UK solar’s first steps on the water

Floating solar represents a significant opportunity for the UK renewables sector. Not only can it overcome the planning challenges of ground mount arrays, floating solar actually makes panels more efficient and can help preserve water.
Many recognise that the industry is in a state of flux, with significant cuts to the feed-in tariff for solar panels, essentially blocking investment in solar power for the residential market until battery storage technology is made commercially viable.
However, there are still significant opportunities for solar power for organisations with high energy consumption. The UK is still in a growth phase, compared with other countries like Germany, Italy and Japan where this has significantly ramped up in recent years.
Because the FIT was really a bonus for large energy users, with the return on investment largely driven by the savings achievable on their high energy costs, investment by businesses in the technology is set to continue. With floating solar panels now also an option this is making solar particularly attractive for those with bodies of water in their property estates, like water utilities companies.
Working with licensed distributor of floating solar materials Floating Solar UK, we recently completed a 3MW floating array – one of Europe’s largest, and only the UK’s second system of this kind – at United Utilities’ Water Treatment Works in Godley, Greater Manchester.
Naturally there are some challenges when it comes to the installation of floating solar. Not only does an installation require panels and wiring to be loaded onto individual pontoons to float on the surface of the water, they are attached in batches with this process used to create the entire array – adding an extra complication to the project.
In addition, working on a reservoir means there are significant on-site considerations to avoid any contamination, which means workers have to be closely monitored throughout the process. In addition working around a large body of water with electrical components means health and safety is a priority and this has to be carefully managed on site.
Despite the apparent challenges, there are benefits to match the additional work. Water acts as a natural coolant for the panels, making them more efficient and leading to higher outputs of electricity for the array. By arranging them on pontoons they are more easily directed towards the sun – again making output levels easier to maintain throughout the day.
The additional benefit for water companies is that solar panels stop sunlight hitting the water. What this means is that water isn’t constantly evaporating from reservoirs. Reports on similar sites have predicted that panel shading can reduce evaporation by up to 70%, in addition also reducing the growth of algae.
As yet, systems of this type are relatively novel in the UK, compared with countries like Japan. However, with the utilities sector keener than ever for a drive toward sustainability, as well as the broader benefits achievable, its prevalence is set to increase.
By going the extra mile and considering floating solar, for those that can, the long term gains can be far greater than ground-mounted or rooftop systems. At a time when the market dynamic is changing, advances like floating solar are actually making the technology as attractive as ever.

Mott MacDonald appoints new UK highways business development director

Mott MacDonald has appointed Norrie Westbrook as development director for its highways business. Norrie will be responsible for developing customer and partner organisation relationships, business planning, winning new work and managing collaboration between teams.

Norrie is a chartered civil engineer and has worked in the highways sector for 20 years. He has an extensive track record of improving financial performance and successfully winning strategic highways design and maintenance contracts, as well as various local authority framework commissions. Norrie also has widespread experience of improving technical and project management delivery, with a focus on operational efficiency.

He joins Mott MacDonald from Mouchel, where he was most recently highways operating group director. During this time, Norrie was responsible for business development and the commercial, financial, operational and technical functions of the company’s highways business across Scotland and Ireland. He also led Mouchel’s strategic interests on the Scotland Transerv joint venture with Balfour Beatty. Prior to this role, Norrie was the contract direction on the Scotland Transerv north west Scotland commission. This role encompassed overall contract performance and delivery responsibility for a diverse range of projects including highways, traffic, structures, environmental and communication schemes, as well as roads maintenance operational functions.

Commenting on Norrie’s appointment, Mott MacDonald’s highways division managing director David Tarrant said: “Norrie is an excellent addition to our team. He brings a skillset that will no doubt make a significant contribution to the future growth and success of our highways business.”

SEPD reconnects 138,000 customers after Storm Katie

Southern Electric Power Distribution (SEPD) has reconnected over 138,000 customers since Monday morning after strong winds from Storm Katie disrupted power supplies in the south of the UK.


Wind speeds reached up to 106 mph during Storm Katie, which battered the UK on Sunday evening.

SEPD said it expects the final 200 customers without power in Aldershot, Petersfield, New Forest, Basingstoke and Slough to be reconnected by lunchtime today (29 March).

The firm said it has been calling affected customers to keep them updated on ongoing repair works, and offered alternative accommodation and food to customers it was unable to immediately reconnect due to safety concerns.

SEPD’s director of customer operations Stuart Hogarth thanked customers for their patience and apologised for the disruption and inconvenience that they faced on a Bank Holiday.

He said: “Our customers have been really understanding of the conditions that faced our engineering teams since [Sunday] night.”

