renewable energy

A Pyramid of Bullshit

A California man has been sentenced to 6 years and 9 months for a scam where he took money from investors for non-existent anaerobic digestors at big dairy farms. In classic pyramid scheme style, money from later investors paid out imaginary dividends to earlier ones.

Let’s go geothermal

Some of the worst off parts of the country are also the best placed for geothermal plants. It should be a no-brainer to use the resources to help those areas and reduce the country’s carbon footprint. I’m not holding my breath on a Tory government doing anything that sensible though.

Newcastle professor says UK could produce 100% of its energy from renewable sources

Using the Internet of Things to cut energy use.

“In the years to come every household appliance will have its own IP address linking it to the internet and allowing it be controlled from an app on our smart phones,” he said.

This so-called ‘internet of things’ will allow us, and the network operator, to tailor demand to accommodate the unreliability of renewable energy.

“If the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining then we may be asked to use less electricity and our pre-programmed appliances will react as instructed,” explained Prof Taylor.

Source: Newcastle professor says UK could produce 100% of its energy from renewable sources

Lagoon Power!

I like the sound of this plan- creating tidal lagoons to generate electricity. Previous tidal power proposals included stringing a barrier all the way across the Severn, which was just too big and destructive a plan to be taken seriously (which is probably why it appealed to politicians desperate to pretend they were serious about renewable power).

There are six lagoons planned, including one in West Cumbria, but I don’t remember the coastline of my youth well enough to guess where they’d put it.

Germany Sets New Record, Generating 74 Percent Of Power Needs From Renewable Energy | ThinkProgress

On Sunday, Germany’s impressive streak of renewable energy milestones continued, with renewable energy generation surging to a record portion — nearly 75 percent — of the country’s overall electricity demand by midday. With wind and solar in particular filling such a huge portion of the country’s power demand, electricity prices actually dipped into the negative for much of the afternoon, according to Renewables International.

In the first quarter of 2014, renewable energy sources met a record 27 percent of the country’s electricity demand, thanks to additional installations and favorable weather. “Renewable generators produced 40.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, up from 35.7 billion kilowatt-hours in the same period last year,” Bloomberg reported. Much of the country’s renewable energy growth has occurred in the past decade and, as a point of comparison, Germany’s 27 percent is double the approximately 13 percent of U.S. electricity supply powered by renewables as of November 2013.

Observers say the records will keep coming as Germany continues its Energiewende, or energy transformation, which aims to power the country almost entirely on renewable sources by 2050.

Germany Sets New Record, Generating 74 Percent Of Power Needs From Renewable Energy | ThinkProgress.

Balcombe energy co-op: we aim to take power back from the corporations –

Community energy schemes sound brilliant. The country needs more money pumped into supporting them, but as they take money away from big businesses, that may take quite a fight.

Clean energy, generated locally. Surplus energy sold back to the grid. Residents free to invest as little as £250, and promised an annual return of 5%. Further profits placed in a community benefit fund to pay for local facilities or energy saving technologies for local people in fuel poverty. Britain’s community renewable sector is tiny but it is growing. More than 40 community schemes currently offer just 66MW of installed capacity but there is another 200MW of community energy in development.

via Balcombe energy co-op: we aim to take power back from the corporations | Life and style |

BBC News – Battery advance could boost renewable energy take-up

While flow battery designs are suited to storing large amounts of energy cheaply, they have previously relied on chemicals that are expensive or difficult to maintain, driving up costs.

Most previous flow batteries have chemistries based on metals. Vanadium is used in the most commercially advanced flow battery technology, but its cost is relatively high. Other variants contain precious metal catalysts such as platinum.

The researchers say their new battery already performs as well as vanadium flow batteries, but uses no precious metal catalyst and has an underlying chemistry that is metal-free, instead relying on naturally abundant, more affordable chemicals called quinones.

BBC News – Battery advance could boost renewable energy take-up.

The coming energy gap 2

The government’s new energy adviser has warned of a potential energy shortage by 2016, as old coal and oil power stations are taken out of use. He blames public opposition to new wind farms, nuclear plants etc. for slowing the building of renewable energy sources.

I’ve got a solution for this, which I have put forward before. It’s partly a bribe, but it’s also a way of cutting the national energy bill and promoting renewables. The government should extend its schemes for subsidising houseowners’ efforts to cut consumption and begin microgeneration. As more people become eligible for insulation or solar grants they will see the benefits of lower consumption in their bank accounts. Not only will this go viral and convince ever more people that they need to work toward energy independence, it will make them more open to larger renewable energy schemes.

