The New Pollution

How Are Music Festivals Curbing Their Light & Sound Emissions in the UK? Read More…

The Sound of Silence

How Is Hearing Loss Effecting the iPod Generation? Read More…

We spoke with Olympic Athlete, and keen Middlesbrough Fan Chris Tomlinson on how Boro can secure promotion today against Brighton.

Olympic Long Jump Athlete Chris Tomlinson with Staff of Inlec UK

So…Middlesbrough F.C – Pretty much all season we have been thinking ‘this is our year, we’re going up, automatically.’ Now there’s a doubt, if Middlesbrough lose against Brighton they’ll have to go through the playoffs to try and get promoted to the Premiership. The level of expectation has been so high all season if it dips, will Middlesbrough be able to pick themselves up?

Chris: The play offs are always nasty, whichever team gets into the play offs will have a tough task. It’s almost as if the third placed team will be the underdogs because they will be on a mental low. Particularly for Boro, it could be a case of ‘here we go again’. We’ve never been particularly successful at Wembley. Cardiff yes, but not wembley.

I think Middlesbrough will get promoted. We have a great team, it’s frustrating for us that Brighton have gone on this incredible run, or else we’d have been home by now. 87 points would usually secure you automatic promotion. To have Brighton so high up – it’s a surprise given their form earlier in the season. Maybe you’d expect that more from Hull or Derby, but Brighton is a surprise – but then who’d have thought Leicester would win the league? It’s been a season of surprises.

Promotion would mean a lot to Middlesbrough FC, not least financially. You see things written about it being a £99m game, so the rewards for promotion are huge! I’m a bit concerned that we’re gambling, if we won’t go up it could be a bit awkward.

Middlesbrough spent heavily in January with players like Rhodes coming in. The chairman Steve Gibson is an amazing bloke, what he has done for the area is absolutely incredible. Equally so though, if we don’t go up how can we afford to keep up those levels of spending? Basically, it’s a gamble. I think it’ll work and it would be a great lift to the area. Leicester got promoted to the premier league in 2014 – now they’re champions! Anything is possible – Who knows,Boro could win the Champions League in a couple of years!!!

If you were the Boro manager this weekend, and five minutes before kick off you were doing the team talk… It’s a big game, so are you putting the pressure on them or taking it off?

Chris: If it was me? I’d be putting the pressure on. Look this is the biggest game of the season so far, this is absolutely crucial. There are tens of thousands of people watching every second of this match, and they would give their right arm to be in your position, to do what you’re doing. Go out there, and give it your all. Leave nothing on that football pitch.

What’s the best bit of advice someone has given you in that sort of situation?

Chris: Dead simple. Try your best. Give it your all. As long as you give it your all you can hold your head up high. There’s nothing worse than coming away thinking ‘I wonder if i could have done a bit better there’. Every second you’ve got to be focused. Leave nothing on that pitch.

Chris Tomlinson was speaking to Inlec, Europe’s Leading Test and Measurement Hire Supplier – www.inlec.com

The New Pollution: How Are Music Festivals Curbing Their Light & Sound Emissions in the UK?

Music festivals in the UK may promote eco-friendly attitudes however there is no doubt that the issue of waste and carbon emissions is a bit of a grey area. It is only natural for over 100,000 people to generate waste and combined with excessive light and noise, this can cause considerable impact on the land. Noise and light pollution are not often discussed in comparison to more “tangible” waste.

On-stage light and sound systems are becoming more powerful and clearer than ever. Whether you like the full light and sound spectacle of indie-rockers Mogwai or if you enjoy an acoustic set by Billy Bragg; both use enormous power for the energy to be broadcast to a live audience. However, all acts regardless of  their set-up and how powerful their sound is, must stick to strict environmental regulations.

 

Inlec spoke exclusively to A Greener Festival on how festivals measure light and sound and what impact they can have on pollution and the environment.

 

 

What effects can light and sound have on the environment at music festivals?

Flashy lighting and loud music may be all part of the appeal which make festivals so much fun, however, it’s important that the wildlife and human residents in the vicinity are taken into consideration by festival organisers.  

Licence conditions will often dictate a certain level of protection / behavioural constraints, but we like to see empirical evidence as part of the Greener Festival Award scheme criteria.  What’s being done during the festival to limit the impact?  What will be done after the festival to return the land to how it was before the event took place?  Are wildlife habitats being suitable protected / cordoned off?

How is sound measured at festivals (tools etc.) and what are the problems with measuring it, if any?

In the UK, council officials will often measure ambient noise levels around a festival using a regular dB meter.  The sound engineers will use the same type of devices to measure Front of House levels and festival organisers should have a number of pre-determined monitoring sites in and around their site.  Levels can be measured as ‘A-weighted’ or dB(A) which is the average or continuous sound level or ‘C-weighted’ or dB(C) for the peak levels.  