First trial of fuel price signage on the M5 up and running

Drivers using a section of the M5 between Bristol and Exeter will benefit from new signs showing the price of fuel along the motorway to allow them to make an informed decision about where to fill up.

From 29 March electronic signs will show the real-time price of fuel along the southbound carriageway of the motorway between Bristol and Exeter.

Five motorway service stations along the route are involved in the trial which, depending on the results, could ultimately be rolled out across other parts of the motorway network.

Roads Minister Andrew Jones said:

“The government is on the side of the motorist.  We know the public has been concerned about the price of petrol at service stations which is why we have acted to create a fairer deal.

“This trial will allow drivers to be much better informed about the cost of fuel and make it easier to plan their breaks around the cheapest deals.”

South West Regional Director at Highways England, Andrew Page-Dove said:

“We’re working hard to help customers feel safe on the network, to make sure their overall experience on England’s motorways and major A roads is a positive one, and  trialling these innovative signs in the South West provides an excellent way of helping us provide an improved service, especially for those millions of people who visit the region each year.

“Our traffic officers dealt with 187,928 breakdowns in 2015, many of which could have been avoided through proper planning and preparation; 2% of these breakdowns were a direct result of running out of fuel. While this appears at face value to be a small proportion, it amounts to 3,672 occasions where drivers could have avoided the risks associated with breaking down.

“This trial is an important part of a bigger picture – we want road users to be more informed and in better control of their journeys. This means they’ll be better prepared, more inclined to plan breaks, have sufficient fuel and have a more positive driving experience.”


In a joint statement the companies involved working with Highways England to deliver the trial said:

“We’re pleased to be working in partnership with Highways England. We have a mutual interest to improve the journey experience for our customers.

“The technology to link our fuel prices to the signage has been installed in our premises and we are looking forward to supporting the evaluation of the trial and measuring its impact. This will include sharing important information with Highways England, including fuel sales data, which reflects our commitment to the trial.

“The working group has been very constructive and it’s been reassuring to see such good collaboration between the public and private sectors. This is enabling what is a fairly complex trial to move forward at a good pace.”

The trial will provide fuel information from Gordano, Sedgemoor, Bridgwater, Taunton Deane and Exeter motorway service areas.

It will run until the end of 2017 during which time Highways England monitoring will determine whether increasing the transparency of fuel prices at motorway service areas has an impact on driver behaviour, including the number of stops made at service areas, the number of fatigue and fuel related incidents, and on fuel pricing.


Yorkshire Water urges customers to hunt for private pumping stations this Easter

Each customer that locates a previously undiscovered pumping station before the April 16 will be rewarded with an Easter Egg, said Yorkshire Water.

The company, which will become responsible for the stations from October 1 under government legislation, has located 350 across its region so far but said many are still to be identified.

Dave Wilson, transfer manager at Yorkshire Water, said: “The sewage pumping stations literally could be anywhere – in a customer’s garden, on public land next to a house or business, or just on the side of the road. Many are located in private gardens and areas where we do not normally enter which is why we need help from customers to find them.

“It is really important that we find these remaining stations now so we can survey them and make sure they are in full working order before we take ownership of them. That is why we’re asking for customers right across Yorkshire to help us find them and let us know straight away. We will give an Easter Egg as a little present to each customer who helps us find a previously undiscovered pumping station before April 16th 2016.”

The purpose of sewage pumping stations is to pump sewage from homes and businesses along underground sewers to the nearest Yorkshire Water wastewater treatment plant where it is then treated.

The transferred sites could result in savings to customers of up to £1,200 per year in shared energy and maintenance costs.

This article first appeared in Utility Week’s sister title WWTonline

Extra £4.6m approved to fix potholes in Brent but it only covers THREE per cent of roads

Brent Council has approved plans for a £4.6 million cash injection to repair potholes but it will only cover just THREE per cent of the borough’s roads.

Councillors gave the green light to a new Highways Maintenance Programme which will see an estimated 50 per cent more funding poured into vital upkeep and resurfacing of 9.5 of the 315 miles of road in Brent in the next year.

The sum will also be used on 4.3 of the 529 miles of pavement across the borough which equates to ONE per cent.

The new funding for repairs comes after the Brent & Kilburn Times reported in January that £41,529 was shelled out on compensation payments related to potholes and a further £78,721 on claims for trips on pavements, kerbs and roads in the last two years.

The council is also seeking a further £2m of funding from other council budget areas and will consider funding for future schemes in June.

According to a report submitted to Brent Council’s cabinet last month, 19pc of highways in the borough are still in need of repair.

