Monday, 18 November 2013

Project Sunshine

Shaun, Trisha and Gerry went along to the University of Sheffield on Wednesday 30th October to discover more about Project Sunshine. Tony Ryan, a professor at the university, explained how all of the areas under his control were linked to the sun. The maths department were modelling the sun, the physics department were looking at solar PV, the plant scientists were looking at artificial photosynthesis, and knowledge of chemistry was being used to build better energy storage systems.

Startling statistics like 1 hour of sunshine falling on the planet would be enough to power the world for a whole year gave many people in the audience a positive feeling that we can tackle the problems of climate change and clean energy.

He mentioned that if we combined all the batteries every produced then we'd only power the world for 12 minutes. We therefore need to design better storage system using chemical bonds which is how plants store energy. This lead nicely to a chapter in the Project Sunshine book about how solar energy needs to get us through the night.

He mentioned the need for organic farming as we will not have the artificial fertilisers in the future as they are based on oil. Limited phosphorus supplies will result in us having to recycle toilet waste. He believes that genetically modified plants will also play a part in the future.

The authors believe nuclear will play a part in the short term future of electricity generation, but not the long term due to the lack of uranium. Tony explained how to use a number of different technologies (nuclear and coal etc) to complement each other and make them more efficient. However, in the long term we have only one choice and that is solar.

The university is not only training students to be good at the science subjects but to understand the politics and how to shape future decisions. It was mentioned that a former student gave a £5 million donation to Project Sunshine.

This article is based on mental notes taken at the meeting.

Sheffield Friends of the Earth recommend purchasing books from an ethical retailer where possible. The link here might help you to decide where to purchase the book from. Alternatively, you might want to check if the book is available at your local library. In general e-readers have a bigger environmental impact than a paper book. See the link for more details.

The book's details are:
·         Hardcover: 320 pages
·         Publisher: Icon Books Ltd (28 Feb 2013)
·         Language: English
·         ISBN-10: 1848315139
·         ISBN-13: 978-1848315136

Amazon is one of the least ethical companies, but their book reviews and sample chapters might help you to decide if the book is for you. The link is here.

See for more details about Project Sunshine.