The HSE guidance states that the max dB(A) level at any point within the audience should not exceed 107dB and dB(C) should not exceed 140dB.  Problems with noise measuring tend to be that guidelines can be subjective in their interpretation – with many people not having a solid understanding of the physics behind how sound is measured.  

The fact that the unit of measure – Decibels – are defined in the OED as “A unit used to measure the intensity of a sound or the power level of an electrical signal by comparing it with a given level on a logarithmic scale” doesn’t exactly make easy reading for the average Joe…

Why is it important that festivals stick to sound limits and how can festivals improve on noise and light pollution?

Firstly noise limits are a legal requirement and no event organiser wants their event shut down by officials – the reputation damage alone will have a huge impact on a promoter.  Fortunately, technology in sound and lighting has come a long way in the past few years.

For example, directional line-array speaker systems prevent much of the noise ‘leakage’ that older PA systems suffer from and developments in LED lighting technology have helped to reduce energy consumption and heat generated from traditional filament bulbs.  This has in turn reduced the size of generators required, thus reducing pollution.  

Solar powered generators are also far more efficient and able to provide enough energy to power smaller stages and production offices etc.

 

The Sound of Silence: How Is Hearing Loss Effecting the iPod Generation?

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Music is (and always has been) a major part of British culture and festivals have now become a staple in the diet of any music aficionado. Glastonbury, Isle of Wight and Latitude Festival have all come and gone for 2014 but there are still over two months of the British festival calendar to enjoy.

One significant health risk at any music festival is the potential for hearing damage, which is often overlooked during a weekend of hedonism.

According to charitable organisation, Action on Hearing Loss, for every 3db increase in volume, the amount of time is halved before hearing damage occurs.

Inlec spoke exclusively to Action on Hearing Loss  to find out what impact noise can have upon the human body and the environment around us.

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There are two main types of hearing loss – conductive or sensorineural. Some people have both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, known as mixed hearing loss. There are also different degrees of hearing loss, ranging from mild to profound.

Conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss is due to a mechanical blockage or failure preventing sound vibrations from passing freely through the outer or middle ear. For example, sound will not be passed to the cochlea properly if the eardrum or middle ear bones are damaged, or if there is a build-up of wax in the ear canal.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the hair cells in the cochlea. These cells cannot be repaired or replaced.

Temporary hearing loss

This is sometimes referred to as a ‘temporary threshold shift’. You are likely to notice this as a temporary dullness in your hearing after you have been exposed to loud noise. Your hearing may recover, normally within about two days. But this can vary depending on the loudness of the noise, and how long you were exposed to it. Temporary dullness of hearing is a sign that you have put your hearing system under stress.

Permanent hearing loss

Otherwise referred to as a ‘permanent threshold shift’ – if your hearing does not recover completely within two days, the remaining loss is considered to be permanent.

Noise-induced hearing loss

This happens when you have been regularly exposed to damaging levels of noise over a long period of time. You gradually get a sensorineural hearing loss that is usually most severe in the high frequencies (pitches). The hearing loss will be similar in each ear and will get worse if you continue to be exposed to the noise.

Acoustic trauma

This happens when you are exposed to a very high sound level for a short time – for example, to an explosion or a gunshot. In some cases, a very intense sound can perforate your eardrum (cause there to be a hole in it). However, there is a good chance this will heal in time.

Tinnitus caused by noise

Tinnitus is a medical term to describe noises that people can hear in one ear, both ears or in the head, such as ringing, buzzing or whistling. The sounds heard can vary from person to person, but the common link is that they do not have an external source.

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There are currently no legislations which directly protect music lovers from the dangerous of hearing loss. However, work places and events have to stick to very strict rules in order to protect their employees and the environment around them.

Many inner-city events now have to abide by Noise Abatement Orders implemented by councils and all must work by the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. The latter states that in any environment where workers are exposed to sound levels over 80 decibels (db), employers are obliged to warn staff of the dangers of sounds which may lead to hearing loss. Hearing protection must be supplied if necessary.

Once your hearing is damaged, it is damaged for good.

 

The Big Debate: Could Thorium Save The World From Global Warming?

According to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), over 80pc of the world’s energy supply is dominated by fossil fuels, which have led to a consortium of over 200 governments drawing up dramatic plans to cut global warming. The report also highlights that clean energy will have to treble in output and dominate world energy supplies by 2050 in order to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Nuclear is considered to be the only energy source that can help to reduce carbon emissions quick enough to reduce the effects on global warming.

The word “Thorium” may paint pictures of the mythical ‘God of Thunder’ but in fact the chemical element may have the potential to answer the world’s energy problems. The material is more common than tin and could power the world for thousands of years.  For the past fifty years the nuclear industry has relied on Uranium as a source to fuel commercial power stations across the world. Many leading scientists believe that the element could be replaced by Thorium. More information on the detailed chemical process can be found here.

