Energy minister Mike O’Brien this week inspected EDF Energy’s West Burton power station in Nottinghamshire, which is being brought back online after it was fitted with the flue gas desulphurisation equipment.

The FGD technology, which is undergoing final reliability and performance tests, will remove over 90% of the sulphur dioxide emissions from the 2,000MW station.

FGD is a process where the flue gases pass through precipitators and are then diverted through an absorber, where they are mixed with a limestone slurry spray. A chemical process takes place where the sulphur dioxide reacts with the limestone to produce gypsum (calcium sulphate), which is dried and sold to the building products industry. The flue gases are emitted via the chimney, with over 90% of the sulphur dioxide removed.

The improvements are also being made at the Cottam station, which is 10km away. This represents an investment of around £200m and a reduction in SO2 emissions by 90,000 tonnes per year at each station.

The Scottish power market is expected to be in the spotlight this week with both Glasgow-based ScottishPower and Perth-based Scottish and Southern Energy publishing interim results, reports The Scotsman.

Fund manager Gerrard expects ScottishPower to post pre-tax profits of £423m against £393m last time, while SSE is tipped to turn in an 11% rise in profits to £255m.

SSE should post a good first half, buoyed by rising wholesale electricity prices, its investment in renewable energy and cost controls. The group has benefited from increased contributions from its non-core operations, in particular contracting and gas storage.

According to analysts, the firm is set to reveal that it has been stealing up to 10,000 new customers a week from its rivals as a result of its decision to freeze prices until the end of this year at least.

The steady inflow means its customer base looks likely to have swelled to 5.75 million and SSE is closing fast on market leaders Centrica, German-controlled RWE (npower) and the energy conglomerate Electricité de France.

ScottishPower was once seen as the clearly dominant Scot, with Perth’s SSE (the former Scottish Hydro-Electric) the less ambitious neighbour, but shares in SSE have raced ahead 24% since the start of the year, giving it a market cap of £7.14bn against SP’s 17% (£8.15bn), and Marchant is expected to reveal half-time profits up 11% to £255m, against a more modest 7.5% at SP to £423m.

ScottishPower saw an improved first-half operational performance compared to last year. The group is set to report a reasonably flat second quarter from its north American arm Pacificorp, but better profits in the UK.

Windsor Castle will soon be powered by hydro-electricity generated at Romney Weir on the River Thames.

A 200kW hydro-electric scheme comprising two turbines and an enclosure will probably be built early next year in a £900,000 project funded by npower renewables.

Underwater propellers, situated 300 yards from the castle, will generate electricity for at least eight months per year and should prevent the need to emit polluting gases. The project is set to receive planning permission from Windsor and Maidenhead Council early next year.

Ceres Power aims to speed up the commercialisation of its fuel-cell technology by floating on the stock exchange.

The company, which recently opened UK fuel-cell production facilities (See Electrical Review, October), hopes to raise up to £15m by listing on London’s Alternative Investment Market.

Dr Peter Bance, head of Ceres Power, says low-cost high-performance materials and mass-manufacturing techniques will make the company’s fuel cell competitive with traditional forms of generation.

The technology has its roots in Imperial College, where experiments with a ceramic-coated steel substrate took place over a decade. The current project is funded by the government, manufacturing partners and private capital and has attracted over £10m in investment.

Connecting a battery across the front of the head can boost verbal skills, says a team from the US National Institutes of Health.

A current of two thousandths of an ampere (a fraction of that needed to power a digital watch) applied for 20 minutes is enough to produce a significant improvement, says a paper presented to the Society for Neuroscience.

Volunteers were asked to name as many words as possible beginning with a particular letter. Given 90 seconds, most people get around 20 words but after the current was administered

Nissan is seeking permission to build a wind farm in the middle of its Sunderland plant. The car maker proposes to power the factory with seven wind turbines, capable of producing enough electricity to power the equivalent of 2,600 homes.

Nissan said using wind power would enable it to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 10,000 tonnes a year. The turbines would be installed on low-lying ground within the plant boundaries in an effort to minimise their visual impact.

“The wind farm is central to our aim of cutting power plant emissions and generating energy in a safe and environmentally friendly manner,” said Nissan Motor UK’s chief engineer Graham Bagley.

