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Universities praise ‘globally significant’ Blue Eden project

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University leaders in Swansea are hailing the £1.7bn Blue Eden development as a transformational project that will secure the city’s standing as a globally significant centre for innovation in renewable energy.

A 9.5km tidal lagoon structure forms part of the Blue Eden project, which will include state-of-the-start underwater turbines generating 320 megawatts of renewable energy.

Blue Eden is being led by Bridgend-based DST Innovations and business partners, with support from Swansea Council and Associated British Ports.

Made possible by funding from the private sector, the project will be delivered in three phases over 12 years.

It also includes a manufacturing plant to make high-tech batteries for renewable energy storage, along with a battery storage facility to store the renewable energy produced at Blue Eden and power the site.

A floating solar array will also feature, along with a data centre, an ocean and climate change research centre, residential waterfront homes and about 150 floating, highly energy-efficient eco-homes anchored in the water.

Blue Eden will create over 2,500 permanent jobs and support a further 16,000 jobs across Wales and the UK, while creating additional jobs during its construction.

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Welsh business leaders have already spoken out to give their backing to the project.

Professor Paul Boyle, Vice-Chancellor of Swansea University, said: “Swansea University supports the ambitions of the Blue Eden initiative, which will secure our city’s standing as a globally significant centre for innovation in renewable energy and green infrastructure.

“This project complements our University’s research strengths in decarbonisation, renewable energy and data science. Building upon our long-standing partnership with Swansea Council, we welcome opportunities to provide the research, training and skills development which will underpin local economic growth.”

Professor Medwin Hughes, Vice Chancellor of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, said: “This transformational project will have significant impact by creating high-value jobs across the region.

“The university, as a key partner, looks forward to supporting this venture in developing and delivering higher technical skills which will support the emerging technology and companies associated with Blue Eden.

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“This holistic approach to regeneration will place Swansea as an international centre of excellence for green research, innovation and sustainable thinking.”

Blue Eden will be sited along an extensive area of land and water, to the south of the Prince of Wales Dock in the SA1 area of Swansea.

All the project’s buildings and facilities, including the eco-homes, will be situated alongside the lagoon and will utilise and enhance the existing land in the area.

The energy generated by the lagoon and solar array will be used on site, but there is also scope for 32% of it to be exported onto the grid for the benefit of local residents and businesses. The amount of green energy consumed by the Blue Eden development will also save a significant amount of energy being taken from the grid in future.

Subject to planning consent, Blue Eden work on site could start by early 2023.

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(Lead image: DST)

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Business

New Swansea processing facility will ‘recycle the unrecyclable’

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Resource recovery expert Fiberight has set up a new facility and Centre of Excellence in Swansea that will use innovative resource recovery techniques to increase the capture of materials from waste for the production of market-ready recycled materials.

Based at the Westfield industrial estate in Waunarlwydd, the plant will recover and recycle valuable resources from household waste using Fiberight’s core water-based process, HYDRACYCLE™.

This economically sustainable process captures more than 70% of recyclable materials in the household waste stream, including packaging such as bottles, bags, wrappers, tubs and trays, plus food waste, paper/card, metals and aggregates (glass and grit). Recovered materials will be recycled and used in higher value products for the circular economy.

The plant’s current capacity is 12,000 tonnes a year to enable Fiberight to conduct R&D and validation work. The initial input feedstock comprises plastic-rich materials rejected from waste sorting facilities (MRFs) across England and Wales. This reject stream contains significant amounts of recyclable materials that can be recovered and recycled along circular economy principles – capturing these lost resources.

Nick Thompson, co-founder and Managing Director of Fiberight Ltd explains that Wales was chosen as it is the ‘leading UK nation in terms of recycling rates and resource recovery’.

He says: “Having developed the concept for a ‘resource refinery’ or ‘manufacturing facility that uses waste as a feedstock’ more than ten years ago, we have developed a unique process that is now tried and tested.”

Nick emphasises how their concept brings processing infrastructure to the UK, rather than relying on exporting to other countries to ‘finish the job’, adding: “This creates a massive opportunity in the UK to take the hundreds of millions of pounds of value lost by burning, burying or exporting waste and turn it into high value resources, which can be fed back into our manufacturing industry. As both national government and local authorities seek better processes and strategies to deal with waste, we are here to demonstrate we can deliver it.”

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In early 2022, the capacity will increase to 40,000 tonnes a year as a pre-commercial facility and employ local people. Long term, the aim is to create a 120,000-tonne commercial plant by 2026 with 40 jobs.

Processing waste via HYDRACYCLE™ significantly reduces carbon emissions by minimising the volume of waste requiring end of life disposal. The process saves 780kg CO2 emissions per tonne of waste input by recovering and recycling waste that would typically be buried or burnt.

A typical HYDRACYCLE™ plant will deliver the equivalent carbon saving of removing more than 20,000 petrol cars from the road each year when compared to business-as-usual landfill and/or incineration.

To facilitate the plant’s development, existing equipment and items from Fiberight’s US demonstration facility has been repurposed for the Swansea site. Fiberight has also been supported by various R&D-funded projects, including Innovate UK and the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU).