The fact is that scientists have been working on the element since the 1950’s which brings into question why the development has been so slow? Is it too good to be true? Can the cost be justified? Is the technology there to exercise Thorium commercially?

Inlec UK spoke to three experts on the leading key questions around Thorium

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Prof. Bob Cywinski – University of Huddersfield

Peter Karamoskos – Nuclear Radiologist

Gordon McDowell – Thorium Remix

 

What are the benefits of Thorium?

Technological advances – According to Prof Cywinski the limited supplies of Uranium mean that Thorium exploration is a must. Cywinksi states: “It should be remembered that we might have only 100 years or so of uranium supplies to provide fuel for the current level of nuclear electricity (15% of electricity world-wide) so we have to explore other technologies if we wish to clean up electricity production”thorium

Abundance – Thorium is by far more plentiful than Uranium and could last for tens of thousands of years. There is an estimated 5.4 million tonnes worldwide. China and India are currently industry leaders due to both country’s abundance in the material, coupled with their enormous energy consumption.

Safety aspects of reactors – The reactors have a low pressure containment which allows natural circulation of decay in beyond design basic accidents. More information can be found here.

On the other side of the coin, The UK National Nuclear Laboratory in its 2010 position paper stated that the so-called advantages of thorium reactors were ‘overstated.’ The US Department of Energy in 2009 concluded that “the choice between uranium based and thorium based fuel is seen basically one of preference with no fundamental difference in addressing the nuclear power issues….”

What are the obstacles?

Expertise and time – Gordon McDowell expressed concern about the current age of scientists who worked on thorium reactors in the 60s. “We’ll need their expertise to accelerate development, but those pioneers [of thorium research] won’t be around forever”. However, there is a willingness to invest and learn about Thorium. Peter Karamoskos explained that “liquid reactors require tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars, as well as decades”.

Financial obstacles and necessity – Prof Cywinksi states: “Most of the obstacles are financial. Nuclear fuel is but a small part of the cost of generating nuclear electricity and all the technology for processing uranium fuel is in place. There is thus some reluctance for energy companies to start changing to new fuel let alone to new technologies, particularly if this involves setting up new processes or committing to research and development.”

Public reputation of nuclear energy – CERN believe that thorium could change the image of nuclear. Gordon McDowell concurred: “Hopefully, in a year or two’s time, people will be discredited in a timely fashion when they make untrue statements about nuclear power and the risks of low-level radiation. Once the majority of dialog is restricted to factual statements, public perception ought to improve”.

How safe is Thorium?

Thorium reactors are much safer than ones currently used and there is thought to be little risk of plant explosion (Chenobyl). If power is lost, the reactor can shut down with minimal risk. Gordon McDowell believes that the Molten Salt Reactors are safer as they offer the opportunity for passive safety where there is zero risk of meltdown.thorium (1)

According to Professor Cywinksi:

“All nuclear power carries some risk – but substantially less risk to life than any other form of energy production. Thorium metal and thorium oxide both have the highest respective melting points, and are therefore robust materials”. 

Peter Karamoskos argued against the idea that thorium couldn’t be used for nuclear weapons. He stated: “Thorium reactors pose just as great a nuclear weapons proliferation risk as conventional reactors. Firstly, to initiate a thorium reactor requires enrichment (uranium) or separation (plutonium) technologies which can just as easily be used to fabricate a nuclear weapon”.

 

With India and China at the forefront of the global development of thorium, it is certain that it may take decades to commercialise, if at all that is the plan. For now the extensive research continues.

 

 

How Can The Growing Problem of E-Waste Be Solved?

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In the twenty-first century, more than ever, electrical products infiltrate our everyday lives. According to research by Deloitte published in 2013, 7 in 10 people own a smartphone in the UK alone. Yet, with consumer culture constantly bombarding the public with adverts of something new, updated and better – it is not surprising that many of these devices which were once beloved handsets are abandoned in favour of the latest model.

It is what happens to these devices once they are deemed unwanted which causes grave problems. Many discarded electrical goods are transported and dumped in developing countries, resulting in high amounts of toxic pollution. This not only has disastrous, contaminating effects on the environment but also is extremely dangerous to those who work at the landfill sites, or live nearby.

With the UN reports published at the end of 2013 forecasting the world’s amount of electrical waste to grow by 33 percent by the turn of 2017, never before has the problem of e-waste seemed so alarming.

 

An Introduction: What is electrical waste?

Electrical waste (e-waste) is any type of electrical good which is unwanted and therefore discarded as ‘waste’. The general term of e-waste includes both household and business appliances which have electrical components with either a power or battery supply, or an embedded circuit.

