Current energy research at the University of Ulster

Centre for Sustainable Technologies_DSC6754 Neil Hewitt outlines the university’s energy portfolio.

The Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST) covers a wide range of research applicable to the sustainable built environment agenda, including highways engineering, river and harbour hydraulics, procurement, infrastructure enhancement and architecture. However, its primary research is in the field of energy.

Current projects reflect the wide range of expertise in the CST. Large scale overarching projects, such as those funded by DCENR and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), are represented through the Charles Parsons Energy Research Award which supported advances in bioenergy, energy market modelling, advanced glazing, solar energy, heat pumps and energy storage.

Supporting infrastructure funding from the Department for Employment and Learning has provided laboratory facilities that analyse the performance of biomass energy systems, including gasification, anaerobic digestion and bio-oils. Solar energy research boasts a state-of-the-art solar simulator for the development and evaluation of solar energy technologies including the patented Solacatcher (a low cost solar water heater developed in conjunction with Invest Northern Ireland and with investment in the university spin-out company Solaform Ltd by E-Synergy). Advanced glazings in the form of novel solar energy systems are currently being developed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) with funding and further support from Invest Northern Ireland. Additional projects include Royal Society support for solar energy development in Tanzania and UKIERI support for solar-energy driven anaerobic digestion in India.

Advanced heat pumps and energy storage are supported by Science Foundation Ireland, the EU FP7 projects ‘Effective Integration of Seasonal Thermal Energy Storage Systems in Existing Buildings” (Einstein ‘Cost-Effective Solar Air Conditioning’ (CESAR), the EPSRC-funded Interdisciplinary Centre for Storage, Transformation and Upgrading of Thermal Energy (i-STUTE). i-STUTE is also supported by companies with a strong Northern Ireland presence in Glen Dimplex and Copeland Ltd (Emerson Climate Technologies). A TSB KTP project with Copper Industries is in development new energy storage tanks for Northern Ireland and beyond.

The SEUPB, Northern Ireland Executive and Irish Government funded ‘Storage Platform for Integration of Renewable Energy’ (SPIRE) is a £3.7 million energy storage project. It is investigating three scales of energy storage and demand side management, namely utility scale (compressed air energy storage, CAES), auto-producer industrial/commercial site scale (flow batteries and ice banks) and domestic household scale (demand side management with heat pumps and energy storage) as examples. Gaelectric Energy Storage Ltd has been appointed through an Official Journal of the European Union process to examine the viability of the Larne Basin salt deposits as a suitable CAES substrate.

Energy management and the development of energy services is delivered through projects such as the Enterprise Ireland funded ‘Total Energy Management for Production Operations’ (TEMPO) and the Northern Peripheries Programme ‘Sustainable Living Assistant’ (SuLA) in which data in understanding energy issues are a key element in the presentation and management of energy use. Tool development to assist industry and householders in energy management is becoming key.

Finally retrofit and the accommodation of developed technologies are tested and enhanced in ‘Terrace Street’ – Ulster’s instrumented and occupied 1900s terraced houses funded by the Department for Employment and Learning. Thus in addition to real-time performance, householder interaction will inform product development.

These examples illustrate the University of Ulster’s Centre for Sustainable Technologies leadership in working with local industry in delivery of local, national, European and international projects in energy research. Its equipment and laboratories are geared to develop advanced building materials, solar energy technologies, heat pumps, energy storage, thermal comfort, retrofit, biomass systems and larger energy system modelling and assessment.

UU PP3 Professor Neil Hewitt
Director, Centre for Sustainable Technologies
University of Ulster, Newtownabbey
Co Antrim, BT37 0QB
Tel: +44 (0) 28 903 68566
Fax: +44 (0) 28 903 68239
Mobile: +44 (0) 78 724 21694

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