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The energy for Energy Day

Tuesday 3 September 2013, 12:23

 BBC Radio 5 live BBC Radio 5 live

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Wind turbine

Phil Critchlow, director of TBI Media, which is producing 5 live's Energy Day, explains how 5 live's studio will be powered.

5 live's Energy Day relies on a ‘micro grid’ or ‘power generation node’ fed by renewable energy sources to produce the power required to run the 5 live studio. From the word go it was clear that there would be a degree of compromise in creating this ‘model’ of the national grid. With the best will in the world, the climate in one part of Salford, on one day in September 2013 would hardly be representative of the UK average as a whole across a given year. Wind, as one example, is particularly disrupted by the buildings on the site. But, allowing for this, and with a clear understanding that our objective was to be illustrative rather than ‘laboratory proof’ we began

Likely energy required 

The 5 live studio is in an inflatable dome ‘tent’ on the MediaCityUK piazza providing cover for our kinetic bikes, and a marquee which, as well as providing cover from the weather for the production team, will also hold up to 100 people seated as a studio audience.

Three principal areas of energy requirement emerged. By combining these it became clear that we will need to generate an average of approximately 7 kilowatts of power to create the approximately 84 kilowatt hours needed across the day.

       Equipment                                                                          Watts     kWh

1 – BBC Broadcast Equipment                                                       750      9.00
2 – Dome – Fans for the inflatable structure                                    2400    28.80
3 – Dome – Lights                                                                        3800    45.60

NB : The kilowatt hour (symbol kW·h, kW h or kWh) is a unit of energy equal to 1000 watt hours or 3.6 mega joules. For constant power, energy in watt hours is the product of power in watts and time in hours. The kilowatt hour is most commonly known as a billing unit for energy delivered to consumers.

Likely energy generated 

When it came to powering the studio we have tried, as far as is practical - to replicate the kind of proportions of energy generated in the UK in 2012.

2012 UK Electricity generated breakdown

Coal     39%
Gas      28%
Nuclear 19%

Renewables    11.3%
Other Sources 2.7%
TOTAL           14 %

So 86% of the energy generated in the UK last year come from power stations using coal, gas and nuclear reactors, with around 14% coming from renewable and other sources.

We have replaced the power supplied to the national grid by coal, gas and nuclear with a similar proportion (86.3%) created, for our grid, by a biodiesel generator using treated Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO) from the BBC canteen in Salford.

The rest will be supplied by small scale solar, wind and kinetic (or human) power.

Energy Day – Energy production estimates

Biodiesel 86.3 %
TOTAL   86.3%

Solar    8.4   %
Wind    0.6 %
Kinetic  4.7 %
TOTAL 13.7 %

All the sources will simultaneously charge a very large battery system or hybrid power generator, and the studio will be powered by the energy stored in that system. As with the national grid this will allow a degree of fluctuation over the 12 hour period.

All we then have to do is create a system to measure the various energy sources across the day, and make sure the energy we will be drawing from the battery is ultimately going to be less than we generate in Kilowatt Hours (kWh) across the day.

Sensors have been built to measure the energy generated and software written to allow the four sources (Solar/Wind/Kinetic/Bio) to be represented graphically, both on the big screen in the MediaCityUK Piazza and on the BBC Radio 5 live website.

With the ‘Y’ axis measuring up to 7 Kilowatts and the ‘X’ axis showing 12 hours, we also decided to show the total power being generated ‘now’ and a countdown in Kilowatt Hours of the energy used across the day, starting at 7am from 84 kW h and reaching zero kW h - hopefully before 7pm.

So that’s the methodology. Due to the nature of the subject estimates have clearly been made along the way, but at the heart of the idea is a concept which we hope will help illustrate many of the points in discussion during the day.

5 live's Energy Day is Thursday 5 September. Listen live throughout the day.

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    Comment number 34.

    Having taken part in the "Retrofit for the future" project I would like to add that there are many options to become a greener society all of which have their own reason for implementation. The area I would like to see expanded is how we develop intellegent dwellings, both commercial and domestic. There are monitoring systems available that measure everything from air tightness to the humidity of a building, and much more. These systems are cheap and much more than a "smart" meter and provide the user with easy to read data. By coupling this compelling data to social networks you have a dbase that is informative and desirable and can be seen as a fun way to save energy. I think the key to energy conservation is to make it easy to understand at all levels and ages of society. Engaging all walks of life just as the "clunk click" campaign of the 1970's.
    If I dont have my seat belt on in the car I physically feel uncomfortable. Thats how saving energy should be. It should be uncomfortable to waste energy.