Examples of items discarded as e-waste include: computers, televisions, mobile phones, fridges, washing machines, dryers, toasters, kettles, tools, stereo systems and toys.

Many components of electrical goods are considered toxic and are not biodegradable, which causes problems when it comes to disposing of them.

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The UN’s Step Initiative was set up to tackle the crisis of global electronic waste which is the fastest growing waste stream in the world.

The report highlighted that in Europe, Germany discards the most e-waste in total but Norway and Liechtenstein throw away more per person. It is illegal to send exported waste to poorer continents such as Africa however much is sent abroad under false pretences due to the significant pollution that this form of waste creates.

The report also confirms that there is very little track of e-waste across the world however it is estimated that 250,000 – 1.3 million tonnes of electronic goods are shipped from the EU to Africa every year. This waste causes significant damage to the health of local people and the environment.

Inlec UK spoke to a number of experts across the world to get their opinions on the latest statistics, information about their projects currently tackling the problem of e-waste across the globe and for their advice on the disposing of electrical goods.

Many thanks to the experts for their time and contributions. 

 

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Professor Margaret Bates

Professor of Sustainable Waste Management at Northampton University. Leads projects in Africa to reduce landfill and promote the education of safe electronic disposal at specialist facilities.

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Dr Sunil Herat

Head of Environmental Engineering at Griffith University, Australia. Advisor to the UN on e-waste in developing countries and leader of university e-waste research group.

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Robert Truscott

CEO of East African Compliant Recycling Facility

EACR is operating to international health, safety and environmental standards and establishing a local, sustainable IT e-waste recycling industry. Until now, the facility received end-of-life IT from business and public sector customers, as well as from the informal sector, assessing the waste for refurbishment or recycling. EACR offers its workers advice on handling e-waste containing hazardous materials such as lead and cadmium.

 

Experts on the Step Initiative Report…

Q: What were your reactions to the latest UN reports and estimations of the rising amounts of e-waste?

Margaret Bates: “I particularly like the map, it brings together information from a range of sources in a user friendly way.  The ease with which you can find the information is great.  I think that, in particular, developing countries will find it invaluable to compare themselves and adopt good practice from other, similar countries.”

Sunil Herat: “The rising amounts of e-waste are not a surprise given the rapid advancement of IT and early obsolescence of electronic goods. The issue confronts all countries independent of their income and development levels. I can safely predict that the problem is going to get worse- especially in poor to medium income countries as they lack the resources and infrastructure to deal with the issue.”

Q: In your opinion, what are the main dangers of electrical waste?

Margaret Bates: “The dangers from electronic waste come from when it is improperly treated or disposed of.  The concerns arise when waste is in developing countries where there are no proper facilities and it may be subject to open burning or acid leaching, usually to separate the metals from the plastics.  Improper e-waste management can result in the release of a large number of chemicals with potentially hazardous consequences to those around.”

Sunil Herat: “Electronic products are made of number of materials, toxic as well as precious. The danger of e-waste is the leaching of toxic materials to the environment through sub-standard recycling activities. Such activities are now very common in developing countries. However, we should not forget about the opportunities related to the e-waste problem. Proper recycling and extraction of precious metals is an excellent sustainable business.”

 

Experts on tackling E-waste…

Margaret Bates: Involved with Environmental Protection Agency project at Northampton University

Q: How did the idea for the project in Africa originate? What difference have you seen in the areas in which you have carried out educational tasks? 

“In 2009, a partnership consisting of the Basel Convention Regional Coordinating Centre for Africa for Training and Technology Transfer, (based at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria), The University of Northampton (UK) and Reclaimed Appliances (a UK based WEEE recycler), received funding from the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) for an EPA (Education Partnerships Africa) Project to address the education and training needs of an increasingly environmentally regulated Africa. The aim of the project was to help build capacity amongst the informal sector in Nigeria to enable them to adopt approaches for improved environmentally sound management of e–waste.

It was clear that although delegates had previously been advised not to burn their waste, they did not realise the potential risks they were taking.   Delegates told us that now they were properly informed and knew the risks, they would change their behaviour.

Two additional companies were involved in our second workshop: HP, and Learning Light, a UK company specialising in e-learning.   Delegates were taught how to recycle for added value, i.e. the optimum level of separation, without affecting their health.  Several months after the workshops, a visitor to the markets in Nigeria was told that there was no burning since the training.

Building on the relationships developed during the initial Nigerian project an alliance of original equipment manufacturers (Dell, HP, Nokia and Phillips), and Reclaimed Appliances the E-waste Solutions Alliance for Africa (Alliance) was formed.   This has since resulted in a full scale recycling facility (East African Compliant Recycling) in Nairobi which can act as an example throughout the continent providing sustainable waste management and sustainable jobs.”

 

Robert Truscott:  East African Compliant Recycling Facility

Q: How are you tackling e-waste at the recycling facility in Nairobi?

