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‘Daylighting’ or ‘deculverting’ of rivers in Sheffield

After blogging about Sheffield residents – and many in Mumbai – protesting against the felling of urban trees by Amey, better news comes from David Bailey (right). He draws attention to an article by David Cox, about ‘daylighting’ or ‘deculverting’ of urban rivers – the source of much of the following information.

Simon Ogden, chair of the Sheffield Waterways Strategy Group, recalls that the city’s rivers were used originally for water power, then for steelworking and waste disposal and finally built over and turned into sewers, commenting “That’s about as low as a river can get.”

Sheffield rivers, the Porter, Sheaf and Don rivers spend most of their urban life underground. The Porter flows between buildings, in culverts and below the surface in tunnels. It sometimes surfaces on its way to the Ponds area and, as it approaches Sheffield Railway Station (left), joins the River Sheaf under the station.

‘Daylighting’ rivers can be a more practical and cost-effective alternative to many of the UK’s Victorian-era culverts that are difficult to maintain. Last year, in central Sheffield, a culvert over the River Porter collapsed, causing part of a car park to completely cave in.

In a once-neglected corner of Sheffield’s cultural industries quarter, where music, film and science-based businesses flourish, there is now a green oasis – a “pocket park”- among housing blocks and a derelict industrial site A small amphitheatre slopes down to the banks of the river Porter, where wild trout spawn in spring and students from the technical college picnic and paddle.

Two years ago, the park did not exist. There was just a crumbling car park with the River Porter seen briefly before it disappeared into a culvert.

Simon Ogden describes the long-standing ambition of the WSG to reconnect the city centre with its waterways – the canal, Rivers Don Porter and Sheaf.

One proposal – called ‘Putting the Sheaf back into Sheffield’, featured on the BBC’s One Show – involves taking the roof off an underground culvert and bringing the waterway back into the open, surrounded by grass, flowers, trees. The bid for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund was not successful but ‘pocket’ parks are being created through the council’s’ City Centre Breathing Spaces programme’, using money contributed under planning rules by developers.

Climate change has been one of the major driving factors for large-scale investment in river daylighting projects

Planners hope to utilise the passive cooling provided by rivers to help combat the urban heat island effect, and most of all, increase flood protection. Funding the ‘daylighting’ of the Porter in Matilda Street and Nursery Street has been combined with the Environment Agency Local Levy which aims to cover the cost of flood defences.

“We’ve been experiencing more flash floods in recent years,” says Ogden from Sheffield council. “So we need to keep the water in the river and make more space for it. Culverts act as a kind of choke on the river, so any blockages or sudden increased rainfall forces the water out onto the streets.” He continues:

“A culvert was removed over a stretch of the brook hidden beneath a car park, and riverbed material was redistributed and stabilised using boulders and reclaimed wood. Habitats have been created for fish with help from the Trout in the Town organisation, walls made of gritstone slowly release rainwater into the brook and the park has been designed to flood in extreme weather”.

News of a Rochdale project follows.

Cox’s article also has references to work in Auckland, to Seoul’s artificial waterway that joined up with the underground river at formed 3.6 mile-long water corridor now acts as a major flood-relief channel, transforming an area of Seoul previously renowned for crime and to Zurich, where urban river restoration has been common practice and daylighting – known as the “Bachkonzept” or the “stream concept”, is has been ‘enshrined in law’  





Renewable energy storage – by rail

Energy grids supplied by renewable energy sources benefit from energy storage of any kind. “Pumped” hydropower is one of the common solutions, pumping water to higher elevations to take advantage of the power of gravity to power turbines downslope.

A new rail system on the west coast of America, designed and manufactured by a Californian company, Advanced Rail Energy Storage (ARES), offers storage which doesn’t require the use of water and is suitable for a wider variety of areas with minimal environmental impact.

No valleys need to be flooded or large scale excavations undertaken to make reservoirs. It is basically a “grid-scale flywheel or battery, but one which is able to “lock into direct synchronization with the grid providing heavy inertia for added grid stability” according to William Peitzke, ARES’ Director of Technology Development. The system is said to have a higher energy-to-power ratio than flywheels and lower life-cycle costs compared with batteries and faster ramp-up rates than pumped storage alternatives. Francesca Cava, an ARES spokeswoman, claims an 85% efficiency “That’s what you get with steel wheels on steel track.” More detail here.

