Utility Week

UTILITY Week 5th February 2016

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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18 | 5TH - 11TH FEBRUARY 2016 | UTILITY WEEK Operations & Assets Outside In Innovation/Motorsport T he exploits of Formula 1 world cham- pion Lewis Hamilton and his all-con- quering Mercedes team might seem about as far removed from the world of the UK utility companies as it is possible to be. However, the electricity, gas and water sectors could be able to learn lessons, and potentially find solutions to some of their problems, by drawing on the experience and expertise involved in designing, building, transporting and racing an 850bhp car in exotic locations around the globe. At least that is the hope of the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA) and the Institu- tion of Engineering and Technology (IET), which have jointly launched a "Horizontal Innovation" initiative to boost the transfer of valuable know-how out from the British motorsport industry and into other sectors. As IET president Naomi Climer said at the initiative's launch event, it aims to ensure that innovative ideas and products are not "locked into one sector or industry, or even one company", but are shared with other sectors for mutual benefit. There are a number of ways in which motor sport can potentially have a direct impact on the efficiency and performance of utilities by transferring either technical innovations or approaches to innovation that have been honed through intense com- petitive rigour. Indeed, Williams Advanced Engineering – the engineering arm of the F1 team – has already had an impact (see case studies, right). MIA chief executive Chris Aylett says the motorsport industry has a good record of commercialising its innovations, but there are opportunities for more motorsport- derived solutions to solve problems in other sectors, including utilities. "It is just about getting the right people in the right room and having that first conversation," he says. Thinking outside the silo of an individual sector – something the keynote conference at Utility Week Live (see box) aims to help address – is key, according to Aylett, espe- cially given the expertise within his industry. "There is a wealth of 100 years' worth or knowledge in solving weird problems – not about a car but about performance," he adds. "The engineers are solving weird problems all the time. It is a vast reservoir and it's about getting a person with a problem asking this sector whether they may be able to help." From the track, utilities may be able to learn more about improving the aero- dynamics of their assets, not only in terms of improving air or water flow around an asset component – like a turbine – but also in terms of improving the placement of assets, such as windfarms. Aylett even says that models of whole cities and new buildings have been created, predicting how weather conditions will affect them and their sur- Lessons from motorsport Aerodynamics: Managing airflow can result in some energy efficiency savings (see case study), but it could potentially lead to more efficient turbines. Computational fluid dynamics modelling, used to help design the cars, could also be used to help plot out where a new asset could be placed so that it is least affected by its surrounding environment. Heat management and transfer: This could help to improve the efficiency of thermal generation plants by improving the understanding and control of heat, and therefore how much of the energy is translated into electricity. Materials: The development of lightweight and strong materials, such as carbon fibre, could The race is on There is much we can learn from other industries to get a fresh perspective on the way we do business. This week, Mathew Beech looks at motorsport. Competitive engineering: Con- tinually competing for any advan- tage that will see their team's car go faster than their rivals', chasing the next innovation is ingrained into motorsport engineers. This innovative streak has developed processes that can find applica- tions away from the track. Attracting the next generation: Striving for the next big break- through in motorsport means, according to MIA chief executive Chris Aylett, the next generation of engineers will not have time to lose interest in – and drift away from – engineering. It will not only keep them involved, but also get them interested in the first place. The theme at this year's Utility Week Live is transformation and the keynote conference will give VIP delegates the opportunity to review and discuss the work going on within the sector to tackle the challenges facing utilities. It will also provide them with the chance to learn from those outside the sector, exposing them to new ideas and innovations. ENGINEERING SKILLS SCENARIOS UTILIT Y WEEK LIVE 2016: KEYNOTE CONFERENCE

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