“We are part of an Alliance- E Waste Solutions Alliance consisting of HP, Dell, Philips, Nokia and Reclaimed Appliances (UK) Ltd. The members of this Alliance have worked tirelessly to educate stakeholders to create practical workable legislation that will provide a payment mechanism for difficult and expensive items where the value of the waste alone cannot fund the cost of collection & treatment. We have also stressed the need for the highest enforceable standards to be adopted along with enforcement to ensure a level playing field. The Alliance has also provided capacity building assistance with practical educational trips to UK/European destinations for members of staff from the regulatory authority in Kenya.”

Q: What benefits has the area seen due to the opening of the recycling facility?

“The opening of the recycling facility has seen a reduction in discarded waste and markets for materials that were previously deemed to have no local value. There has also been a move away from informal rudimentary recycling which is harmful to the environment and human health. The facility and associated collection infrastructure has seen the creation of hundreds of green jobs in a very short time which will increase to thousands of jobs in the medium term through the expansion of the collection network, further in country value addition and the realisation that waste is a resource.”

 

Sunil Herat: Griffith University Research Group

Q: How was the e-waste research group established? What kind of work does the e-waste research group at Griffith University do?

“The e-waste research group at Griffith University was established in 2005 to conduct research on how to manage e-waste in Australia. Since then the group has worked on number of research projects and published several international journal papers. Furthermore, as the group leader, I am now a United Nations Expert on e-waste where I advise the governments in the Asian region on how to deal with the e-waste issue. Currently, the research focus is on issues and challenges of implementing EPR in developing countries.”

6449650579_0ff684049d_zExperts on disposing of Electronics…

Q: What is your main piece of advice for people wanting to dispose of their electrical goods?

Margaret Bates“Don’t throw them in the bin. Take them to local authority facilities, or if you are a business check out the permits of the contractor you use.  Also, when you are buying things, think about the potential environmental costs rather than just the economic ones.”

Sunil Herat“I would like to advise people to practice responsible buying when it comes to electrical devices and electronic goods. If they want to dispose of their e-waste, they should always check the credentials of the recycling company to ensure that the products are safely managed and most importantly that they do not end up in countries where there are no facilities to properly recycle them.”

Robert Truscott“Waste is a resource and if you look hard enough you can find places to drop of your waste so that it can be collected and recycled. The key is not to mix the various recyclable wastes together as this will decrease the viability of collecting and recycling this waste. The earth has only a limited amount of natural resources and the choice to discard resources that can be recycled will in most cases lead to a larger corporate and individual carbon footprint. In addition to being a selfish act, it will leave the larder empty for the ever expanding global future generations depriving them of the materials required to produce the items that we took for granted.”

 

“World leading” Siemens deal given new confidence for Hull and Humber region

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Over three years have passed since German based Siemens revealed that they had expressed a positive interest in staking the Hull and Humber region as a pioneer in wind farm technology and renewable energy.

The global engineering firm set out their initial blueprints to build a leading offshore wind farm at Alexandra Dock in Hull, with an estimated cost of £210m.

The plans saw an entire re-generation of the existing dock with the potential to be one of the biggest influences on the region’s economy for generations. The site would employ over 700 employees, alongside a partnership of local businesses and investors to create the UK’s capital of renewable energy. The project is set to be worth an estimated £120 billion.

This project, alongside Hull’s status of UK City of Culture for 2017, could deliver a game-changing transformation for the region’s economic landscape.

This all begs the question as to why Siemens have failed to commit and finalise the deal. The answer, according to a spokesperson from Siemens, was related to the uncertainty in the off-shore wind market and the element of market growth.

However, the tides have finally turned for the better over the past month; despite two planned high profile wind plants on the Dogger Bank being scaled back by twenty per cent by renewable energy consortium, Forewind.

According to a spokesman from Siemens, the project on the Humber remains “on track” and they confirmed that they are still progressing with their initial project. However, the firm were unable to provide a commence date.

Inlec UK spoke to the Leader of Hull City Council, Councillor Stephen Brady, to discuss how the council are still acting on the deal and the importance it holds on the region’s economy.

He said:  “The decision about investment quite rightly sits with Siemens; however I am confident that by working as part of a larger team, focused upon making this investment potential a reality, we have done everything possible to facilitate this very important decision for the area.”

Councillor Brady outlined how the region will become a “world-leader” if the policy environment is correct to create long term certainty for both the investors as well as the supply chain.

The region is home to key partnerships in shipping, logistics and science which will have a considerable healthy impact on supply chains including training providers, law firms and engineering services.

Councillor Brady stressed the importance of local community partnerships within the project and clarified the intent to employ locally sourced workforces.

 He explains: “We have a team from the Council, together with the adjoining East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Job Centre Plus working with local training providers and existing companies ensuring that we have a work force that can meet the demands of a new sector.”

