Arcola Theatre: LED Lights! Fuel Cell Action!

I was invited by my friends at Moixa to come to the Arcola Theatre in Dalston recently to see their new lighting and power installation. This consists of a set of LED lights that illuminate large sections of the foyer, bar and office space. Not just LED lights though, LED lights running off a Direct Current (DC) circuit, a circuit that also has USB power outlets for gadgets. Moixa have been developing technology in this area for some time now and present a very convincing story about the benefits of this approach for a large part of our future power distribution system.

To summarise the argument, a large part of our consumption is now low energy lighting (LED) and computers, TV’s, laptops, tablets, phones, all of which run on low voltage DC power. Our current AC system is not suitable for them and needs to be transformed down to DC power, losing a proportion of its efficiency in the process, usually felt as wasted heat from  transformers.  Running these devices on a DC circuit means that we can be more efficient in our use of power, but also be safer as the DC current runs at 12-24V which isn’t enough to hurt anyone. We could also reduce the need for all those transformers that we carry about to power our laptops.

Putting this system together with a battery pack brings another set of benefits because suddenly the system is resilient and your phones, TV’s, computers will still run in a power outage, or a flood (if the battery is above the flood level), or other power interruption. The battery pack can be charged from the Grid or from some PV panels, or even a fuel cell.

Another benefit derived from the battery pack is that it can be charged when power is cheapest from the grid or when the grid is overproducing, such as when the wind is blowing strongly in the middle of the night, or if it is very sunny in the middle of the day. The battery packs can help to smooth out the peaks and troughs in the Grid demand and supply, neatly answering one of the main criticisms of renewable energy: it is not always available when you want it. Now it can be. This could help to reduce the number of backup power stations we need to keep resilience in our power Grid.

Unexpectedly, Arcola is also home to an energy innovation team in the form of Arcola Energy who specialise in fuel cells. This is because the theatre director has a Ph.D in fuel cells, of course he does, doesn’t everyone? There is an online shop that ‘cells’ their products, so if you are short of a few stocking fillers why not buy yourself a renewable energy education kit? Better still, buy me one! I’m always ready to try out a new toy.

There is so much to describe here that is interesting, and fun, and presented in an enjoyable way, so get yourself down there, watch a show, and learn about the future in the interval over a glass of wine.

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