Thursday, June 26, 2008

The future for coal power stations: renewable energy production?

Battersea Power Station in London was decommissioned a quarter of a century ago. It was the first in a series of large coal-fired electrical generating facilities set up in England. For those of you who are not familiar with London, Battersea is very centrally located, just across the River Thames from Kensington & Chelsea. The first part of the structure was built in 1939, but since the early 1980s the site has remained largely unused, with numerous failed redevelopment plans from successive site owners.
The building is the largest brick building in Europe and is notable for its original and lavish Sir Giles Gilbert Scott Art Deco fittings and decor. In fact, the building is Grade II* listed but the condition has been described as "very bad" by English Heritage. The site has been owned by Real Estate Opportunities (REO) since November 2006, after they purchased it for £400 million.
REO have made waves in the UK press this week by announcing their plans for the future of the Power Station as... a Power Station! But the difference is, this it will generate electricity from renewable sources rather than coal. It will once again be used to produce power with a new combined cooling, heat and power plant, but this time using biofuels, waste and other renewable energy sources. Two of the existing Power Station’s chimneys will be reused as flues for this new Energy Centre.
The site will also be developed to incorporate 8 million square feet of hotel, office, residential and retail accommodation. REO propose that alongside the existing Power Station there will be a new building, designed by Rafael Viñoly, which will be the cleanest and greenest building in London. A 300 metre high Chimney and Eco-Dome will dramatically reduce carbon emissions of the 38 acre £4 billion development. Additionally, the largest solar driven natural ventilation system ever conceived will eliminate the need for air conditioning for the commercial and ground floor retail accommodation.
The Chimney will also house apartments with panoramic views over London. The Battersea Power Station development will be home to around 7,000 people and up to 20,000 new jobs will be created. More than 3,200 homes will be built on the site and 2,500 jobs will be created during the construction phase.
The Chimney will draw air up through a campus of individual office buildings which will be covered by a transparent Eco-Dome, made of material similar to that used at the Eden Project in Cornwall. Up to 3,000 cubic metres per second of air will be drawn through the system on a sunny day, reducing energy demand in the buildings by 67%.
REO is planning to spend £150 million on saving and repairing Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s Power Station, with the key historic spaces retained and open to the public. It will be the single largest development site in central London. It is planned that construction work will start in 2012 and the development will be completed by 2020 – depending on the speed of the planning process.

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