The report, compiled by Brent Council’s strategic director of regeneration and environment, also reveals that priority is given to roads flagged up for maintenance and repairs by ward councillors, suggesting repairs could be “fast-tracked” if contact is made with local representatives.

The report states: “We continue to take account of councillor nominations for road maintenance and, where a number of schemes attract the same or similar scores, we prioritise councillor nominated schemes earlier in our proposed maintenance programmes.”

Up until 2014-2015, council highway officers would send teams to repair potholes and damaged road surfaces on a “worst first basis”, but the strategic plan for 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 shows a new focus on “preventative maintenance” to ensure roads are treated before they become a visible problem for road users.

Maydine Etienne, 45, who sent a catalogue of images from streets in Neasden to the Brent & Kilburn Times, previously said: “The roads in Brent are in an appalling condition. When I’m driving I constantly have to play dodge the pothole and there’s a constant possibility of falling into them not just for drivers but pedestrians too.

“By making our roads safe, they will avoid paying out on so many accident and injury compensation claims.”

Cllr Eleanor Southwood, Brent Council’s cabinet member for the environment, said: “Everyone at the council feels the same about potholes as residents do, we want them filled. Unfortunately, government cuts have meant we have had to prioritise other services in recent years.

“While we do perform well for the state of our main roads on a London-wide level, residents have told us that they want to see the council doing more, which is why street repairs budgets are set to be protected from cuts and are in-line for a financial injection in maintenance.

“With the extra money, better ways of working and improvements in the ways potholes can be repaired, we should see a borough which is accessible for all with fewer potholes and pavement trips.”


Thames Water spends £1m each month to clear fatbergs from sewers

Thames Water is spending £1 million every month to clear fatbergs from its sewer network – with four areas named as the worst offenders.

Thames Water has revealed this week that fatbergs are wreaking havoc in the sewers of Bromley, Mole Valley, Epping Forest and the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead – a total of 14,137 blockages have been cleared from the four areas in the last three years.

Formed when leftover cooking fat and wet wipes congeal into a solid mass in sewers, fatbergs – which cost the company £1 million a month to clear – block pipes and can cause sewage to back up into people’s homes and gardens.

In a bid to alleviate the problem, Thames Water has launched a widespread campaign this week urging its customers to ‘Bin it – don’t block it’ when it comes to anything other than toilet paper and human waste.

As part of the campaign around 300,000 homes and businesses will receive advice in the post along with details of how to order a free fat trap to help them dispose of used cooking fat in the bin rather than pouring it down the sink. Billboard and bus stop posters will also be appearing across the four hotspot areas during the six-week campaign.

Thames Water’s head of customer field services, Jerry White, said:

“Often people don’t realise the consequences of putting things other than human waste and toilet paper down their toilets and drains but it’s time for everyone to understand and take action. It’s not just fat that’s the problem but wipes are a massive issue too. Many will be labelled as “flushable” and they may disappear when you flush the toilet, but they don’t break down once they get into the sewer pipes. These wipes seem to be in most of our homes now so we all have a responsibility to do the right thing and put them in the bin.

“Blockages will often lead to sewage flooding homes, businesses and the environment and in Bromley, Mole Valley, Epping Forest and Windsor & Maidenhead this is a regular occurrence. It is damaging, hugely distressing and, in many cases, avoidable. We hope our campaign will educate people and encourage them to ‘Bin it – don’t block it’. We’ve got thousands of fat traps to give away so order yours now.”

Blockage figures published by the water company show:

  • Borough of Bromley – 5,810 blockages cleared in last three years
  • Mole Valley – 1,523 blockages cleared in last three years
  • Epping Forest – 3,030 blockages cleared in last three years
  • Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead – 3,774 blockages cleared in last three years

Thames Water’s sewer operations specialist for Bromley, David Theobald, added:

“The sewers serve an important purpose – they are not an abyss for household rubbish. Cleaning pots and pans with washing up liquid does not break down fat, oil and grease for good. When it hits the cold sewers, it clings to wet wipes and hardens into gruesome fatbergs which cause blockages in the pipes. Wet wipes aren’t the only problem – we often find condoms, nappies, tights, tampons, cotton buds and syringes in fatbergs too.

“Every day my team spend hours removing these blockages which increase wear and tear on the pipes. The more fatbergs there are the more damage they cause, which inevitably results in us having to dig up roads to fix broken sewers – all of this causes disruption to our customers, and ultimately makes an impact on customer bills.”

Amey wins new-style £423m Highways England maintenance deal

Amey has scooped the first major regional roads maintenance deal to pilot Highways England’s new regime using its own in-house team to manage delivery after switching from assets support style single contracts.