Wired explains that when the local utility has surplus electricity, it powers up the electric motors that drag 9,600 tons of rock- and concrete-filled railcars up a 2,000-foot hill. When it’s got a deficit, 9,600 tons of railcar rumble down, and those motors generate electricity via regenerative braking in the same way as the Toyota Prius. Effectively, all the energy used to move the train up the hill is stored and recouped when it comes back down.

In 2016, ARES conducted a pilot system test in Tehachapi, California on a 268-meter track. After this test proved the concept, the company was granted permission to construct the grid energy system in Nevada. The fleet of automated 300-ton electric traction drive shuttle trains are due for completion anytime soon. These shuttles will travel up and down a 7.2% grade slope and should provide 50 MW of rapid response power to help stabilize the Californian electrical grid supply, responding to increased or decreased demand within seconds.

Or as the local Pahrump Valley Times puts it: “Using a solitary railroad track placed on a gentle grade, multiple electric locomotive cars can move up the track as they receive excess power from solar and wind power plants during sunny and windy days. The train cars will be active and will be dispatched slowly downhill, using their motor-generators to return power to the electricity grid as needed”.

At the turn of the millennium, California routinely suffered blackouts and power shortages. Since then billions of dollars have been invested in renewable energy and now its problem is not too little power but too much. Wet weather last winter and a windy, sunny spring have contributed to record hydro, wind and solar output and on numerous occasions in recent months the state has been producing more power than it needs.

Following the success of the test on a 268-meter track, ARES was granted permission to construct the grid energy system in Nevada, receiving approval from the Bureau of Land Management for its 5.5-mile track, and construction of the energy train is starting now: Spring 2017.





Solihull, Leeds and Manchester aim to reduce air pollution and ease traffic congestion

Employees at Blythe Valley Park in Solihull can now use a free shuttle bus from Solihull and Birmingham International to and around this business park. The colourful, eye-catching shuttle bus service is operated by Solihull-based transport service provider LandFlight, formerly known as Silverline. It runs 16 daily shuttles, each accommodating up to 60 people, between the park and the two rail stations.

Deborah Fennell, park manager at Blythe Valley Park, said: “This bus service not only helps us reduce our collective carbon footprint but also ensures that parking demands continue to be met without impacting on the space and facilities we can offer businesses. By providing complimentary and convenient connections between the park and nearby rail stations, we encourage visitors and employees at the park to use public transport for their commute.”

The owners of the park, IM Properties, introduced this service to encourage park employees to commute via public transport. Approximately 2,700 people working for the park’s 24 companies and more will come on as site continues to develop.

Water taxi used in Leeds, advocated for use between Icknield Port and congested, polluted Birmingham city centre:

Canal or riverside business and industrial parks are able to take another measure to reduce air pollution and ease traffic congestion by extending the use of water buses for passengers, already operating in a number of cities (above), and larger vessels for bulky freight (below).

In Trafford Park which has transport links by road, rail, water and air, businessman Graham Dixon advocates using Manchester’s waterways rather than clogging up the road network with cargo. He has welcomed the first arrival – a 2300 tonne ship, RMS Duisburg, which brought two large silos from Germany, bound for a Manchester factory.

Dixon’s ultimate vision is for Esprit’s Trafford Docks which he has re-opened and refitted, to be busy once again, bringing bulk goods such as road salt, aggregates, grain and biomass via the Manchester Ship Canal into Manchester. This would remove many lorries from the surrounding roads, reducing congestion and pollution.

As he said: “If one ship brings 3000 tonnes of freight up the canal, that’s over 100 lorry journeys removed from the roads, requiring only the first and the final few miles to be carried by lorry instead of potentially hundreds of miles.”



People from these countries visited the site this week




Scottish tidal power: advances by Nova and Atlantis pic

Tidal power offers the promise of clean electricity at reliable rates and has a lower impact on the landscape or wildlife than offshore or onshore wind farms; unlike wind, output is predictable years in advance.

nova-innovation-tidal-turbine-launch-mar-2016A Nova Innovation tidal turbine being launched.

