GREEN energy has come a long way since John Blyth installed the world’s first electricity-generating wind turbine to charge a battery at his holiday home in Scotland.

That was July 1887, and it was not until 1951 that the first utility grid-connected wind turbine to operate in the UK would be built in the Orkney Islands.

Two decades later and industrial scale wind generation was proposed, but progress has not been fast.

It was another 20 years before the first commercial windfarm opened in Cornwall.

Over the last 25 years public opinion has been mixed, especially for onshore wind farms, where residents at planning committees for contentious developments have claimed they will be a “blot on the landscape”, as well as citing concerns over efficiency, the effect they have on animals, the noise they emit and potential health risks.

Most fears appear to have been quelled, but to avoid “nimbyism”, they now tend to be built out at sea, and last year, wind power contributed to 18 per cent of the UK’s electricity generation.

Russell Edmonson, managing director of Tekmar Energy, which is based in Newton Aycliffe, says: “A lot of people don’t realise just how much electricity is produced.

“It is quite staggering how many wind farms there are, even in the UK, and the UK is the market leader for it.

“People do not realise it because they are over 20 miles away offshore.”

Tekmar Energy recently signed a contract with the world’s largest offshore wind developer Ørsted, to provide its patented cable protection systems for the Hornsea Two offshore wind farm.

The 30 metre-long systems, made from polyurethane and cast iron, connect to the seabed, and the cable to land, and the bottom of the wind turbine base, to prevent the thick wiring being damaged by the saltwater of the sea, tidal movement and storms.

The new wind farm will be made up of 165 turbines with a combined total capacity of 1.4 GW, providing clean electricity to well more than 1.3 million homes.

The sister project to Hornsea One, which has 170 smaller turbines, is set for completion in 2022 and Tekmar, which employs 115 people, will be providing 346 cable protection systems.


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Russell says: “Around 60 per cent of our revenue is in offshore renewables or wind farms.

“It is the only way to mass produce renewable technology. As an industry, it is growing at around 20 per cent per annum.

“What is very interesting is a lot of big developers are now competing at a zero subsidy level.

“They are undertaking projects with no subsidy from the Government and that means, as an industry, it is slowly transitioning from a Government decision to a commercial decision.

“It is opening up the rest of the world. Europe has led the way in offshore wind power and the technology has been developed and proven. Now the Americans are slowly starting to get on board and we are doing lot more work in Asia. It is very much a growing industry and there is huge potential.”

Tekmar was started by two Norwegian oil and gas industry divers in 1985 as an engineering and projects business, but over the last three decades has transitioned into making products on site and moved into renewables in 2008.

Wind turbines are made in mainland Europe by suppliers such as Siemens before blades are shipped and completed in Hull, but Russell says several companies in the North-East make up the rest of the supply chain.

He says the growing awareness of the need for green energy production means there is now plenty of scope for further opportunities for employment in the sector.

“The North-East is a hub for offshore companies,” he says. “You ultimately have pretty much everything you need, except the turbines, in the North-East to build a wind farm, which is pretty unheard of.

“You have everything from companies who are product suppliers to cable manufacturers to installers.

“There is an entire supply chain in the North-East. It is an industry that is growing so there is huge scope for job creation.

“It is very much a projects industry. We are very much driven by when these projects are green-lighted and how quickly they can go into production.

“The good thing about the renewables market is there is a lot of foresight in the pipeline so you can see what is coming from 12 to 24 months out.”

Source: The Northern Echo




By Andrew Thomas Chair of the International Hearing Access Committee (IHAC)

The building industry has long been aware of the need to create spaces that are accessible, and now the focus is on environments that are inclusive and integrate everyone’s needs.

Assistive listening technology is an essential part of inclusive design to make sure public buildings offer access to the 1 in 6 of the population who have hearing loss.

With a range of solutions available, and the growing popularity among individual users of digital options, it can be tempting to think that well-established technologies like hearing loops may be out of date and installing them now would be a waste of time and money.

The options

Induction or hearing loops are technology that originated in the 1950s yet despite their age, they still offer the best solution. They are the easiest system to use and the only one which is truly universal.

Specifiers can be reluctant to install these systems for fear they will be superseded by one of the burgeoning digital technologies in the very near future.

That’s not the case.

How hearing loops work

Hearing loop systems consist of copper cables, often concealed around the perimeter of a room, that transmit electromagnetic signals from a microphone or other sound source.