“In light of steeply rising energy prices, the farm would also provide an annual cost saving to Nissan Motors UK, helping it to remain commercially competitive.”

If planning permission is granted, the project will be completed by autumn 2005.

Firefighters averted disaster at a Norfolk power plant by stopping fire spreading to tonnes of chicken litter when an electrical fault caused a wooden walkway to burst into flames.

Firefighters spent two hours in the fuel hall at the FibroWatt plant at Thetford, bringing the fire under control after the alarm was raised at 10pm.

Fire officer Alan Prior said if the fire had reached the chicken litter, which is burnt in the power plant’s boilers, it would have caused a serious problem.

Thetford is the largest of three power stations in the UK that burn poultry litter to produce electricity. It generates 38.5MW of power and disposes of 400,000 tonnes of poultry litter a year. The project won a contract under the UK government’s Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation, whereby a premium price was payable for electricity generated by selected renewables schemes.

FibroWatt’s sister company, Fibropower at Eye, was put out of action for a few days following a fire two weeks earlier.

A team from the universities of Newcastle upon Tyne and Liverpool has discovered a safe way of storing and releasing hydrogen to produce energy.

The researchers have found a way to inject the gas at high pressure into tiny pores – of 10 to the minus nine metres in size – in specially designed materials to give a dense form of hydrogen. The pressure is then reduced in the material to store the captured hydrogen safely. Heat can then be applied to release the hydrogen as energy.

Professor Mark Thomas, of Newcastle University’s Northern Carbon Research Laboratories in the School of Natural Sciences, is a member of the research team. “This is a proof of principle that we can trap hydrogen gas in a porous material and release it when required,” he said.

“However, if developed further, this method would have the potential to be applied to powering cars or any generator supplying power. Although hydrogen-powered cars are likely to be decades away, our discovery brings this concept a step towards becoming reality.”

Following new research data from Hawaii that shows an acceleration in the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the chairman of the CIBSE Carbon Task Group, Terry Wyatt, said: “Climate change is a reality and these new findings suggest that the increase in global temperature is itself having the effect of increasing the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere over and above that produced by human activity. Although it will take several years’ findings to confirm the trend, it could mean that our future scenarios for climate change will have to be reassessed.

“The government and society at large should approach the challenge of reducing carbon emissions with renewed urgency. CIBSE members are already doing their bit in reducing carbon emissions from buildings but they cannot succeed alone.”

Buildings contribute nearly 50% of man-made carbon dioxide emissions and building services engineers are playing a key role in designing and operating energy-efficient, sustainable buildings. It is CIBSE policy to promote an approach to design, operation and maintenance that minimises the contribution of buildings to global warming.

Vast numbers of people are querying the accuracy of their energy bills, according to a UK gas and electricity watchdog, with suppliers receiving around 60 million phone calls a year.

energywatch has said about a third of customers contact their suppliers every quarter to complain or query bills and accounts. The watchdog said its own evidence demonstrated that billing was too often a hit and miss affair. “The reaction of the supply companies has been to sit on their hands and pretend there is nothing to worry about,” said energywatch chief executive Allan Asher. “If supermarkets displayed this level of incompetence there would be a riot.”

energywatch says suppliers admit that, on average, 39% of the bills they send out are estimated.
In an energywatch survey last year, 9% of consumers interviewed said they had been thrown into debt because of poorly estimated bills. This is equivalent to two million consumers.

Electrical safety testing specialist Seaward Electronic is hosting a series of “jump start your business” seminars around the country to highlight how new technical advances in portable appliance testing can make test routines more efficient, effective and profitable.

Seaward’s half-day courses are aimed at increasing PAT-testing revenue for electrical contractors, and saving time and reducing costs for facilities management companies, service and maintenance engineers and health and safety professionals.

The sessions include advice on how to organise PAT-test schedules and procedures, full updates on new test instrumentation, special test scheduling software, results recording systems and integrated safety labelling that make electrical safety testing faster, simpler and more efficient for the customer.

“Jump start your business” seminars will be held in Glasgow (25 November), Newcastle (26 November), Wetherby (1 December), Bolton (2 December), Nottingham (3 December), Watford (7 December), Maidstone (8 December) and Solihull (9 December).

More details are available at www.seaward.co.uk.