In August, Pilita Clark, the FT’s Environment Correspondent, reported that a Scottish company Nova Innovation, chaired by Ian Marchant formerly the CEO of Scottish and Southern Energy plc, had announced that it is successfully delivering power to the national grid from a tidal turbine system in the Shetland Islands. It is said to be the first offshore tidal array in the world to do so.

Nova is developing the project in the Bluemull Sound, between the Shetland islands of Yell and Unst, with Belgian renewable energy group Elsa, who encouraged European investors to put in £1.85m. Nova installed its first M-100 turbine in the Bluemull Sound, Shetland in March this year.

It has now successfully connected a second turbine and the total value of the project, which is due to get another three turbines by the end of next year, is £3.6m. Once finished it will supply enough electricity for about 300 houses. Founded in 2010, Nova also installed the world’s first community-owned tidal energy device in 2014, powering about 30 homes, a locally-owned ice plant and industrial area.


In a September FT article, Mure Dickie reports on the first phase of MeyGen, a larger tidal power scheme developed by Australia’s Atlantis, which plans to spend nearly £500m in tidal power in Scotland over the next two years.  It has installed one of four turbines with a combined output capacity of 6MW.


The project in the Pentland Firth between the Scottish mainland and the Orkney Islands still faces challenges. The currents complicate installation of the turbines, each of which requires more than 1,000 tonnes for their structure and ballast.  Most work on the undersea site is limited to short periods of slack in the current, particular during smaller “neap tides” twice a month. “The kit has to be incredibly robust in order to survive a subsea tidal environment,” said Dave Rigg, Atlantis’s head of engineering services. “If you can imagine 40 metres of water flowing at nearly 15 miles per hour — that creates huge loads.”

“Britain lost wind turbine manufacturing [and] Britain lost nuclear manufacturing, but it can own tidal” – Cornelius

Less than a decade ago, Timothy Cornelius, the head of the tidal-power venture Atlantis Resources, struggled to get investors and regulators to return his calls. Now, as he formally unveils the world’s largest tidal-stream project under construction, he can hardly fend them off. Though at present the turbines are constructed abroad, Atlantis hopes to be able to firm up plans for at least 50 turbines next year, enough to turn Nigg into a centre for fabricating, assembling and testing.

Common Space reports that WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “With some of the most powerful tides in Europe, Scotland is well placed to lead in developing this promising technology, which will help to cut climate emissions and create green jobs right across the country”. He added:

“How big a role tidal power will play in our future energy depends on the ambitions of our politicians today. The Scottish Government’s forthcoming energy strategy provides the perfect opportunity to set out a bold vision for how we could become Europe’s fully renewable electricity nation by 2030, ensuring that we secure the maximum economic and social benefits that will arise from a shift toward a zero-carbon economy.”




LLECP ‘strongly encourages’ developers to transport materials by rail or waterway

 londonlecp header

The London Low Emission Construction Partnership (LLECP) is a project funded by the Mayor of London and Transport for London as part of the Mayors Air Quality Fund. 

LLECP is a partnership between the ‘Cleaner Air Boroughs of Camden, King’s College London, Hammersmith, Fulham, Islington, Lambeth, Lewisham, Wandsworth and industry partners across the demolition and construction sectors.

In 2015, Air Quality News reported that the LLECP website, aimed at helping the construction industry to understand its impact on air quality and encourage pollution reduction measures, had been launched by King’s College London.

The site notes that as emissions from road vehicles can significantly add to levels of local air pollution, developers with construction sites close to waterways or railways are strongly encouraged to assess the viability and feasibility for construction materials to be delivered or removed by these means, rather than by road. The benefit of this is the reduction in the number of trips made by HGVs on local roads, reducing local emissions. Even modern diesel or petrol powered plant items emit higher levels of PM and NOx than electric equivalents. Therefore, wherever possible, renewable, mains or battery powered plant items should be used.

Reducing emissions from vehicles transporting construction materials

Science Daily says (drawing on material from the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology) that one of the most efficient means of transporting freight is by water. It points out, however, that many vessels sailing today are powered by aging diesel motors fitted with neither exhaust cleaning equipment nor modern control systems.

ross barlow city backgroundThe converted hydrogen-fuelled barge “Ross Barlow” with the Empa-developed hydride storage tank.Credit: Image courtesy of Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA).

