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Central Bedfordshire Live Lab: Final Report

Category: Live Labs Live Labs 1 outputs Central Bedfordshire Winter


Central Bedfordshire Council Live Lab – Executive Summary: Testing new innovative ideas to help decarbonise the Highway

As part of the ADEPT Smart Places Live Labs programme, Central Bedfordshire Council spent its £1.05m share of the funding to pilot three renewable energy projects.

As a council committed to sustainability and reducing its carbon footprint the Live Labs trial represented a fantastic chance for the council to trial something new. It allowed the Highways service to be innovative, use new technologies and see if they could be scaled and used wider to help reduce the carbon impact on our highways network.

We used our funding to trial the use of thermal, solar and kinetic energy.

Thermal – Probes for de-icing and heating

The aim of this trial was to see if underground thermal heating could be used to heat the road, reduce the risk of ice and therefore reduce the need for gritting the Highway network.

As part of this trial we installed five geothermic probes that extend 150 metres into the ground in the car park of our highways depot at Thorn Turn, in Houghton Regis.

The geothermic probes respond when the temperature drops to freezing and de-ices the car park, enabling our vehicles to continue operating and saving money on gritting salt. The heat is contained in an on-site geothermal storage unit, and can also be used to heat the depot, saving on energy bill costs.

This technology, which is a first in the UK, would be suitable for areas such as leisure centres and school playgrounds.

Solar – Powering buildings through solar energy

Whilst Solar isn’t a new technology, using a solar road surface is and that is what we trialled at Central Bedfordshire.

We installed a solar car park surface at our Thorn Turn Highways Depot with the aim of capturing this energy to heat and power the depot and providing enough energy to power our electrical vehicles too.

The solar car park is made up of 216 modules, which carry up to 17,400kW an hour. Vehicles that drive over the car park modules power the depot, saving on energy bills and making our building more sustainable.

Kinetic – Pedestrian powered panels

Walkways that power two smart benches and a digital advertising and information screen have been installed outside Leighton Buzzard Railway Station.

The pavements are thin, but extremely sturdy. They capture energy when people walk on them and this energy is then stored and used to power the screen and benches, which also enables people to charge their mobile phones.

The pavements are photovoltaic, which means they turn solar light into electricity. They provide the same grip and durability as a conventional asphalt or paving surface.

This technology can also be used to power infrastructure such as streetlights and road signs.

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