Energy research excellence at Ulster

Centre-for-Sustainable-Technologies_DSC6356 World class energy research is taking place at the University’s Centre for Sustainable Technologies.

The Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST) at the University of Ulster has a long track record of providing research excellence in energy. Through a long association with research funding provided by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and numerous European research programmes, it has been able to secure addition infrastructure funding that has seen the development of quality laboratory facilities to develop and evaluate a range of technologies.

Expertise is shown in a wide range of areas:

• Advanced glazing;

• Building retrofit;

• Biomass and bioenergy;

• Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS);

• Demand-Side Management;

• Energy Efficiency in Industry;

• Energy Market Modelling;

• Energy Storage;

• Heat Pumps, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration;

• Passive Houses;

• Solar Energy;

• Techno-Economic Modelling of Energy Processes;

• Thermal Comfort.

Each of these areas is supported by external funding from EPSRC, FP7, SFI, Interreg, NPP, Department for Employment and Learning, Invest NI and industry and represents over £7 million of current external research income. This enables the core staff of 10 academics, administrative support and technical support staff to deliver high quality outputs through over 20 researchers who are a combination of experienced post-doctoral researchers and emerging research talent studying for PhDs.

Selected highlights of the current and recent project portfolio reveals vacuum glazing products being field trialled for domestic building retrofit (EPSRC Calebre), biomass and bioenergy being developed for marine algae (Interreg Biomara), gasification and oilseeds (SFI Charles Parsons), CCS techno-economics being developed (FP7 decarbit), energy efficiency in industry (IERC Tempo), energy storage (DEL Energy Storage), new heat pumps (EPSRC EUED) and solar energy (Invest NI).

Research excellence also provides a strong basis for a quality teaching and learning experience where research-informed and research-led lectures inform students in the BEng/MEng Energy and Building Services and the PgD/MSc Renewable Energy & Energy Management. Student research dissertations are often integrated into live research projects and participating students benefit from the wider context and exposure to an international research community.

A number of research highlights can be identified which illustrate CST’s expertise, ranging from large scale energy supply to domestic energy demand. In modelling the benefits of the latest power station technologies, CST has developed a process simulator ‘Eclipse’ whose outputs have been utilised in a number of flagship carbon capture and storage European Commission initiatives. Publication of the best practice guidelines for power plants with and without CCS (together with companies such as Shell, Alstom, SINTEF, E.On, Vattenfall, and TNO) highlights the impact on public policy services. The document is seen as a template for future CCS projects and plant designs in Europe providing the boundary conditions along with techno-economic data on reference cases for advanced super-critical boilers and integrated gasification cycles. Ulster’s work contributed to the techno-economic assessment of power plants and served as a validation of the values given by the industrial partners. Moreover, the University has been working together with different industrial partners towards future projects on pilot plant validations using novel near-zero power plant technologies.

Energy market modelling (supported by Science Foundation Ireland under the Charles Parsons Energy Award) has utilised energy market model PLEXOS to deliver a range of outputs regarding the impacts of more dynamic electricity markets on power station operation costs and the future role of energy storage and demand side management in an all-Ireland context. New work is addressing the needs of interconnection to UK markets and potentially further afield.

The expertise in research and development of low carbon technologies within the CST team has seen the pioneering of an innovative passive domestic solar water heater. SolaCatcher is a cost-effective passive solar water heater designed for pre-heating domestic hot water. The concept of the SolaCatcher is protected under International Publication Number WO 2010/052010 A2, ‘A solar water heater.’ The system is a completely novel solar water heating design in both operation and installation, and has the potential to improve upon the cost-effectiveness of traditional forms of solar water heating technology applied today. The team are currently pursuing commercialisaton strategies to take the product to market.

On the demonstration side, the ‘UU Terrace Retrofit’ project aims to establish a comprehensive retrofit package for reducing UK domestic carbon emissions that is acceptable and appealing to householders specifically targeted at solid-wall houses (classified as hard-to-treat). It will allow both elemental delivery and complete package solutions. The objective is to provide a healthy comfortable building that meets the occupant’s requirements whilst minimising the impact on the wider environment through consuming the minimum resources possible in the building’s refurbishment construction and operation. A custom built set of solid wall terrace based dwellings have been constructed on-site at UU to provide a live demonstration test bed.

UU PP3 Professor NJ Hewitt BSc DPhil CEng CPhys MInstP MInstR MEI

Director, Centre for Sustainable Technologies

Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Ambient Energy

Head of Research Graduate School, Faculty of Art, Design and Built Environment

Tel: 028 9036 8566


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