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Set to stun: ‘Star Trek’ control panel replaced as Thames Water sets warp speed to net carbon zero

Friday 1st October 2021 13:49

The "Star Trek panel" replaced with an energy-saving alternative at Ufton Nervet treatment works

The 'Star Trek panel' replaced with an energy-saving alternative at Ufton Nervet treatment works

A water treatment works in West Berkshire has saved enough energy to power the equivalent of 125 homes for a year after replacing a 40-year-old control unit nicknamed the “Star Trek panel” with a high-tech alternative, as the company looks to boldly go to net carbon zero emissions across all operations by 2030.

The new, streamlined unit, which fits on to an area the size of a sheet of A3 paper, was installed at Thames Water’s Ufton Nervet site earlier this year. It controls how water is abstracted, treated and delivered to customers and can vary the flow of pumps at the works depending on demand, cutting down on wasted energy.

The old control panel, which got its nickname due to its resemblance to the controls on the Starship Enterprise in the popular sci-fi series, measured a whopping four metres in length and had been in use since the 80s, before the reboot starring Sir Patrick Stewart had even hit screens.

By replacing it, Thames Water is saving more than 430,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy a year, the equivalent of 22 per cent of that used on site, as well as £50,000 in costs which is “beamed up” back into the company’s essential work to provide water and wastewater services to 15 million customers across London and the Thames Valley.

Matthew Gee, Thames Water’s energy & carbon strategy & reporting manager, said: “While the old control panel was fun to look at, especially for Trekkies, it was more than 40 years old and wasted too much energy. The updated version ensures we only use what we need to, as well as saving space at the site.

“Improving energy efficiency is an essential part of controlling our emissions, and a significant aim of our net zero roadmap: Next stop, net zero by 2030.

“We’re determined to change and lead the future of energy transition by transforming the way we create and use energy, before becoming the first in our industry to go beyond net zero by 2040 to be carbon negative.

“Energy saving projects such as the one at Ufton Nervet, are helping us all achieve this ambitious target and protect our world for the future.”

Thames Water project manager Mauro Lafratta added: “This project was a challenging task for us and our partners but the upgrade of the site is a flagship achievement for the pumping systems efficiency programme.

“By fixing the basis, the project has improved both the operation of the site and our energy consumption.”

The work was carried out by contractors Costain without disruption to the site, which remained in operation throughout the two-year project. It will also protect the works from any future technical issues, reducing the risk of downtime in the event of a component failure.

In June, Thames Water announced it is committed to leading the future of energy transition by transforming the way it creates and uses power to become carbon neutral by 2030, having cut emissions by almost 70 per cent since 1990.

The UK’s largest water supplier, which has been producing renewable energy at Mogden sewage works in London since the 1930s, aims to be carbon negative by 2040.

The company’s comprehensive plan includes reducing the use of fossil fuels across the business, harnessing renewable energy sources from waste, solar power and heat recovery schemes, and working with sustainable suppliers and partners.

See the full roadmap, which will continue to be updated towards the 2030 milestone.