 He added: “We have been successful in gaining £26m from Government under the Regional Growth Fund to ensure that the Green Port project is firmly grounded locally in terms of jobs and business opportunity.  Already over 200 new jobs have been created in local companies under this programme as local companies respond to opportunities in the wider renewables sector.”

Former Home Secretary and Labour MP for West Hull and Hessle, Alan Johnson, spoke to Inlec UK and explained how the Humber region is an ideal preferred location due to the “proximity, scalability and deliverability” of the project.

He said: “The fact that we have land to expand into on both sides of the Humber (the Able marine site is particularly important in this respect) gives us the scalability and deliverability was all about the fact that the planning consents for Alexander Dock were predominately within the gift of Hull City Council, that may not be a factor in other investment but I would say the unwavering focus of the LEP, politicians, Hull University, the FE sector across the Humber etc. would provide a new definition of deliverability.”

Mr Johnson also commented on the existing drive and presence of the renewable sector in Hull and the Humber.

“It’s also clear of course that the Humber has a wider renewable energy presence; we’re involved in wave power, tidal power, biofuels, biomass, carbon capture and storage and advance gasification using residential waste.”

 This is just the start of an economic and cultural renaissance for Hull and the Humber region. The intertwining of the Siemens deal and the UK City of Culture could provide just the relationship to create a result in an industrial success story which champions the race in renewable energy.

How Does Thermal Imaging Technology Work?

How Does Thermal Imaging Technology Work?

The benefits of thermography or thermal imaging stretch into an enormous amount of industries. Pioneering technology has led to the vast development of thermal technology over the last ten years and it continues to be an essential part of our everyday life. From energy saving to saving lives; we can be certain that there is a wealth of important uses. Throughout this year, thermal imaging cameras have been used in major global events including military operations and natural disasters.

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We can understand the development of thermal imaging and thermography (the science of detecting radiation in infrared range) by investigating the chronological events which have shaped its importance and the contribution it plays in the energy industry.

The History

In 1672 Sir Isaac Newton discovered the dispersive prism in which he found that reflected white light decomposed into a spectrum of colours. This then gave way to Newton’s Theory of Colour. Sir Fredrick William Herschel explored this area and took the theory a step further in 1800 by discovering the rising temperature in the blue to red colour spectrum. Herschel concluded from this that an invisible force must have been at work which he called ultra-red, later to be called infrared radiation.
By 1862 Gustav Kirchoff developed his radiation law which states that all matter continuously radiates energy; either invisible or visible dependent on the temperature. In 1900 Max Planck made the breakthrough discovery which created our present understanding into electromagnetic radiation and wavelength.
Herschel’s thermograph device led to the invention of the thermomultiplier which was later modified by Leopoldo Nobili into the bolometer. Until the First World War the development of technology was mainly focused on bolometers and thermometers; however the sophistication of the technology in recognising radiation led to its use in military operations throughout the 1960s. Today, thermal technology is a proven to be an incredibly effective way of recognising thermal radiation.

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How Does It Work?

It is important to remember that thermal imaging cameras are entirely different to how cameras take standard pictures. Thermal imaging technology creates images using heat rather than light.
Physical law states that all matter has a temperature and it must be above absolute zero. The hotter the matter the more intense form of radiation and for temperatures above 500°c we are unable to see the heat due to emittance. The main part of the device is the infrared detector which is a component that converts the energy into an electric signal. This electrical signal is then transferred into an image on the display unit that highlights key figures and measurements.

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Thermal imaging cameras can even recognise temperatures in the darkness however there is a significant difference between infrared and night vision. Night vision cameras rely on an image intensifier due to the lack of visible light whilst thermal imaging devices rely on the radiation of heat and temperature.

Applications In Industry
• Medical engineering
• Building and construction
• Energy industry
• Electrical/Mechanical Inspections
• Chemical Engineering
• Veterinary Imaging
• Emergency Services
• Maritime

Benefits of Using Thermal Imaging Cameras
• Reduce the risk of fire
• Increase in equipment lifespan
• Increase in energy efficiency
• Reduce break downs
• Significant cost reductions

 

We spoke to a number of thermal imaging experts regarding the benefits of the technology in both commercial arenas as well as the home.

 

Graham Rockley – Director of Operations at Thermology.com

“In the last 10 years, smaller pixel pitch has led to the development of a larger pixel count, with megapixel thermal imaging cameras being readily available.  Apart from the detector itself, the camera engines have become much smaller, permitting the use of thermal imaging cameras in small spaces or on limited weight vehicles.  Finally, there have been significant developments in on-board software processing of the data prior to transfer to the storage media or computer for analysis.  The cost for off-the-shelf, readily available hand-held thermal imaging cameras in the 8-13 micron range has dropped significantly”.