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    Comment number 35.

    I am a highly qualified engineer who has worked in the energy industry worldwide for almost 50 years.
    The Government is pursuing the wrong energy policy.
    Yes, we need security of supply, diversity and long term sustainability but it has to be at an affordable competitive price otherwise industry and commerce cannot compete with the rest of the world. There is also a justifiable consensus of opinion that we need to reduce our carbon emissions.
    The problem is the rush for renewables. Tony Blair (a lawyer) dreamed up and agreed the "Renewables Directive", which governs our government policy, without consulting his advisors who were horrified when they found out what he had done. Our EC competitors with extensive hydropower potential are in a much better position than us as we do not have the essential big mountains and big rivers. Other sources of renewable energy are intermittent and incredibly expensive due in part to the cost of back up and supporting infrastructure such as extraction grid lines and also the very high cost of maintenance. In particular many studies hove now demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that, if all, (I emphasise the word all as protagonists are very selective in their choice), factors are taken into account wind farm do very little if anything to reduce carbon emissions. Authoritative studies have also shown that again, if all factors are taken into account, power generated by wind farms is up to four time as expensive as that generated by modern conventional plant.
    The government should ditch the "Renewables Directive" and its subordinate British legislation and instead concentrate on developing a sustainable, secure, diverse, competitive energy supply industry that plays its part in reducing carbon emissions.
    This can be achieved by constructing a fleet of nuclear base load power plants, which are of course essentially zero carbon emitters supported by modern high efficiency gas turbine combined cycle plants which emit between 35% and 50% of the CO2 per MWH emitted by conventional coal fired plants. In the short term, due to the urgent need to do something, the nuclear plants would have to be fuelled with Uranium but in the medium term Thorium is safer and comparatively plentiful.

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    Comment number 2.

    Here's a question for the Minister:

    Of all the electricity generated by mankind for its use, that's on grid or off grid, over 98% is generated just one way, does the Minister think that in one hundred years time that percentage figure will be as high as it is today? Please give reasons for your answer.

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    Comment number 8.

    These are five questions for the minister:
    1. What is the justification for giving wind farm owners three times the value of the electricity they produce, especially as the public has to pay?
    2. Is the minister aware that according to his department’s data, if the output of all wind farms was on-stream at once it would meet the total energy need of the UK for just 20 minutes? So why all this grief for 20 minutes?
    3. According to the minister’s department, the majority of offshore wind farms are foreign owned. Capital outlay is returned in four years, thereafter apart from maintenance it is unrelieved subsidies at the UK public’s expense. Is the minister aware of this?
    4. Is the minister aware that foreign governments are taking advantage of the government’s gravy train of subsidies? For example, the Swedish government has established a company, Vattenfall, which receives around £140 million a year.
    5. What is the justification for paying wind farm owners to produce electricity between midnight and 06.00, when it is dissipated into the system as there is no demand for it?

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    Comment number 9.

    1. With Ogfem forecasting a "too close for comfort" capacity margin of only 4% does he think that DECC has messed up?

    2. As it takes between 7 and 15 years to get from public consultation to electricity on the bars for a conventional power station does the minister have a plan that will keep the lights on other than shutting down manufacturing industry at times of peak demand and jeopardising our fragile economic recovery?

    3. Why would the likes of EDF, EOn and RWE want to invest their euros in the UK rather than Brazil, India, Russia and China now that those countries are credit secure and don't come with the baggage of EU and DECC Energy policies such as the Large Combustion Plant Directive and the Carbon Capture and Storage Committment?

    4. As I was the commercial manager for one of the bidders in the Carbon Capture and Storage "Competition" (before pulling out like all the other bidders) does the Minister think that an open ended commitment to have to install CCS at a cost of about £1 billion per power station (along with a 30% drop in net output) when DECC decides it's technically and commercially feasible is a commitment which no power company CEO could possibly ever accept? (I know the answer to this already and it is the reason why no new fossil stations are being built).

    5. Who will resign or be fired when the inevitable blackouts arrive in 2015 ... or possibly sooner if one or more of our existing powers stations has an unforeseen breakdown this winter?

    6. Who is responsible for keeping the lights on?

    7. Finally, I'd like to thank the Minister for paying me lots of money for installing solar panels on my roof but does he realise that they produce hardly anything in the winter when the UK's electricity requirement is at its peak?


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