In addition to creating skilled jobs, Fiberight’s plant will see the output from the paper and card found in waste being used as animal bedding, biomass fuel, or converted into high end sugars for chemicals production processes; and the plastics will be separated and transformed into a range of materials and fuels. Any true residual waste would be used for energy generation.

Looking ahead, Fiberight aims to establish the facility as a Centre of Excellence that will demonstrate the core HYDRACYCLE™ process – plus several bolt-on technologies all in one location – recovering and recycling a variety of waste materials into high value products.

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The concept is to showcase what can be achieved by taking this new, innovative circular approach and how much value can be realised from mixed waste streams. Alongside commercial operations, R&D work will continue, including testing different feedstocks as well as responding to new opportunities.

Nick adds: “Our next generation recycling technology captures around 70%-plus of whatever waste a council isn’t recycling and transforms it into valuable recycled materials and products. We are excited to be part of an active sector in Wales which is open to new innovation and approaches.”

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Carmarthenshire

Scrub removal at Pembrey will improve dunes for biodiversity say environment body

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Scrub provides a splash of greenery in our sandy spaces, but too much scrub smothers the sand dunes and has a devastating effect on the specialist plants and invertebrates which live there according to Natural Resources Wales

This winter the Welsh environment body will be removing non-native, invasive plant species from areas of dune at Pembrey to help wildlife thrive.

The coast around Pembrey is home to 20% of all the plants in Wales and features a large sand dune system. Sand dunes are listed as the habitat type most at risk of biodiversity loss in Europe.

The Dynamic Dunescapes project, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and delivered in Wales by Natural Resources Wales (NRW), is working at Pembrey with Carmarthenshire County Council’s Outdoor Recreation Service to improve the condition of these dunes for wildlife.

Some non-native plant species, like the dense scrub plant sea buckthorn, are invasive and they are growing quickly in this dune system – spreading further across large areas of dune each year. Many of the dunes’ rare and specialist wildlife needs bare sand or low grassland habitat to survive and gets lost under or outcompeted by scrub. If scrub growth is not controlled, it will cause species like lizards, orchids and dune pansies to suffer and disappear from our sand dunes.

Scrub removal in specifically chosen locations will help to restore the habitat types that these species need, and this work will play a part in ensuring the dunes at Pembrey have a healthy, biodiverse future. Improving the ecological condition here will increase this coastal landscape’s resilience to other threats, such as extreme weather events and changing conditions brought on by climate change in the future.

The first phase of this work is to take place in Pembrey Country Park around Car Park 8 and the second will take place on the foredunes in front of the Welsh Government Woodland Estate which is managed by NRW. It is scheduled to begin in the last week of November and will last for two weeks. There will be a temporary closure of Factory Road outside the Country Park for one week – reopening on 5th December.

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Ruth Harding, Senior Environment Officer at Natural Resources Wales, said: “Sea Buckthorn control is important to improve the dune grassland habitats at Pembrey. Carmarthenshire County Council and Natural Resources Wales have carried out this type of habitat management over a number of years which has resulted in restoring the area to a dune grassland rich with different species of plants. You can best enjoy this during the summer months within the Pembrey Burrows and Saltings Local Nature Reserve. As part of Dynamic Dunescapes, we are now continuing this work, which will result in an overall increase in dune grassland habitat.”

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for leisure, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths said: “Whilst scrub is a valuable habitat it does need management to maintain it in good condition for wildlife. Cutting back the scrub will ensure it does not spread into areas where is not wanted and or where it can destroy other habitat.”

Dynamic Dunescapes is not the only project working to restore Pembrey’s important sand dunes. The EU LIFE-funded Sands of LIFE project, managed by (NRW), has also been undertaking sand dune management to improve conditions for wildlife in recent years. The two projects work closely to build on and support each other’s work.

(Lead image: Natural Resources Wales)

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Environment

Funding secured to design collapsed Cimla culvert repair

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Neath Port Talbot Council has secured Welsh Government funding of £100,000 to design a replacement for the vital culvert at Castle Drive in Cimla, Neath, which collapsed due to torrential rainfall in October.

The funding will also be used for the diversion of essential utility services which were compromised by the collapse during the evening of 4 October, 2021.

The road had to be closed both to vehicles and pedestrians for safety reasons following the collapse.

The downstream section of the carriageway had been undermined by the washing away of a supporting embankment. Following more investigations, the upstream pedestrian footway was reopened allowing a vital link for pupils to access Crynallt Infant School.

The council’s Engineering Section will now use the funding to undertake the design of a new, larger culvert and it is anticipated physical work on the scheme will start this Spring subject to further funding for other elements of the project and the completion of the design work, a tendering process for contractors plus the diversion of utility services.

Cllr Mike Harvey, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Streetscene and Engineering said: “We are grateful for the funding which means we can now start preparing to repair the damage caused on a night when emergency services across South West Wales were ‘inundated’ with calls for help due to widespread flooding.

“The very heavy and prolonged rainfall washed away an embankment which meant the road had to be shut for public safety and we will now endeavour to reinstate the damaged infrastructure in Castle Drive, restoring through traffic  as soon as we possibly can.

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“We would like to thank local residents for their patience following the disruption caused by the collapse. The restoration work will be a major engineering project but the results will be robust and long lasting.”

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