Geothermal mines, low-carbon transport and floating wind projects bag Government R&D funding
The Government has awarded R&D funding packages to a string of projects which could assist the transition to net-zero, including floating wind farms in the South West, innovative heat recovery systems in Glasgow and a low-carbon transport cluster in the Midlands.
Funding up to £50,000 will be awarded to each of the 17 projects through UK Research & Innovation’s (UKRI) Strength in Places fund – an initiative designed to support economic growth led by clean innovation in towns, cities and regions lagging behind the national average.
These pots will help each project with early-stage activities which, if successful, will pave the way for the project operators to apply for a further £10-50m of Government funding in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Among the funding recipients is the South West Floating Offshore Wind Accelerator, which is working to pilot floating offshore wind farms in the Celtic Sea. Floating wind turbines can be installed further out at sea than bottom-fixed designs and close to 80% of the world’s offshore wind potential is in waters deeper than 60 metres.
The UK’s Offshore Wind Sector Deal is designed to ensure that 30% of the nation’s electricity generation is accounted for by offshore wind by 2030, and that Britain exports five more offshore wind in 2030 than it did in 2018. The South West Floating Offshore Wind Accelerator believes that large-scale floating offshore wind farms must be built in the Celtic Sea from 2025 onward to spur progress towards these aims.
The University of Strathclyde’s HotScot project has also been awarded with a share of the funding. It is working to extract geothermal energy from three disused, flooded mines near Glasgow and supply the heat for low-income homes. At present, less than 5% of the energy used for heating homes and buildings in the UK comes from low-carbon sources and eating and hot water account for around 15% of the UK's overall annual carbon footprint.
Elsewhere, the latest Strength in Places funding round will support the University of Nottingham’s Trans-Mid – a project with an overarching ambition of creating a net-zero transport ‘supercluster’ in the Midlands. It works to connect universities with corporates and suppliers in the transport and technology sectors, ensuring they have the skills pipeline necessary to develop and roll out green products, covering road transport, rail and aerospace. Transport has been the UK’s most-emitting sector since 2016, making it a key challenge on the road to net-zero.
Funding has also been awarded to projects working to improve healthcare and to make construction safer and more productive. On the latter, UKRI is overseeing the construction sector challenge, which is helping to modernise the industry to the point that buildings can be delivered 50% faster and with half the average lifetime emissions.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the funding will help each project to “turn great ideas into first-class industries, products and technologies”, “creating jobs and boosting skills” as the UK delivers its economic recovery package for Covid-19.
Humber cluster update
In related news, the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has made a formal submission to the UK Government this week, requesting £1.7m for its zero-carbon industrial cluster out of a total project cost of £2.6m.
The facility is set to reach full capacity by 2040, playing host to a biomass power plant, hydrogen infrastructure, combined heat and power (CHP) facilities and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. Business backers include Drax, British Steel and Equinor.
The Humber region currently emits more greenhouse gases than any other industrial hub in the UK, but plays home to a growing number of cleantech companies, making it a key focus of the transition to net-zero in the heavy industry sector.
According to the LEP, the Government is expected to make a decision on the bid this Autumn. This will enable the developers to start work in the first quarter of 2021.
Equinor, one of the project partners, this week appointed a new chief executive officer in a move it claims will speed up its transition to renewables. Former head of technology, projects and drilling Anders Opedal will take the reins at the energy major in November, becoming the first engineer to serve as its chief executive.