The contractor secured the area 7 East Midlands regional deal against six rivals.

It will replace the Aone+ consortium, which covered the area for seven years in a deal understood to be worth around £420m after a two-year extension.

Under the new regime Amey is understood to be in line to win routine highways maintenance for up to 15 years.

Separate contracts are expected to be let for capital delivery works, design and specialist support services in a return to a more traditional delivery approach after over 15 years of MACs and ASCs, which put contractors in the driving seat to manage the delivery regime.


Area 7 comprises 79km of motorway and 428km of trunk roads in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland. It includes stretches of the M1, M69, M6, as well as the A1, A14, and A46 and is one of the busiest network areas.

The award means Amey is now operating across East Anglia and the Midlands in areas six, seven and eight.

Highways England questioned its delivery regime more than a year ago when bids from contractors for four ASC regions came in too low to deliver the scale and quality of service expected.

This prompted Highways England first to announce its would pilot Area 7 with an in-house management approach before later deciding the other areas up for bid – 1, 2, 13 and 14 – would come under the new management regime.

A Highways England spokesman said: “This will enable us to take more ownership of investment decisions and to increase our intelligence on local factors that influence where work is needed.

“By directly engaging suppliers we will help drive down cost and waste, providing the best possible value for money for taxpayers.”


Budget 2016 | Osborne’s infrastructure investment includes 4 lane M62

Chancellor George Osborne has announced funding for major transport infrastructure projects in the North of England and given a commitment to the development of Crossrail 2.

In his Budget, which he described as ‘pro-infrastructure’, Mr Osborne announced both substantive funding for new road and rail schemes and development funding for possible future schemes.

He thanked Lord Adonis for his work as chair of the National Infrastructure Committee, which he said had made ‘a strong start’.

The Government will allocate £60m to develop options for ‘High Speed 3’ between Leeds and Manchester, as well as options for improving other major city rail links.

It will also provide £80m, which it said, ‘together with a contribution from London, will allow Crossrail 2 to proceed to the next stage’.

Mr Osborne has allocated of £16m funding to improve rail station facilities and will also provide £5m ‘for the development of options’ for improving the resilience of the rail line between Exeter and Newton Abbot.

The Government has welcomed the recommendations of the Shaw Report into Network Rail and said it will respond in full later this year.

Improvements to the road network include an additional £161m for Highways England to accelerate two major projects to upgrade the M62 to a four-lane smart motorway between Warrington and Eccles and between Rochdale and Brighouse.

The Government will also allocate £75m to Highways England for new northern road studies, including further developing the case for a Trans-Pennine tunnel between Sheffield and Manchester, and well as options to enhance the A66, A69 and the north-west quadrant of the M60.

Mr Osborne also announced £151m to fund new river crossings at both Lowestoft and Ipswich, subject to final business case approval.

Ministers are now inviting further bids for the £475m Local Majors Fund announced in the 2015 Spending Review.

The Government is setting out how £50m from the Pothole Action Fund will be allocated across England in 2016-17. It said this allow local authorities to fill nearly a million potholes.

It is also launching the process for drawing up its second Roads Investment Strategy, for the period 2020-21 to 2024-25.

Mr Osborne said fuel duty would be frozen for a sixth successive year. The Government and Highways England will start the first trials of comparative fuel price signs on the M5 between Bristol and Exeter by the Spring.

The chancellor also announced plans, subject to consultation, to halve tolls on the Severn crossings.

The Government and Highways England will develop an Innovation Strategy, including trials of driverless cars on the Strategic Road Network by the end of 2017.

Midlands Connect will be established as a statutory sub-national transport body with statutory duties by the end of 2018 and the Government will carry out feasibility work in this Parliament on four major roads in the Midlands.

Mr Osborne said the Budget invested in infrastructure and would ‘Redouble our efforts to make Britain fit for the future’.


George Osborne promises his Budget will offer ‘long term solutions to long term problems

George Osborne today vowed to offer Britain ‘long term solutions to long term problems’ when he presents his Budget tomorrow.

The Chancellor said his plans would include support for the High Speed 3 railway linking Manchester and Leeds, and Crossrail 2, a new north-south link across London.

Speaking from a construction site for the first Crossrail project, Mr Osborne said the railway was a clear example of delivery on long term projects from the Government.

Labour today demanded Mr Osborne ‘stop promising and start delivering’.

He said: ‘Five years ago as part of our long term economic plan we gave the go-ahead to Crossrail and here it is, nearing completion.

‘In the Budget tomorrow I’m going to give the greenlight to Crossrail 2 in London and the new High Speed 3 link across the north of England.

