Utility Week

UTILITY Week 22nd April 2016

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18 | 22ND - 28TH APRIL 2016 | UTILITY WEEK Operations & Assets Outside In Innovation/Space and aerospace P utting an astronaut into space, keep- ing them alive and bringing them back down safely is no mean feat. Doing so involves the use a vast array of technologies, created by experts from a wide variety of dis- ciplines. In overcoming the many challenges inherent to spaceflight – and flight in general – the space and aerospace sectors have oen put themselves at the forefront of techno- logical innovation. It should be no surprise, then, that they have plenty to teach, and share with, utilities. There are technologies that can directly flow from space and aerospace to help utili- ties, such as solar power. Work behind the scenes can also help, with computer fluid dynamics potentially being used to assist in the development of wind turbines. The attitude towards innovation and engineering from these sectors is also some- thing that utilities could adopt and embrace. There have already been efforts put in place to share the learnings and technologies from space and aerospace with energy and water companies. The European Space Agency's (ESA's) Technology Transfer Programme was, as the name suggests, set up to help earthbound industries benefit from extraterrestrial inno- vations. As part of the programme, Business Innovation Centres have been set up around Europe to help companies license space technology and apply it to other fields. A 2014 report conducted on behalf of the ESA identified a number of areas where utili- ties could benefit from working closely with the aerospace sector – and vice versa – from solar photovoltaics and energy storage to thermal control and robotics. Boeing, via its Spectrolab division, has been working on incrementally improving its multi-junction solar panels. These are used to power satellites and airborne searchlights, so maximising their efficiency is key. The engineers have managed to develop panels which convert more than 40 per cent of the solar energy, which is a significant improve- ment on the 12-18 per cent that terrestrial solar panels typically achieve. These incremental improvements have also led to more fuel and energy efficient aircra, and dramatic improvements at their manufacturing facilities on the ground – some of which have involved utilities. The use of computer fluid dynamics is also an area of potential synergy between aerospace and utilities. The soware, oen used to help design aircra or wing seg- ments, can be used to help design more effi- cient and quieter wind turbines. Lessons from Aerospace Incremental innovation This is all about going aer and working on the marginal gains. Nasa has worked to ensure its water recycling system achieves the 85 per cent efficiency such a system achieves on Earth. Improving the efficiency of the system means less water has to be shipped to the ISS, saving millions of dollars. The giant aviation companies also go aer incremental gains. Reducing drag to improve the fuel efficiency of their commercial jets, for instance, makes vast savings. Reach for the skies There is much we can learn from other industries to get a fresh perspective on the way we do business. This week, Tom Grimwood looks at aerospace and space exploration. The International Space Station The International Space Station is orbiting 400km above the earth and has to be self-sufficient in electric- ity, and be very water efficient, to sustain the six-strong crew. Facili- tating life in space is an extraordi- nary feat of engineering, and one that earth-bound utilities could look to for innovation inspiration. • Solar array length: 239.4 (73m). • Power generation: eight solar arrays rated 84kW. • Eight miles of wire connect the electrical power system. • Instead of consuming 50 litres to take a shower, which is typical on Earth, denizens of the ISS use less than 4 litres. • The ISS recycles about 93 per cent of the liquids it receives. The theme at this year's Utility Week Live is transformation and the keynote conference will give VIP delegates the op- portunity 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. UTILIT Y WEEK LIVE 2016: THE KEYNOTE

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