18 June 2003
Bright spark to create new energy source -
Prof to turn gardening waste into fuel for electricity production
A BIRMINGHAM BASED academic is leading a team of researchers to develop a new energy source from wood, weeds and other agricultural waste.
Aston University's Professor Tony Bridgwater heads a group of universities and institutions to develop new, renewable energy sources from biomass - purpose-grown crops or wastes from forestry and agriculture. The venture is being funded to the tune of �3 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
The new bio-fuels will help the EU reach its target to reduce CO2 emissions by making use of more renewable energy sources to provide renewable electricity. The funding is a coup for Prof Bridgwater and his team at Aston University.
The work also ties in with EU plans agreed at the Johannesburg World Summit, 2002, '[to] substantially increase the global share of renewable energy sources with the objective of increasing its contribution to total energy supply'.
The success of Prof Bridgwater's work is sure to help improve the UK's current record of generating just 0.25 per cent of its energy from biomass. 'Renewable energy is at the heart of sustainable development as energy production from fossil fuels is simply unsustainable,' said Prof Bridgwater. 'In addition to the ill effects fossil fuel combustion has on the environment,' he continued, 'importing such expensive fuels also has hefty financial implications especially, it can be argued, on the many developing countries that don't have any fossil fuel reserves.
'Currently, more than 2 billion people, the majority of them in developing nations, have no access to commercial forms of energy supplies. Renewable energy technologies can offer the lowest cost option for providing power to those in the most need,' he said.
Aston's share of the �3 million EPSRC grant helps bring together people at all stages of biomass energy production, from growing crops through conversion by combustion, gasification and pyrolysis (decomposition brought about by high temperatures) to utilisation of the resulting bio-fuels. The newly created SUPERGEN biomass, bio-fuels and energy crops consortium, headed by Prof Bridgwater, will make a significant contribution to providing a sound basis for a renewable energy industry and to establishing the UK as a global player in this rapidly advancing area.
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