‘In the Budget, we are not going to go for short term fixes in this uncertain world, we are going top have long term solutions to Britain’s long term problems and the Budget is going to make sure Britain is fit for the future.

‘I think an absolutely crucial part of improving the economy of our country is making sure we invest in our northern powerhouse and improving transport links across the north of England will be a huge boost to the economy of the north of England and the whole of the United Kingdom.’

Mr Osborne added: ‘Whether is building here in the capital of our country or in the north of England, you’re going to see a commitment to plan for the long term and make sure Britain is fit for the future.’

The Budget plans include hundreds of millions to kick-start the Crossrail 2 project in London and the HS3 high-speed rail link between northern cities.

Mr Osborne, who is determined to show his commitment to the so-called Northern Powerhouse, will also spend £75million to explore options for a tunnel between Sheffield and Manchester.

The 18-mile road tunnel – with a price tag of £6billion – would run beneath the Peak District and could become one of the longest ever constructed.

Lord Adonis, the former Labour minister who is chairman of Mr Osborne’s National Infrastructure Commission, today said new infrastructure spending was not just ‘jam tomorrow’.

He told the BBC: ‘The big improvements that are taking place at the moment should be seen as the first stage on the road to HS3, so the electrification of the Manchester to Leeds line will bring the journey time down to 40 minutes.

‘With HS3 that could come down to 30 minutes, so this is going to be a phased approach, it’s not going to be one big bang like HS2, which is the creation of a completely new line from nothing.’

He added: ‘It’s tough getting long-term infrastructure decisions taken in this country, but I was the guy behind the beginning of electrification in the north and HS2 and we did get those decisions taken.’

A third runway for Heathrow was absent from today’s announcement’s on infrastructure plans.

Lord Adonis said the runway was ‘profoundly in the national interest’ and said he ‘hoped’ the Government would finally make a decision later this year.

Shadow transport secretary Lilian Greenwood said: ‘Investment in transport infrastructure for the North is vital but under this Government there has been a huge gap between rhetoric and reality.

‘Electrification of key rail lines has been put back by years and passengers were hit last year by fare rises of up to 162 per cent.

‘The Chancellor has to stop promising and start delivering.’

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron today said the plans were ‘fantasy infrastructure’.

He said: ‘It only lives in a government spreadsheet or the chatter of a Whitehall committee. It is a sham.

‘We need this infrastructure now and not in 10 years time but because of the Chancellor’s choice to hold back borrowing he is stopping the creation of jobs and building the infrastructure we need.’

A Highways England report said the proposed tunnel, which would be built under the A628 Woodhead Pass, could cut journey times between Sheffield and Manchester and avoid delays caused by bad weather over the Pennines which frequently closes road links between the two cities.

However, Highways England, which manages the main road network, warned the ‘practical and psychological difficulties’ of driving in a long tunnel should not be underestimated, with solutions needed to problems such as driver claustrophobia and poor air quality.

Treasury officials said the Chancellor will ‘bring forward capital spending in this Parliament, to invest in the Government’s priorities and boost jobs and productivity’.

By spending billions more than planned in the early years of the Parliament, Mr Osborne hopes to boost growth and close a black hole in his deficit reduction plans.

Labour is likely to claim that the Government’s current strategy is not working. But Mr Osborne will say that he is making Britain ‘fit for the future’.

Tomorrow’s Budget will include a series of announcements, some of which have been promised before. They include:

  • £60million to develop plans for the HS3, which would reduce journey times between Sheffield and Manchester by up to 30 minutes
  • £161million for Highways England to accelerate upgrades to the M62
  • £80million to fund the development of plans for Crossrail 2, which would link the south-west and north-east of London
  • £1.2billion fund to build more than 30,000 ‘starter homes’ on brownfield land across the country.

Mr Osborne will insist he is overseeing Britain’s largest programme of rail investment ‘since the Victorian age’. A blueprint for HS3 – which could cost as much as £15billion – will be published next year.

The Chancellor will say he is committed to a raft of projects recommended by the Lord Adonis-led National Infrastructure Commission, which demands improvements in rail links in the North in a report published today.

Mr Osborne will say: ‘With the difficulties we see in the global economy, we’ve got to make Britain fit for the future. Now is the time us to make the bold decisions and the big investments that will help us to lead the world in infrastructure, and create jobs, push up living standards and boost our productivity for the next generation.’

He revealed on Sunday that, owing to the worsening economy, he will have to make a fresh round of cuts worth £4billion tomorrow.

The axe is expected to once again fall on the Home Office, town halls and Ministry of Justice. The foreign aid budget – which currently stands at £12billion – is protected.