Sustainable energy infrastructure

Ambassador and professional carbon expert Lloyd Milner took on the picturesque peak district to explore it’s current sustainability infrastructure.

Taking along his brother Rory - who also happens to be an award winning photographer, the pair debuted their informative journal piece in bike mag.

written by lloyd milner, photos by rory milner

Methods of energy production have been features on the landscape for centuries. Perhaps you cycle past them on a commute, or have noticed them in the distance on your weekend ride?

Like them or loathe them, they’re hard to miss. Some of the most iconic infrastructure used to generate energy are the large chimneys attached to coal power stations. These large structures have towered over landscapes since the Industrial Revolution and are often used to symbolise a by-gone age. When journeying through the British landscape there are signs of change, a transition to a new, renewable era that takes many forms, some of which are more obvious than others.

Around three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions come from energy use. A transition to clean renewable energy is therefore essential to combat carbon emissions and minimise the effects of the climate crisis. Currently, 43% of the UK’s energy comes from renewable energy. By 2035, the UK Government is aiming to generate 100% zero carbon energy, and there are a number of technologies set to take up the gauntlet, many of which are visible in the UK landscape already. We went on a ride to find some, and in the process support ourselves by using some of our own renewable energy sources. As Presca Sportswear ambassadors, we are passionate about both protecting our planet and enjoying the outdoors through sports, so we took to this adventure to reflect on two of the most important pastimes in our lives: sustainability and cycling.

Firstly, it must be mentioned that transport accounts for a roughly 16.2% of global energy consumption. Road transport, which includes cars, motorcycles, buses and taxis, contributes approximately 11%. Choosing a bike over a car for just one journey a day can reduce a person’s carbon emissions by up to 67%! It benefits your health and for those that live in more urban environments, it could even be faster than some other forms of road transport, especially if you don the lycra. If you are one to choose pedal power over combustion, give yourself some kudos.

Our first renewable energy source on our ride was a sea of photovoltaic panels. Solar farms are becoming a more common feature in our landscapes and there are still many more to come - the UK Government plans to increase the UK’s solar output fivefold by 2035! So how do they work? We’ve all seen their shiny blue surfaces angled up towards an overcast British sky. It is likely to have crossed many people’s mind whether they still generate electricity in such conditions? The answer is, yes they do. Whilst electricity generation from solar panels is more efficient during times of stronger sunlight, they are still harvesting energy during overcast days, as long as there is light, there is energy. A common misconception is that heat also helps generate electricity in a solar panel, this isn’t the case!

The second renewable energy source we passed was a hydroelectric generator. The UK has been a pioneer in hydropower development for centuries and has an installed capacity of 4,700 MW. They work by letting water flow through a turbine, which then spins a generator and produces electricity. There are many community-led projects springing up across the UK that allow residents to use clean energy from their local area and also benefit from a reduced price, win-win!

At camp that afternoon, we utilised our own (much smaller) portable solar panels and solar oven to charge our camera equipment and cook. Portable solar technology is becoming more accessible and can be highly useful in remote areas. Even the latest cycling computers and smart watches now have the ability to charge on the go using the sun. Whilst solar ovens are rarely used in the UK, they are used around the world and are very capable of cooking a warm meal. Ours works by directing the suns energy to a vacuum tube.

The second day saw us journey through the Peak District and some strong winds, at the other end, we past a majestic wind farm. Whilst the wind is not always favourable when on a ride, especially those persistent headwinds on a hilly course, it does have its benefits. Wind power is set to be the primary source of energy in the UK due to the consistent and above average wind speeds we receive. The UK’s electricity production potential from wind is thought to be far from it's peak, and the UK Government has recently increased its offshore generation target from 40GW to 50GW by 2030 and onshore target from 15GW to 30GW.

Throughout the next decade, our landscape will continue to change. Our energy will be harvested from natural sources of energy we have previously ignored. We can help by reducing our energy consumption where possible. What a great reason to get out on the bike!

 


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