“Thermography has wide ranging applications for engineering, from product development to process control.   For the energy sector, it’s very useful in determining potential failure modes in the power grid.  Poor junctions, damaged or corroded switches, failing transformers all carry useful thermal image signatures which can be used to service equipment before failure.  In a larger setting, infrared thermography is proving very useful for evaluation of gas leaks from pipelines both at the refinery and in the field”.

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Gideon Howell – Environmental Technologies Business Manager at Coventry University

 

Why is it important to use thermal imaging devices?

“Thermal imaging devices are great for fault identification and for identifying areas in materials that are performing differently from other comparative sections of the same material. They enable faults to be identified without destructive testing and are particularly useful in assessing gaps in insulation, cracked  pipes, leaks or loose electrical connections to name but a few”.

 

 How do Coventry University use thermal imaging equipment?

“Coventry University’s sustainable building futures project uses its thermal camera to undertake qualitative studies of buildings to look for faulty insulation, leaking pipes etc. We also use the camera in combination with air tightness testing equipment so that in a depressurised or pressurised building we are able to take images and thus identify the areas of air leakage and heat loss. We do not carry out any qualitative work using the camera as we do not consider the calibration and external factors that affect the images to be capable of providing sufficiently accurate data”.

 

Thermal technology has expanded into a wide range of industries and continues to grow and develop whilst inspiring many new technologies. Thermal imaging has now been incorporated into the automotive industry in order to enhance driver vision whilst it helps to save lives in Cancer screening. This development of this technology is still only in its infancy and some may say that the future looks bright for thermal imaging possibilities.

There are a wide ranging choice of thermal imaging cameras at Inlec

What Are The Benefits of Monitoring Energy Efficiency?

 

Energy conservation has become essential over the last 30 years, which has created the need for environmental responsibility as well as a change in traditional business practices.

Energy prices have skyrocketed over the past 10 years due to underlying factors such as fuel depletion and global environmental concerns. This has created a knock-on effect of governments creating energy regulations in an effort to force companies into “going green” and being eco-savvy. The UK is currently taking a lead role in enabling new technologies and developments in order to achieve more energy efficient industries.

Energy Affordability

According to the Carbon Trust it is believed that the UK could collectively save over £400 million by taking simple steps just in making hot water boilers efficient and eco-friendly. It is important more than ever from both a household and industrial standpoint to ensure that energy efficiency is a priority.

With energy prices and government regulations both increasing exponentially, business owners are becoming more and more interested in new energy saving technologies.
Domestic and commercial goals are the same; to reduce energy consumption and increase efficiency. This will create a cleaner environment free of excessive carbon emissions. However, the benefits of measuring energy efficiency are more than simply for financial gain.

A study conducted by the International Energy Industry suggested that energy monitoring outcomes are thought to be based on four different levels which are; individual (households and small enterprises), sectoral (industrial sectors and transport), national (greater social effects e.g. government budgets) and the international level (global energy effects).

Outlined below are the socioeconomic outcomes that arise from being energy efficient which highlights that the individual level triggers an action which drip feeds to the international level.

Individual Level

• Impact on health and well-being – effects of heating and cooling in buildings as well as improved air quality from more efficient transport.
• Poverty alleviation – energy rates decrease
• Increased disposable income

• Creates industrial productivity and competitiveness – Reductions in resource use and pollution which creates increased production.
• Energy provider and infrastructure benefits – Reduce in operating costs and increased profit margins.
• Increase in asset values – Business properties with better energy performance increase with value.

Sectoral Level

• Creates industrial productivity and competitiveness – Reductions in resource use and pollution which creates increased production.
• Energy provider and infrastructure benefits – Reduce in operating costs and increased profit margins.
• Increase in asset values – Business properties with better energy performance increase with value.

National Level

• Job creation
• Reduced energy-related public expenditures
• Energy Security
• Positive economic effects

International Level

• Reduced Greenhouse gases
• Energy prices can be moderated
• Natural forms of energy can be managed across the globe

Source: http://www.iea.org/publications/insights/ee_improvements.pdf

Efficiency Is the Most Valuable Resource

Throughout the engineering industry measurement tools are increasingly used to control a whole variety of processes, from the levels of optimal fuel efficiency through to minimising wasted material.

Green engineering is fast becoming a permanent business practice in various industries and energy test tools provide a useful means of determining a base measurement.

Source: http://www.iea.org/publications/insights/ee_improvements.pdf

When large industrial energy systems are under immense stress, using and controlling energy often becomes unreliable and inefficiencies can occur due to energy demand. By optimising these systems there is a greater chance of them running more efficiently which creates a system where energy consumption and load is much reduced.

