London's top five green projects

The full run-down on what we think are the most significant green initiatives in the capital

London’s annual pile of 2.6 million tonnes of organic waste could be worth £170m if turned into energy and compost. And the 280,000 tonnes of plastic that Londoners chuck out each year could be worth £140m if recycled.

In March, Boris Johnson unveiled the £70m Foresight Environmental Fund to invest in green recycling and waste projects across London.

But what are the most significant green projects already under way in London?

Here’s our top five:

1)    London Array

This Thames Estuary windfarm project is the biggest in the world. Offshore construction started this month and the first of two phases will be finished next year.

The project could, eventually, provide enough power for a quarter of all London homes, saving 1.4 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year.

London Array is already creating jobs for Londoners in its construction stage. And it will create more for engineers and other specialists when it is running in 2012.

The project’s managers have been busy in recent months collecting local workers’ CVs, collaborating with London’s job centres and conducting speed dating-style 10-minute interviews with potential employees, says Mandy Broughton. She is communications manager for the Kentish Flats and Thanet Offshore Wind Farms at Vattenfall Wind Power UK.

London Array is being built by Denmark’s DONG Energy, Germany’s E.ON and Abu Dhabi’s cleantech mega-fund, MASDAR.

Olympic site photo

London’s top 5 green projects: The Olympic site will be powered by a range of whizzy green technologies

2)    The Olympic Park

Construction of the London 2012 site in Stratford has been an interesting exercise in green transport: half of all building materials have been freighted by rail or river, rather than road.

Two energy generation centres employing a range of green technologies will power the Olympic site.

Biomass boilers will feature, as will a combined cooling, heat and power (CCHP) unit. The latter’s creators claim the unit will lead to carbon emission reductions of more than 1,000 tonnes each year.

The energy centres were built by Cofely East London Energy, a subsidiary of GDF Suez Energy Services.

The Olympic Delivery Authority aims to make the 2012 event the greenest Games ever. The real test, however, will be whether the low-carbon ethos of the site’s creators thrives or dies in 2013 and beyond.

3)    TfL’s hydrogen fuel cell

Transport for London powers its headquarters in Southwark with the biggest fuel cell in the UK.

Installed by US company Logan Energy in 2010, the fuel cell (a device that turns hydrogen into energy, with pure water the only byproduct) is the engine for a combined heat and power station that sits inside TfL’s glass-clad Palestra building near Blackfriars bridge.

TfL and the London Development Agency, which resides under the same roof, reckons the technology will save £90,000 per year in reduced energy bills and cut CO2 emissions by 40 per cent.

The low-carbon power station, which cost £2.4m, provides central heating, air conditioning and hot water throughout the building.

London's hybrid buses

London’s hybrid buses

4)    Hybrid buses

There are already more than 100 diesel-electric hybrid buses on London’s roads – with 50 being prepared for service.

TfL says that these buses are at least a third more fuel efficient than their traditional predecessors, will reduce carbon emissions by a minimum of 30 per cent, are three decibels quieter and will reduce nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide.

At the end of March, the UK government gave TfL £3m to buy another 90 new hybrid buses. TfL hopes to have 300 of the vehicles in service by the end of next year.

But this is not good enough, according to critics in the Green Party, who point out that the mayor originally pledged to have 356 hybrid buses in action by March 2011. As this GLA press release proves, the critics have a point:

5)    Strata Tower

As anyone who’s glanced at London’s skyline in recent months knows, this electric-razor-shaped new building in Elephant and Castle has three wind turbines built into it.

These turbines are used to meet around 8 per cent of the building’s total energy needs. Strata Tower was designed by BFLS and engineered by WSP Group, and is the world’s first to feature “design-inherent” wind power (in other words, the first to have turbines built in, rather than bolted on).

There are a number of other green projects across London that may be notable by their absence from the above list.

6)    Runners up

Boris’s bike scheme was a contender – but its tangible impact in terms of emissions reduction remains uncertain.

Then there’s Thames Water’s desalination plant in Beckton – the first of its kind in the UK, but controversial with it.

Though the plant, which opened in 2010, runs on theoretically green biofuels, the idea of using energy to purify salty water from the Thames has angered many environmental campaigners – including Darren Johnson, a member of the London Assembly Green Party.

Ken Livingstone, who attempted to block the project when mayor, wasn’t keen either, calling it “energy-guzzling and carbon-intensive”.

Boris Johnson disagreed: “Thames Water has satisfied me that the desalination plant will minimise its impact on the environment by using renewable energy, and by being used only when absolutely necessary.”

What do you think? Disagree with our top five green projects? Let us know…

Readers' comments (1)

  • Damien Ducourty

    I've heard that the Strata Tower have a faulty design and that the turbine have never worked. Is it correct? Can you confirm? Or has it been fixed?

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