Interview with Professor Ball

An inspiring and informative discussion about the future of Renewable Energy with Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research, Innovation & Knowledge Exchange) Professor of Diagnostic Engineering University of Huddersfield, Andrew D. Ball.

“There is lots of research to do still on the way you generate the power but I think there is more research needed to focus on how you store power and how you transfer power”

Despite its recent focus on manufacturing, TESUP always strives to keep up with the times and use the best scientific advances to further improve its products. One of the methods of such a scientific approach is our cooperation with the University of Huddersfield that is developing a new own technology based on the hardware of TESUP.

The University has been using TESUP machines for more than 4 years and now both parties are interested in long-term cooperation and developing the best ways to improve products.

There are 3-4 possible things that TESUP can be interested in collaborating on.

  1. Cloud monitoring system which takes data from a wind turbine installation and uploads it to the cloud, doing some processing, some interpretation, some visualisation.

  2. Developing our own quite sophisticated Wind Turbine controller with 6 layers of safety and system protection built in, which makes it very robust and reliable

  3. And finally a fully functioning Wind Turbine by simulator which is a box containing a motor which drives a wind turbine. You do not need wind blowing but you can actually simulate the operation of a 5 kw wind turbine either in the laboratory or in a test house or you can even access the house remotely.

Further cooperation with the university with the placement of a contract with a specification of at least 12 months will be discussed. Most likely it will work on the cloud monitoring system, but we will announce this later.

In addition to discussing future cooperation with the university, Professor Ball gladly agreed to discuss with us his views in the field of renewable energy and talk about the directions of the institute's work now.

“Here in the university we got people which work on everything from internal combustion engines that work on hydrogen fuel generated through solar arrays and how to optimise the use of solar arrays in conjunction with wind turbines through to water power generation using wave movement in the sea, so we have a very wide range of research that is undertaken in the market of renewable energy. Of particular interest to me is the work we have ongoing with micro wind turbines, so we we're talking about small machines to be 5 kW in power which are used in my understanding most effectively in standalone remote locations which can and where they can supplement power output from photovoltaic arrays.

I do not see renewable installations being either a wind turbine or a PV array. I think that two together are needed to achieve an appropriately sized battery storage facility. You can in circumstances where you can export to the grid otherwise you can be using some sunshine and wind Park."

Professor Ball also shared with us his experience of the use of wind turbines here at the University. But as he stated they were installed by a professional installation company.

“It is not easy for somebody to buy a wind turbine to get some batteries to find the charger in the UK of thousands of remote remote premises all over the north of the UK and Scotland and they don't have a reliable mains supply from the electricity grid neither they have access to specialists. They need to be able to receive a large box through the post that contains the wind turbine, the charge controller, the inverter, indeed it doesn't have to be too much. We are not all specialists but we are giving ourselves a challenge. Can we take off-the-shelf components and can we make them work without having to use a lot of special knowledge? And in some cases, the answer is No, in certain ways. Probably the biggest lesson learned for us is if you do not link your micro grid to the main power supply, if you keep them separate then things may go quite straightforward. if you try to link your power generation on your remote farm to the local power supply that comes through the overhead cables down from the generating company, tying those two together can be problematic.”

For a remote farmhouse with no major electricity, a standalone micro grid system is not difficult to create.

The choice of batteries is critical, the location of your wind turbines is critical and the way in which you can figure the wind turbine to charge your batteries in the most efficient way is critical but as long as you follow some basic rules in those three areas then you should be able to install a reliable and high performing system quite straightforward.

“We have a group of 3 or 4 people who specialise in the development of vertical axis wind turbines not of the 5 kW scale but of 25 to 100 kW, so quite large. I think they do have use especially if you are working in an environment perhaps where you have large obstacles buildings and where the wind float is very complex and is not predictable. If you are on a hill in Scotland and wind always blows from the South West then horizontal wind turbines are more effective. You should be very careful with the choice of the wind turbine considering the circumstances. A lot of people in the UK think that vertical wind turbines are more pleasing to the eye, they look nicer and Donald Trump didn't help by making lots of alternative truths about the noise generated by wind turbines. People somehow believe that vertical turbines are even more environmentally friendly.

In 2021 the UK had one day in which it fully satisfied its electricity with renewable sources. It only happened on one occasion but it showed us that we are pretty close to full reliance on renewable. Solar panels work when there is sun, and wind turbines when there is wind. The biggest problem is not generating electrical power, it is the storage of electrical power.

Presently there is so much research going on about new types of batteries which are able to store and then release electrical power very safely, economically and with very high efficiency. So, I think there is lots of research to do on the way you generate the power but I think there is more research needed to focus on how you store power and how you transfer power, because transferring power across the electrical grid is not particularly the most efficient thing to do.

energy systems diagram
This is why I like the idea of each household, each street in the UK becoming its own micro grid so one set of battery storage for one group of 30 houses lets say, some modular storage with PV shelves on the roof of each house with 2 or 3 wind turbines to supplement and then with one storage device that everybody can benefit from when they have been load.

You have to accept that there will be always a need for some base load power sources for emergencies, nuclear or whatever, I don't think the world would need to be something that can kick it and provide emergency power available but by 95%

In December 2020 more than 40 % of the UK electricity was generated by wind power. In October 2021 47 % we are getting near 50.

"For homes we need more invested time and efforts to develop microgrid solutions where a street a house, a hospital an airport become its own grid and has its own generating capability and then once you interface that micro grid to the rest of the network you can only do that if you can store power in sufficient quantity safely reliably and efficiently. Battery technology is very advanced thanks to electric vehicles but it is still very very expensive. I think that's one of the biggest things slowing down micro Micro Power Generation. "

We thank Professor Andrew D. Ball for the discussion and will be working together to make the switch to renewable energy faster, developing technologies and bringing the idea of our green future to people around the World.