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AREA presents: 'Innovation and Technology: Transforming Ideas into Reality'

- categories: events news blog

AREA presents: 'Innovation and Technology: Transforming Ideas into Reality'

The renewables sector is becoming increasingly progressive and dynamic. To kick-start 2019, Action Renewables Energy Association (AREA) was delighted to host its recent event ‘Innovation and Technology: Transforming Ideas into Reality’, where 5 industry experts were invited to share their knowledge and ongoing work in this sector.

Held at Malone House on the 9th of January, the opening led by Ian Gordon, Manager of AREA, was followed by guest speakers; Fiachra O’Bradaigh, Dr Alistair Quinn, David Surplus OBE, Dr Teresa McGrath and Barry McCarron.

Off-grid Power Solutions

Opening the seminar was Fiachra O’Bradaigh, an engineer with Airsynergy; a design and innovation company producing cleantech energy. He highlighted that they are developing Independent Smart Poles (ISPs), which are off-grid power solutions for critical applications such as; surveillance, communications, lighting and traffic management. Fiachra guided the attendees through two ISP case studies; a pilot scheme at Belfast Harbour’s Quayside, to provide solutions for off-grid lighting and NI Water’s Lough Braden, where ISPs are providing power to assess water quality. Looking to 2019, he announced that they are aiming to introduce broadband to rural blackspots using ISPs, concluding that the value of their technology lies in the individual application ISPs can offer.

Bridging the Innovation Gap

Dr Alistair Quinn, a Programme Manager for the South West College, discussed Renewable Engine, a €6.1 million project running until 2021. He outlined the project was created to help bridge the ‘innovation gap’ between Universities and the private sector. With a strong manufacturing theme, the project’s main research areas focus on energy generation, energy storage and enabling technologies. Dr Quinn elaborated on some of their specific objectives, including developing a research super cluster and industrial PhD-level research. He is hopeful they will continue to produce and publish new journal papers and aim to incorporate additional renewable energy concepts into their engineering programmes.

Non-stop Turbines for Hydrogen Production

David Surplus OBE, from B9 Energy Storage, spoke about the company’s development of low-cost renewable hydrogen for transport. The company plan to use curtailed wind turbines for hydrogen production, allowing for the added benefit of turbines no longer sitting idle for periods of time and the potential of more windfarms in the future. Overall, the company is confident that hydrogen as a fuel, will be able to fully supply various outlets such as petrol and fleet stations.

Reducing Emissions with Sustainable Concrete

Dr Teresa McGrath from Queen’s University Belfast discussed their project LowCoPreCon. Funded by Innovate UK and the Newton Fund, this 34-month long initiative has involved the development of a concrete alternative, known as geopolymer. Highlighting that the concrete industry contributes 5 – 8% of the world’s CO2 emissions, Dr McGrath emphasised the necessity of developing sustainable alternatives, such as geopolymer, which is comprised of fly ash and recycled glass particulates. Having carried out extensive lab trials to ensure geopolymer’s functionality, Dr McGrath and her team are optimistic about creating a final product that is fully waste-based, cement-free and can be used as a complete concrete alternative.

The Passive House

Closing the event was Barry McCarron, Manager of the CREST centre, which is part of the South West College in Enniskillen. Giving an overview of the centre, Barry outlined its main services in providing industry R&D and demonstration facilities for renewable energy technologies. He then highlighted one of their main focal areas, the ‘Innovateus Programme’ where they deliver on Passive housing. Passive house buildings provide a high level of occupant comfort while using very little energy for heating and cooling. Barry revealed that over the last 15 months, the programme has received over £50,000 in funding and have witnessed incremental growth in this area. Barry emphasised that, as the only provider of Passive house training in Northern Ireland, they are hoping to expand on their team of 5 in order to meet the growing interest and demand. 

As the seminar came to an end, attendees had the opportunity to participate in a Q&A session.

The next AREA seminar, will be based around the diverse topic of ‘Energy Efficiency’ and will take place on 15th February 2019. If you would like to find out more about joining Action Renewables Energy Association, you can get in touch with us at

Dearbhla Boyle

Dearbhla Boyle
Marketing Executive


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