Bryan Lipscombe is the model environmentalist, spreading the message of renewable energy far and wide.
Whether it is solar power or wind power or installing insulation to cut household fuel bills, Chester-based Bryan is on hand to explain the complexities of the ‘green alternatives’ thanks to his interactive mobile display.
Exhibits include a working wind power model and an energy-efficient home, which has been built from an old doll’s house to demonstrate best practice on energy usage.
His project, called Sticky Exhibits, is aimed at building a collection of interactive models and props to raise awareness about environmental issues.
“There’s lot of opportunities you can take to save energy and there are lots of benefits,” declares Bryan.
“All the models are on a sustainable energy theme. We have got a house showing the electricity generated by solar power panels using a couple of meters.
“Then to show the energy savings in the house, people can use the motor and a light comes on where the electricity is being generated.”
The signing of the Paris Agreement last year heralds an international effort to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the impact of climate change.
While President Donald Trump may have announced his intention to withdraw the US from that agreement, there has been a marked change in direction in the policies of goverments elsewhere.
The French government, for example, has announced plans to stop using coal to generate electricity and ditch diesel and petrol vehicles in the long term.
Bryan, who is a member of the Chester Sustainability Programme, a coalition of environmental groups, says he has noticed a renaissance in interest in green issues locally.
But the volunteers who run Sticky Exhbits stress they are not out to evangelise, but to help people make informed choices about how they would like their energy generated in the future and how they can make the most of it in their own homes.
For example, before taking the plunge and investing in solar panels they may need to know about the changes in the solar-generated market in the UK.
The UK Government’s decision to cut subsidies available via the feed-in tariff to householders installing rooftop solar panels has had an impact, while for many people it would not be practical to install them anyway.
While another pollution-free source of energy, wind power, has come under tighter planning regulation.
But Bryan adds: “We are not trying to preach, it is just about starting the conversation about these topics and we have a good selection of models and props to do that.
“People are much more aware now than before. More solar panels are being installed on houses and there is more awareness about renewable energy.
“There is a need for more informal teaching on these issues, there is a lot of the attention is in schools. But we pick up a lot through our day jobs too and what we watch on TV.
“The grant system has changed with regard to solar and, while the price of panels has come down, the feed-in tariff to generate electricity for the grid is being phased out.
“Solar also depends on having a roof that is sunny and wind power more suits people out in the countryside. Permission is more difficult to get unless it is an offshore scheme where there has been a big expansion.
“But it is not just wind and solar, we are showing the sort of energy savings that can be made inside properties. For example, I choose to insulate my property better and I buy more electricity from renewable sources.
“We’re not promoting specific renewables for householders, we are just showing what is out there and how it works.”
Sticky Exhibits has attained status as a community interest company (CIC), which could help it get more funding to pay for professionally-designed exhibits and fund travel costs and storage.
“All the models have been made in different ways. Our energy house was actually made out of an old dolls’ house, but the wind model was professionally-made for us. Over time it’s a mixture of ones we’ve created and those we have been able to buy in,” explains Bryan.
“We have got a van with removable solar panels which we use to transport them in and we have a small unit in Ellesmere Port where we keep them – we are always looking for cheap, dry storage.
“The thing that inspired me initially was the nature of my work [with Wirral Council] which was about raising awareness of these issues, although I found it difficult to access equipment. If you are just standing there with leaflets people will tend to just walk past, so you need a presence.
“So we want to make sure people can access reasonable kit for this work as professionally-made exhibits can cost a couple of thousand pounds. It is far better to have them ready to travel around to more and more places – we have reached thousands of people all over the country.”
He says visits are planned for village fetes and bigger festivals; his team have been regulars at the Glastonbury Festival for several years, while the show has been taken on the road to venues as far afield as Whitchurch and Aberdeen.
The latest display came at an anti-fracking event in Ellesmere Port, which was organised to highlight fracking plans by energy firm IGas in Cheshire. These include seeking planning permission for a well at Ince Marshes which is also being suggested for a research centre for shale gas.
“We hadn’t been to a fracking rally before, but we had a really positive reception there. It just seems expanding our fossil fuel resources is a bit of a dead end.
“There are clear environment issues in promoting renewable energy and we’ve signed up to the Paris Agreement on climate change so that means we’ve got to cut our energy use by a huge percentage otherwise the writing is on the wall,” recalls Bryan, whose enthusiasm for renewable energy was sparked by studying environmental studies at school.
“It was an unusual subject and not every school did it at the time. I ended up doing a degree in environmental science at Bradford University and then went on to do a PhD at the University of Chester about sustainable energy and education, which relates to the project.
“There are things we can all do to reduce our carbon footprint. I ride a bike and travel to work on the train, while I walk pretty much everywhere.”
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