Professor Phil Taylor – a leading expert in renewable energy – has been appointed as the new lead on sustainability at Newcastle University.
An engineer with experience of working in industry and academia, Prof Taylor has taken up the post of director of the university’s Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability (NIReS), bringing with him a team of 17 academics and students.
Charged with leading Newcastle University’s sustainability agenda, he has moved from Durham University, where he was co-director of the Durham Energy Institute.
Prof Taylor is academic lead for the UK’s largest smart grid project, which involves creating an “intelligent” system which can deal with incoming energy from renewable sources.
He said: “The work coming out of NIReS is already having a global impact and the next step is to build the institute so that it is recognised as a world-leading centre for sustainability research.”
A key part of the role will be to take forward Science Central at Gallowgate in Newcastle City Centre to create an example of sustainability research that is of international importance.
“There has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes and now we really need to push Science Central forward so people can see things happening,” said Prof Taylor, who lives in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside.
Similar to the £54m Smart Grid Project which has brought together academics from a range of disciplines, as well as key industry partners, Prof Taylor said a multi-disciplinary approach will be key to the success of Science Central.
“We need to bridge the gap between academia and industry and make things happen,” he said.
“Science Central has such potential, not just in terms of the work going on inside the buildings but the buildings themselves – how they are heated and powered and how we use the site.”
Prof Taylor leads the Customer-Led Network Revolution (CLNR) – the UK’s leading Smart Grid project, which is at the forefront of a move towards a low-carbon economy.
He said the long-term plan is to create an urban Smart Grid demonstrator in the heart of Newcastle on the Science Central site. “In the past, electrical networks were operated in a passive manner – electricity flowing from high voltage networks down towards the customer at low voltages,” he said.
“But as low-carbon technologies have come along, all that has changed. Distributed generation such as wind farms right down to heat pumps and solar panels means power is now flowing in both directions and in a relatively unpredictable way.
“We need to find a way of managing that power in real time, so that the low-carbon transition can be achieved at reasonable cost and without degrading power system reliability.
“That’s why a smart grid system is so important. We need to match supply to demand in real time and within network constraints, and that means making the grid more intelligent.
“This intelligence allows demand response, the involvement of customers, and energy storage to be integrated into existing networks.”