Middlesex artist leads retired workers to create renewable energy in central London
Middlesex University artist Loraine Leeson has spear-headed a project to design the UK’s first low-cost, small-scale turbine suitable for slow moving tidal rivers, using the life experience of retired manual trade workers to inform new developments in technology.
The team was made up of a group of senior men who attend the ‘Geezers Club’ at an AgeUK centre in Bow, east London, in addition to engineer Toby Borland and led by Middlesex art lecturer Loraine Leeson. The group included a retired engineer, with the oldest at 84 years of age.
The team launched their innovative underwater turbine on a barge in the River Thames at an event in October opened by John Biggs, GLA (Greater London Authority) member for City and East. At the event the small-scale turbine was moored alongside the Tamesis Dock barge close to the Houses of Parliament to test its functionality. It was the culmination of a five-year project titled ‘Active Energy’.
The hydrokinetic turbine was designed for low budget, low speed river/ocean flow and ease of transport and installation. While similar designs have been previously been used internationally, the turbine blades are the first of their kind and are optimised for low flow, and operate with a shroud to deflect items floating in the river and protect wildlife.
Its low cost and ease of manufacture design was a requirement to make it particularly suitable for generating power in developing nations who might want to adopt it. In line with this, the information gleaned from its construction has been made public to enable others to take up the design for future use.
The ‘Geezers Club’ focused on renewable energy as they are located near the River Thames and recognised its potential as a powerful tidal river. They wanted to investigate whether it could be utilised to help power their homes and help future generations. The team discovered that although a lot of work had been done around the world on large-scale turbines, there has been very little research done on the possibility of small scale turbines for rivers, so they set to work tapping into their collective experience.
Middlesex University Fine Art lecturer and artist Loraine Leeson said: “The Geezers have helped re-focus public attention onto one of the most crucial issues facing our planet. They remembered when tidal power was being developed in the 1980’s and wondered why it hasn’t been used more widely. We are very grateful to the Big Lottery ‘Awards for All’ fund for supporting the creative workshops that have helped the Geezers make their idea a reality.”
The Geezers Club was set up to counter loneliness and isolation amongst older men through the involvement of members in activities addressed specifically to their needs and interests.
Photo: Members of the ‘Geezers Club’ testing their designs in a water tank.