The EMPA report describes the University of Birmingham’s ‘ambitious trial’, converting a canal barge to be the first in the world to use hydrogen fuel.

In 2010 the converted boat, the “Ross Barlow,” made its longest voyage to date, of four days duration and 105 km length, negotiating no less than 58 locks.

The boat holds its hydrogen in powder form – metal hydride – which could offer a safer and cheaper use of hydrogen.

Cenex, the UK’s Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell technologies, supports the early market development for low carbon vehicles including electric, hybrid, bio-methane and hydrogen powered vehicles. Cenex also works with clients to increase the use of alternative fuels in the UK through the addition of infrastructure including electric vehicle charge points, gas and hydrogen stations.

Will Cenex extend its remit to increase the use of alternative fuels on vessels sailing on our rivers and waterways?



Volunteers for Rural India (VRI) achieves its objectives and closes

vri2logoNews of a charity which has achieved its objectives and is therefore now closing down. For many years the writer has watched the progress of Volunteers for Rural India (VRI), which is now winding down. There is very little for volunteers to do now as slowly but steadily, the project has become self-sufficient and local people are employed to do the work. So we have closed the scheme

amarpurkashi villageJyoti Singh writes ‘We do not need any more funds and will spend those that remain on development work at Amarpurkashi’. 

Australian born Jyoti and Mukat Singh set up the International Task Force for the Rural Poor [INTAF] twenty years ago after seeing that the most well-intentioned policies of various governments  to uplift the rural poor had either failed or proved ineffective.

INTAF worked to achieve international recognition the plight of the rural poor which include the most exploited, oppressed and ignored people of the world – tribals, untouchables, the landless, marginal and small farmers. 


Amarpurkashi News

APK villagers eye campIn October, a free health camp was held.  35 medical staff came from Teer Thankar Mahaveer University, Moradabad and 25 volunteers, mostly from staff and students at APK.  618 patients were seen, including 297 women, 26 girls, 228 men and 67 boys.

At the beginning of November, the annual Science Fair was held with the theme this year being “Water and Science”.  It was very successful with schools participating from Amarpurkashi, Bilari and Chandausi.

At the end of November, the annual free eye camp began, with the co-operation of the same university hospital from Moradabad.  69 patients were identified for cataract operations but only 27 could be operated on as the rest were found to have other illnesses which made them unsuitable.

The Sadbhavna Eco-harmony project is progressing well, despite continuing problems from monkeys and wild cows.  Two mazes have been built which have proved very popular with children of all ages. There is also an octagonal pagoda for meetings. Lentils have been grown without the use of chemical fertiliser or insecticide. At present, wheat is being grown as intercropping and is doing well.

In February and March, there were visits from Toby Whitfeld and Kiran Patel, both past volunteers as well as Pawan, VRI trustee, and his children. Outdoor play equipment was bought and installed next to the primary school and the children love having swings, a slide and a seesaw to play on during breaks.

apk frame

For many years, VRI offered the cheapest and most flexible volunteering scheme around. It was also the only one that placed the emphasis on the learning experience for the volunteer. Over 700 people, aged 18 to 72, volunteered with us, the first in 1971 and the last in 2014.

Now, however, there are many organisations offering affordable, flexible volunteering schemes.  Also, we no longer have anyone at Amarpurkashi who is able to look after volunteers.  Another factor is that there is very little for volunteers to do as slowly but steadily, the project has become self-sufficient and local people are employed to do the work. So we have closed the scheme.  Our website is currently being updated to show this. Volunteers contributed a great deal to the project over the years and we are tremendously grateful to them.  But sadly, all good things have to come to an end at some time.

VRI has also been very successful with fund-raising.  We have enough money in the bank to fund health and eye camps for the next few years. Other activities at Amarpurkashi can now mostly be funded by the project itself which is no longer dependent on money from VRI.  This means that the project work is now sustainable

So VRI is gradually winding down.  We do not need any more funds and will spend those that remain on development work at Amarpurkashi and other projects that we support. Many thanks to all those who have donated their time and money to help rural development work in India and specifically in Amarpurkashi.