Telecoil couplers are small copper wire coils integrated in most hearing aids and cochlear implants. They pick up these electromagnetic signals enabling the user to hear the sound source clearly, cutting out distracting background noise.

For example, a delegate attending a conference may struggle to hear the presentation because of distance, reverberation and background noise in the room. With a hearing loop, they are able to hear the speaker’s voice clearly.

Their energy efficiency means they can be continually running, giving users access at any time. They are universal so no matter where in the world the hearing aid wearer comes from, they will be able to use them. Loops also have no latency which is critical when following an event where images or actions come together with sound.

Infrared and radio frequency systems are also widely used. These can cover large areas and are easier to retro fit but they do require accessories for the user to receive the sound. Their range can also be affected by bright sunlight, glass surfaces or congestion on the bandwidth the system is using.

The future?

Bluetooth offers wireless communication and its development already gives people with hearing loss a number of benefits. However, these are currently only on a personal level and not for large groups, or one to one situations, in public spaces.

Bluetooth can amplify the television or audio sources for users at home, and smartphone apps allow levels in their hearing aids to be altered with one touch.

But the accessories and the hearing aids have to be compatible and different brands won’t work with each other, making them unsuitable for groups of people.

The industry is working on developing a system that will offer standardised Bluetooth technology to allow people with hearing aids to connect to smart devices.

An agreement was formed between the European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (EHIMA) and Bluetooth Special Interest Group in 2014 to work together towards this.

However, Bluetooth’s development into a system that can serve groups of people in large areas is some way off.

According to the International Hearing Access Committee, a body comprising hearing aid manufacturers and consumer organisations, there’s unlikely to be significant change within the next 10 – 15 years and beyond.


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As well as a consensus of opinion needing to be reached on the preferred system, it would need to be thoroughly tested and then widely adopted before it could be regarded as mature and fit for use. A bandwidth for the signal to use would also need to be agreed.

In the meantime, public buildings need to comply with the requirements of the Equality Act and, ideally, the best practice recommendations for creating inclusive spaces as contained in BS8300.

Hearing loops still offer a simple and effective way to offer hearing access, and installed by a specialist engineer, they transform communication at hotel reception desks, conference rooms, at a retail service counter, in a theatre auditorium or a place of worship.

Planning an installation now, or for years to come, will not be a wasted investment whether for a new build or retrofit.

Totalling 11 million, people with hearing loss constitute the largest disabled group in the UK. And with an ageing population their numbers will continue to grow, so there is a clear business case for meeting their needs.

The wheel may be ’old’ technology but it is yet to be overtaken by hoverboards, jet packs or drones as a superior technology to move things from A to B.



Andrew Thomas is the Chair of the International Hearing Access Committee (IHAC) and the International Hearing Aid Manufacturers Association (IHLMA).

He is also the is the Market Development Director of Contacta Systems Ltd and has more than 30 years’ experience in the sector.


Scottish home builder Urban Union is encouraging greener living at its Muirton Living development in Perth by installing electric car charging points.

Delivering two charging points to the development, Urban Union hopes to encourage residents to consider opting for plug-in hybrid vehicles by giving them a convenient place to recharge them.

Plug-in hybrid vehicles combine petrol, diesel or alternative fuelled engines with a battery and electric motor, meaning they are more environmentally friendly, reducing air pollution by producing less harmful exhaust emissions.

Neil McKay, Managing Director at Urban Union said: “Cutting environmental emissions is something that all businesses and individuals should be moving towards. We wanted to make it easy for residents at Muirton Living to choose the environmentally friendly option, so that if they did decide to opt for a hybrid vehicle, they can easily plug it in to charge at the development.”

Andrew Kilpatrick, Director of Assets at Caledonia Housing Association said “Working with Urban Union to deliver the electric charging points provides another great environmental facility for the Muirton community. We are delighted to be launching a Muirton community electric car with Co Wheels later in the year which will be able use the charging points and provide convenient access to affordable transport for our Muirton residents.”

Muirton Living is home to a collection of immaculate properties including The Grant, a beautifully presented one bedroom apartment perfect for first time buyers. Available from £105,000, The Grant also comes with a variety of incentives including Help to Buy which enables first time buyers to purchase their home with only a 5 per cent deposit.

The development is ideally situated to make the most of the town’s many amenities, bars and restaurants making it the perfect place for young professionals.

For more information visit or call 0131 343 3391.