Shining a Light on Carbon Emissions By Chris Williams

The UK construction industry is working hard to find ways of reducing carbon emissions from infrastructure and construction projects.  But the challenges are by no means easy for contractors tasked with meeting hard-pressed time and cost constraints.

At Prolectric, we find ourselves increasingly working with the specialist environmental teams of main contractors who are seeing out new and better ways to improve their environmental performance on-site without compromising project delivery.  Dedicated environmental managers are becoming increasingly important members of project teams and able to share their knowledge of the innovative solutions now available around their organisations.

But, there’s still a long way for the industry to go.  Construction is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.  The energy and fuel used on construction sites accounts for approximately one third total emissions from England’s construction industry (Green Construction Board).

The industry is committed to Construction 2050, reflecting the UK’s overall obligations under the 2008 Climate Change Act to reduce carbon emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.  With standards like PAS2050 in place, and contractors required to make commitment through the tendering, contractual and planning processes, the pressure is on to find renewable energy alternatives.

Trials of our temporary solar lighting tower, the Prolectric ProLight, were conducted with UK main contractors from early in 2017.  We have developed mobile solar-powered lighting to be 100% reliable even in winter conditions, so the technology is now accepted by contractors as a viable off-grid alternative to the diesel tower lights that are ubiquitous on infrastructure projects and construction sites across the country.

The success comes from the ProLight’s high-power capacity that is three times that of any other temporary solar tower lights on the market. So, even on winter days with 16 hours of darkness, the unit operates consistently and reliably.  Main contractors such as Skanska, Costain and Carillion Rail have already recognised the potential and we’re seeing our lights being hired or purchased by for use on many high profile infrastructure projects during the past six months.

We calculate that every ProLight represents an annual saving of around 6 tonnes of carbon when compared to the popular VB9 diesel generator.  That means for a major infrastructure project using, say 100 units, simply switching from diesel to solar lights could deliver an annual project saving of 600 tonnes of carbon straight away.   

If the current UK fleet of diesel generators is estimated at around 12,000, then 15,000 tonnes of CO2 could be saved annually simply if 20% were exchanged to solar – and if all the diesel lights in the UK were replaced, around 75,000 tonnes of CO2 could be saved.

None of this potential would be of any use, if contractors did not see the benefits of using our lights for other reasons, too.  That’s why we put economic and project benefits, and the ability to demonstrate them, at the heart of our philosophy right from the start.

Both the ProLight and its sister the ProTemp are popular because they are a ‘set up and forget’ technology.  Our feedback is that project teams like them particularly because there’s no maintenance and no need for repeat visits to refuel the lights.  As they don’t make any noise, or emit any fumes, they are also a much more welcome and pleasant addition to welfare compounds, or to help with night-time working in residential locations.

We’ve also built in ‘smart’ technology to enable on and off times to be controlled automatically and data on power usage and carbon savings monitored remotely.  That means we can also provide project teams with reports on the cost and carbon savings achieved.

We’ve developed a tool to help project teams estimate the carbon savings that could be made on their site.  So, if you’d like us to estimate the carbon savings you could make, please contact us or call 01275 400 570.


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