varying concentrations of hydrogen, and is investigating hydrogen-rich syngas from high-efficiency gasification processes with or without carbon capture. In the short term, increasing amounts of imported natural gas and LNG from around the world are having a significant affect on the natural gas composition being utilised by power generators. As a result modern gas turbines can experience operational instability issues which adversely affect reliability and emissions. Further research is required to understand this phenomena to assist UK and EU natural gas regulators in standardising gas composition and quality. The research is also important to the gas turbine Original Equipment Manufacturers and end users to optimise the reliability of current and future gas turbines. In the medium term, consideration must be given to increasing levels of Hydrogen created from renewable sources being injected into the natural gas grid and being utilised by power generators. Hydrogen has been shown to increase burning rate and flame temperatures which could adversely affect gas turbine operation. Due to the reliance on natural gas for power generation in the UK, the integration of carbon capture and storage alongside gas turbine power stations is required. The GTRCs input in this area will be with oxygen enriched combustion and exhaust gas recirculation which are both techniques for enriching the CO2 stream in the exhaust to enhance capture eĸciency. With the research infrastructure now in place at the GTRC it is well positioned to be a signifcant contributor in these research fields.
LCRI Marine led by Swansea University provides independent and world-class research to enable, support and help build a sustainable marine energy sector in Wales. It develops engineering tools, which optimise the design and performance of technology that recovers energy from waves, tidal streams and tidal ranges around the Welsh coast. In addition, it considers the likely effects that these devices have on the environment, such as their effect on seabed communities, sediment transport and marine wildlife. The future of the Marine Renewable Energy sector in Wales is very positive. Technology development continues, devices are ready to deploy, and commercial projects planned. Two 100MW demonstration zones have been created (one wave, one tidal) which are managed by community companies; Strategic investment planned by WEFO into the infrastructure of these sites will make Wales a world class destination for the sector. The universities are fully engaged with the companies deploying on the demonstration sites, providing a pipeline of the highest quality research and development to continue the growth of the sector into a mature industry. The key issues for future R&D are: uncertainty of energy resource, particularly where waves and currents interact; extreme storm loadings; fatigue and life prediction; optimum positioning of arrays and devices within them; cost reduction intelligent design; standardisation and supply chain diversification. An integrated partnership of universities, developers and supply chain is working to make this a reality.
LCRI now aims to build on its success and continue to provide Wales with a research network that can work with industry and government to help deliver and implement low carbon policy in Wales, and help promote low carbon research on the international stage.