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24th April 2007
When I was first told about the greenhouse effect one of the first things I thought
was: never mind, technology is advancing so quickly that in the next couple
of years we will be a hydrogen economy relying on mostly renewable energy.
So far that hasn’t happened, although car manufacturers are sinking
huge amounts of money into hydrogen fuel cells and every couple of weeks
new advances in solar or hydrogen technology are announced.
I have recently been wondering what form these technologies will take in the
future and one possibility that occurred to me was the collapse of the ‘national
grid’. What if, instead of power being produced in central power stations
by large corporations and piped out to the country, power was produced by individuals
for their own and their communities use.
What technologies would be needed? There are two sides to the idea, become more
energy efficient and develop small scale renewable energy. For example, there’s
mundane things like well insulated loft and walls and energy saving lightbulbs.
The other side is more exciting, home grown renewable energy such as solar panels,
or fuel cell powered CHP plants, biomass powered boilers etc.
The advantage of all this over the current system is that CHP for example is
near 90% efficient. The national grid, on the other hand is only around 40% efficient,
a cost people bear in their utility prices. On top of this, the CHP plant would
also generate your heat so you would save on heating bills, the predicted cost
savings are good although the technology is not quite there yet.
Maybe in ten years time a power cut will just mean you have to go and give the
CHP a kick.
23rd April 2007
talking to people about energy efficiency improvements for the
home one of the most commonly heard phrases is: “I’d
love to but I don’t have the cash”. Well, if that’s
you the lib-dems are on your side. They’ve just announced
calls for what they have named an ‘energy mortgage’.
article from the BBC explains a little more but
the basic concept is a long term loan secured against your property
the purpose of buying energy efficiency measures.
The idea is that this loan effectively pays itself off in energy
savings, which sounds reasonable considering the annual savings
are estimated to be £385
for the average household.
Personally I think the idea is a good one, if the
energy savings really do pay for themselves over a relatively short period then
the main obstacle people face is cash flow, this should deal with that so it
should be a no lose situation. If the scheme realizes its full potential then
it should make a sizeable dent in the 27% of UK emissions from Home Energy, hopefully
saving around 31 million tons of Carbon Dioxide a year.
This sort of innovative, individually based approach is what is needed. Rather
than half-hearted blanket measures, such as raising airport tax, we need ways
to make ‘going green’ a viable and attractive option.
20th April 2007
For a long time now solar energy in the home has been something
reserved for the most stalwart of energy savers because the return
on investment is far longer than that seen with say the more widely
used energy savers of insulating your walls and loft. Also the
efficiency of solar energy has come into question due to the lack
of sunlight the lovely island of Britain receives.
while searching the web this morning I had found that researchers
at the University of California-Berkeley
and the US Department
of Energy have discovered a way of making solar energy almost 100%
efficient. They say that it’s all down to quantum mechanics
and using the same system as plants do for photosynthesis.
Also completely separately at Massey
in New Zealand their researchers have
found a way to harness solar energy at a tenth of the cost of silicon
based photovoltaic solar cells that
are generally used today.
If these two technologies were able to be fused into one then
this could spell the start of a solar revolution!
19th April 2007
was just browsing through a few of the more prominent papers environment
sections today and discovered this
article about a carbon
neutral village in Herefordshire. They’ve done some exciting
things, such as installing solar panels and a wind turbine on the
school but the real change is in small practical things like turning
off lights when they aren’t needed and buying energy saving
The interesting thing about the initiative is
that it is community led, we may laugh at the ‘Carbon Neutral Quiz’,
but what it represents is a community that has raised awareness
action about climate change; something the government has so far
failed to do on a national scale.
the governments lack of definitive action there are many of these
community movements such as The
Wasteless Society or FreeCycle which
are trying to tackle climate change at the community level.
To me this is very encouraging, it means that peoples mindsets
are changing, something also reflected in the wide exposure given
to climate change in the media. People are becoming more and
more conscious of the issue, I think we’re still in with
a chance to save the planet.
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