Many businesses have industrial processes, which are operated manually however, without being controlled as part of a larger system, do not run to optimal levels. For example, by measuring various energy parameters such as load, harmonics, unbalance and distortion businesses can determine the losses and inefficiencies on electrical circuits by using power analysers, thus creating an indication of what actions need to be taken in order to achieve a more energy efficient electrical system.

Gaining access to advanced diagnostic tools such as this provides the evidence to establish where performance can be improved and therefore, contributing to increases in global efficiency. The test and measurement industry offers many diagnostic instruments and tools to measure the efficiency of businesses for example water and gas systems with flow meters; thermal efficiency with infra-red cameras, mechanical components with alignment tools. There are many more examples where the application of test and measurement technology can help through utilising this equipment through hire or purchasing the equipment outright.

We spoke to a number of energy industry experts and got their opinion on the development of technology and the ways in which this can be beneficial for achieving greater energy efficiency.



Dave Hall from the department of Energy, Built Environment and Innovation of Salford Professional Development at the University of Salford explains how technology goes hand in hand with energy measurement.

“Accurately assessing the performance of building stock is a challenging task. When operated by a fully trained professional, thermal imaging cameras provide a non-intrusive and unique insight in to the thermal performance of buildings. The images obtained can help identify potential faults and issues with a structure that significantly impact the thermal performance of a building. This can then ensure that investment on refurbishment and improvement can be targeted to achieve maximum return. The key to this approach working is to ensure that only trained professionals with a strong understanding of the technology and the ability to interpret the data correctly carry out thermal surveys”.


“The location in which energy is consumed and escapes is not always obvious. Air cooling costs several times more than air heating. That’s why measurement tools are indispensible in uncovering the low hanging fruits where small changes in behaviour can bring large rewards” . – Derek Wong of Carbon 49


Technology within major businesses are constantly evolving and the developing demand for monitoring performance. Paul Studebaker, editor-in-chief of sustainableplant.com adds:

“In industry, energy represents a commodity and cost per unit production like any other raw material, and like any other raw material, it might or might not be purchased wisely and used efficiently. It is safe to say that worthwhile energy-cost-saving opportunities remain available in even the most energy-efficient businesses if for no other reason than the continuing efficiency improvements and/or cost reductions of energy-saving technologies such as LED lighting, higher-efficiency motors, advanced control and optimization, etc. So even if you think you have the world’s most efficient HVAC or lighting system, tomorrow you won’t, and the day after you’ll be able to make a financial case for replacing it. So businesses are wise to constantly evaluate new technology, compare it to their existing installations and queue retrofits and renovations according to known potential ROI.

It is also established fact that hard-won energy efficiency improvements, whether they rely on shiny new equipment, process optimization software or human behavior, will decline over time unless monitored and maintained, and that done right, that same continuing investment in vigilance will pay off in discovering additional opportunities”.



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Wayne Rogers of Homes With Green

Q: Why do you think it is critical to measure energy efficiency in the typical family home?

“Improving the energy efficiency of a typical family home is critical for two main reasons. Firstly the UK has a binding target to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. 25% of carbon emissions come from homes and so energy efficiency measures will be critical to meeting this target.

Secondly and perhaps more crucially from the perspective of a typical family, energy efficiency is the best way to hedge families’ exposure to ever rising electricity and gas prices. A recent survey showed that of 15 Western European countries the UK had the 14th highest percentage of families in fuel poverty. This is a concerning statistic and clearly shows the UK has to address the energy efficiency of its housing stock”.

Q: Energy saving is a worldwide issue which is discussed politically and in the media. How do you think major businesses could do more to save energy?

“Most major businesses are now engaging with energy efficiency and taking the challenge very seriously. Businesses ultimately make decision based on a review of the costs and benefits and investments have to meet certain payback criteria which for most businesses is somewhere between 3 to 5 years.

As most energy efficiency investments pay back within this period, then it makes sense for businesses to invest in energy efficiency measures. That said, there is often a challenge when it comes to investing in measures which may have longer paybacks once the “low hanging fruit” has been picked off.

An area which is as yet under-developed in the UK market as compared to the US market and potentially an area of massive growth is the concept of “Energy Performance Contracts” This is where a third party finances and installs energy saving equipment and repays this investment based on share of the energy that is saved. This effectively means that companies that may not have cash for what may be seen as non-core energy efficiency improvements can still have measures installed. As this type of contracting matures, it is likely to lead to more energy saving measures being adopted”


 

It is clear that there are enormous benefits of exploring new technology within energy saving. Energy saving strategies can often be under-estimated, under appreciated and this can have an effect within government energy policies. There is no doubt that climate change and energy efficieny is still an on-going issue and one that is always developing.

The theory of the four levels highlights that energy efficiency lies with the individual. Without the push of the individual using new technologies such as measurement tools, global benefits wouldn’t be realised.

Many thanks to the industry experts for taking part in this article.