Centre for Practical Sustainability for Galway

Courtesy: Berkeley Lab (Flickr)
Courtesy: Berkeley Lab (Flickr)

Entrepreneurs, Creativity Groups, Co-Operatives, NUIG, GMIT, Policymakers, Investors, Galway Energy Agency

The Galway area is an ideal location for developing a new sustainable-technology prototyping, development and testing centre. This would be a multi-purpose facility whose main focus is in the developing of new green technologies. A key aim is bringing the creative commons together with linkages to 091 Labs, The Men’s Shed, Galway City Partnership and the local third level colleges.

Galway’s festival culture, and event showcasing such as hosting the Volvo Race, shows we are good at bringing ideas to fruition. The Centre would cultivate this ethos for employment creation.  A sense of adult play space also has potential using creativity techniques such as those used by Technology Companies (e.g. Microsoft has Garage Week, and Google until recently allowed people to take a day every week for their own projects). This allows potential for innovative projects like proving or disproving free energy devices, and the creation of disruptive technologies.  Employment activities carried out in the Centre will operate under cooperative principles with the ethos of the commons taking priority over the individual.

The centre has similarities with the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Wales but goes significantly beyond that scope. The similarities include educational links with third level courses and a demonstration educational tourist visitor centre. The Galway Energy Centre would differ in providing a development hub for inventors and research ideas, and for bringing new early-stage overseas technologies to Ireland. While CAT focuses more on mature technologies and education, the priority for the Galway Centre would be mainly on new ideas, prototyping, testing and development. Educational aims are in bridging the gap by bringing new research ideas from the 3rd level institutions through prototyping to the public and industry. The tourism aspect could be in demonstrating energy projects in developmental stages that people would not normally get to see.

There are many funding authorities in Europe and Ireland looking for good employment ideas to support. There is also an increased emphasis on meeting greenhouse gas targets, meaning jobs in the sustainability sector are of interest to the various authorities. Galway has the potential to be the San Francisco of Western Europe due to its creative ethos, its placement near the sea, and as an area with good renewable energy resources.

Example projects for the centre include:

– Linking food, forestry, agriculture and energy. The Tuam area, well known in the past for its sugar beet factory, could become an ideal hub for biofuel-based projects. The Energy Centre would collaborate with the Biorefining and Bioenergy Technology Centre (TCBB) whose headquarters is the Ryan Institute in NUIG. The aim is to develop biofuels from crops that aren’t required for food. Crops such as simple forestry clippings and grass are used in second-generation biofuels.

– Piloting emerging technologies e.g. Energy Storage Osmotic Power and advances in Solar Technologies. Storage technologies that could be piloted and proven in Ireland include Gravel Batteries and new Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) Systems.. Storage also provides an opportunity to reduce intermittency issues with wind farms allowing them to sell electricity to the grid more often, and thereby making them more profitable.

– The Centre will be a development hub for companies designing new low cost technologies with a strong emphasis on automation and test. Bringing new overseas developed technologies to the Irish market.

– Urban Heating System Upgrade Projects encouraging apartments to use Heat Pumps and Smart Grid. Where renovation is not possible upgrading Electric Storage Heating to be IT Intelligent.

– The centre would consist of a number of complimentary but independent project groups such that different projects within the facility can continue in the event of difficulty impacting one cluster. There is potential for good synergy due to the abundance of skillsets onsite.

– Energy reduction projects. Expertise and technology solutions could also be provided for homeowners and businesses to reduce their energy consumption.

Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), Machynlleth, Powys, Wales

Biorefining and Bioenergy Technology Centre