Wednesday, October 20, 2021

British Manufacturing and net zero

The power for the kick start for the Industrial Revolution was water. Arkwright’s mill in deepest Derbyshire was powered by water rushing down from the peaks. 

A little later, in Northumberland, a young William Armstrong walked through moors outside Newcastle and marvelled at the latent power in the streams. He would harness this hydraulic power in many of the machines he made, not least in the docks of New Grimsby. 

Later, William Siemens would harness water power to drive the generator he installed to light the Surrey town of Godalming.

Later still, the smelting of aluminium was made economically possible by the use of Scottish hydro-electric power. 

The Festival of Britain celebrated the potential of water power in the exhibition at Kelvin Hall in Glasgow. 

These are perhaps small examples from the history of British manufacturing which underline the age old fact that nothing is new. We had power before fossil fuels and will do so again once they have ceased to be used. 

It is though a question of scale. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Britain both exported more coal than any other country and imported more oil. What we now have a plenty are talented engineers ready to take on the challenge of net zero. 

The Duke of Devonshire’s artificial water fall at Chatsworth. It was the Devonshires who sold Barrow shipyard to Vickers. 

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