The Centre for Sustainable Energy
CEH and LU have long and prestigious track records investigating a range of components and aspects of energy generation and use. Recent developments in government policy have increased the demand to generate renewable energy for both environmental protection and security of supply. The environment is both the source of renewable energy and the recipient of its waste products and the Lancaster Environment Centre has expertise that allow both the potential resource available to be mapped and the consequences of exploitation to be forecast.
Examples of some of our research interests include:
Expertise on intelligent control systems is being applied to the gasification process with the aim of maximising the output of fuel gas, while a recent project has examined the feasibility of constructing a pilot biomass scheme at Lancaster. Complementing this work, University research teams are researching vegetation-environment interactions especially in relation to climate change and the regulation of biomass production by the plant, particularly in dryland environments.
Engineers are investigating alternative means of exploiting hydro or tidal energy through its conversion into air-pressure energy, so allowing much smaller, less expensive machinery to be used. The system under development uses siphons, bridging the weir or barrage.
The UK has a particularly favourable wave climate for power generation. Lancaster University research includes the invention and the development at model scale of several wave-energy converters, together with important generic work on the theory of wave-energy converters and their systematic design.
Much of the recent drive towards sustainable generation and use of energy arises from the recognition that consumption of fossil fuels is leading to elevated levels of CO2 that then drive climate change. CEH is responsible for generating Britainís carbon inventory; figures that feed into European and global datasets that define our view of the problem.
The chemical products of combustion have been the most damaging effect of burning fossil fuels. A complex of chemicals and particles are usually released into the atmosphere in smoke. CEH has developed methods on assessing the impact of these pollutants by assessing their critical load; that is the amount that can be deposited on an ecosystem before it is incapable of recovery.
The geographic distribution of potential environmental energy sources is essential in assessing their functional capacity and impact. In a European project, CEH scientists have helped produce the Atlas of Potential Small Scale Hydro Power.