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26 March 2024
Renewable Energy

Students Given ‘Invaluable’ Insights into Sustainable Technologies in Practice

Students working with renewables have been given a first-hand look at a number of sustainable technology facilities across South Wales.

The 80 postgraduate learners on the Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology Masters programme at the University of South Wales (USW) have been immersing themselves in the practicalities of renewable energy production.

“Those on this specialised course, which covers modules including renewable energies, hydrogen energy, industrial resource recovery, and bioprocesses for a circular economy, recently took a visit to two significant industrial sites – the Bryn Power Anaerobic Digestion Plant in Nelson, Caerphilly, and the Cardiff Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is run by Dwr Cymru Welsh Water,” said Professor Sandra Esteves, who specialises in Research and Development at USW and is also a member of the University’s Sustainable Environment Research Centre (SERC).

“Our module on bioprocesses for a circular economy has been instrumental in providing students with insights into innovative bioprocesses that facilitate resource circularity, through which waste can be reused to produce energy and fertiliser.”

During their visit to Bryn Power facility the students were able to see its design, construction, and operation, and how it efficiently treats food wastes and animal slurries to produce bioenergy and biofertilizer through anaerobic digestion (AD).

AD is a biological process in which microorganisms break down organic matter in the absence of oxygen, producing biogas and nutrient-rich digestate. This process not only diverts organic waste from landfills but also generates renewable energy and valuable by-products such as fertiliser.

The power generated from the process is supplied to the electricity grid, while digestate supports sustainable farming practices by recycling nutrients.

At the Cardiff Wastewater Treatment Plant, students delved into the intricacies of sewage treatment processes serving a population of one million people. Here, aerobic and anaerobic processes are integrated to treat sewage and generate renewable power and produce sustainable soil conditioner and fertiliser for local farms.

“Such site visits are invaluable for our students, enabling them to understand the practical applications of bioprocesses in real-world settings,” Professor Esteves added.

“The hands-on experience will also help them to shape the future of sustainable energy practices and circular economy, underscoring USW’s commitment to nurturing the next generation of renewable energy and sustainability experts.

“The collaboration between academic institutions such as USW and industry leaders such as Bryn Power and Welsh Water also exemplifies a concerted effort towards fostering innovation and sustainability in resource recovery and energy practices, with potential ramifications on a global scale.

“As these students embark on their journey towards becoming practitioners in renewable energy, their experiences at these industrial sites serve as a solid foundation for their future endeavours.”

Jen Price, manager at Bryn Power, emphasised the significance of this collaboration with academia, adding:

“We look forward to working with this latest cohort of students as they progress their Masters research projects around renewable energy.

“These are the next generation of AD plant designers and operators, and our partnership with USW has the potential to make a global impact.”

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