Islington and Clapham
As we bid goodbye to 2020 and gingerly step into 2021, the feeling is not of relief, because the virus is still on the prowl. It must be added, though, that we have reached an inflexion point with the early promise being shown by some of the vaccines that have been deployed.
Now, amidst the carnage of 2020, we have been witness to heartwarming instances of human endeavour – of the medical fraternity putting their lives at risk to save others, of boffins hard at work harnessing the power of science and engineering to provide relief to not only healthcare workers but also numerous other sectors.
Away from the COVID scene, there are other instances that have stood out. Like the Bunhill Heat and Power Network project, in central London, which uses waste heat from the London Underground network to supply heat and hot water to nearly 1,500 homes and other facilities in the Borough of Islington, in a bid to lower indirect carbon emissions and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. Human ingenuity repurposed the former City Road London Underground station into an underground air extraction system. It draws warm air from the tunnels, still in use by the London Underground’s Northern Line.
Not only will the project reportedly lower indirect emissions but also cut heating costs by 10%, benefitting the residents connected to the network – a case of district energy providing succour to tenants by passing on the savings.
What is even more heartwarming, according to the company that supplied the technology to the project (see story on page XX) is that it can be replicated in underground networks the world over.
As if by coincidence, the subterranean labyrinthine depths of London constitute the theatre for yet another instance of human ingenuity and resourcefulness. Growing Underground is a farming enterprise that is using long-forgotten World War 2 tunnels used as shelter during air raids conducted by the Luftwaffe. About 100 feet beneath London’s Clapham, growers working for the enterprise are busy harvesting micro-greens using hydroponic technology, which uses 70% less water, when compared to traditional farming practices. The produce is pesticide-free and provides an opportunity to Londoners to eat fresh and without the guilt from knowledge that the greens on their plate are the result of burning copious volumes of climate-threatening fossil fuels in transporting them to their doorstep. The project is redefining food supply chains for the better and lowering food wastage by increasing shelf life.
Such examples as the Islington district energy scheme and Growing Underground serve as inspiration for us to consider abandoning some of the hackneyed approaches that are not taking us far in our quest for a better planet. They are about courage and speak of a certain frontier spirit that we ought to consider embracing.