Paying out more, and larger, grants to homeowners will be more expensive in the long term than just trying to force through wind farms or nuclear against current levels of opposition, but it will also have more immediate positive effects. Those who take advantage of the schemes will see a benefit in their fuel bills within a quarter and a large proportion of the money paid out will go to small companies, keeping them afloat in the recession and finding its way back into the economy faster than a huge sum to a big construction conglomerate would.

What should the US do with General Motors?

The United States government has bailed out General Motors and now holds a majority stake in the company. Should they use that power to demand some serious changes to the company’s output and outlook? Michael Moore has a vision for a reconfigured GM that involves mass transit and renewable energy.

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A letter from John Leech MP

This is the first response to my enquiry about microgeneration grants, actually an email-

Dear Mr Pattinson,

Thank you for your email. I am happy to chase the issue up for you, but if you are interested in investing in renewable energy yourself, you may also like to refer to the grants section of the Energy Saving Trust’s website ( where you can find details of grants that you may be able to apply for to help with the cost of any such home improvements.

In the meantime, I will chase up you enquiry with the Rt Hon Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and I will be in touch again once I receive a reply.

In the meantime, however, please feel free to contact me if you think I can be of any further assistance on this or any other matter.

Yours sincerely,

John Leech

The link to the Energy Savings Trust is useful, a quick search took me to for renewables. It looks a lot like the last renewables grant scheme has been relaunched and I just missed it. Householders have until June 2010 to apply, so start working out what you need.

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Prepare yourself for the green economy

The UN estimates that there could be millions of green jobs created as the industry grows in the next few years. They call for subsidies to speed up the creation of these green jobs, but also acknowledge that the market will shift in that generation anyway as the cost of gas and oil continues to rise.

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Advice for Gordon- save the world by bribing the voters

I don’t have any particular interest in Gordon Brown staying on as Prime Minister, he’s possibly worse than Blair because he’s too much of a coward to actually do anything radical. If he were, however, to suddenly develop a spine and display some of the savvy he claims to have there are ways he could get re-elected, boost the economy and start taking big steps towards hitting carbon dioxide reduction targets.

All he has to do is bribe the electorate.

A small number of people choose to ignore the evidence on global warming and will shout about any environmental initiatives no matter that they often have benefits beyond the green. Let’s just ignore them. Others are determined to cut their footprint no matter what. These converts deserve rewarding, and will be as a bonus of what I’m suggesting. The largest number of people, across a range of scepticism to understanding, aren’t going green because of the initial expense. Also for many of them when Gordon says “Green” they hear the word “Tax”.

Give these people the money to go green.

The recent announcement of a £100billion green initiative by Brown did mention solar power and other grants. What’s needed is for these to be big enough to cover most of the cost of installing panels, insulation or whatever is needed, because at present the payback in reduced bills isn’t enough. Most people would be better off leaving their money in the bank and earning interest. It would also help the uptake if the rates to sell electricity back to the suppliers were better. Let’s say that power companies should write off one unit of power consumed for every unit generated- in summer or on a windy day the house could pay for the electricity it used when it was cloudy or still. After the bill balances then the microgenerator can still sell to the power company at, say, half the price per unit they were being charged.

As important as increasing the grants and improving buy back is selling them properly. Emphasis should be put on giving money back to the consumer and making them independent of big suppliers. Gordon’s too dull to do this well, so he’d have to hope he could find a minister who could do it for him. The Tories have already figured out that this is a good sell, with proposals for feeding landfill savings back to households that recycle more. Their ideas about modifying the tax on petrol are based on a similar idea but seem half baked at best.

Of course, per kilowatt generated and ton of CO2 saved an increase in the scope and size of grants for microgeneration will be far more expensive than offshore wind or any other scheme. But no-one ever seems to think about where this money will go. The workers who install photovoltaics, groundsource pipes etc. will all be based in Britain. With a bit of encouragement the companies creating the equipment could all be British as well. They’ll all pay tax on their increased income, and boost the economy with their spending, as will the households now with extra cash from the electricity they’re saving and generating.

Of course the main reason a scheme like this won’t go ahead is because it will do the one thing all politicians are terrified of- it will allow the electorate to become less dependent on the state and the big businesses that pay for all the lobbying.

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Energy independence begins at home

Gordon Brown has announced a £100billion renewable energy plan. The Daily Mail and its readers have reacted as you’d expect, ignoring the boost to the economy from all the jobs created and the opportunities through grants to go energy independent.

So, those of you who can, I’d recommend stealing a jump on the whingers and using their tax money to go off grid. When I researched grants for solar panels last month I found that the existing scheme had been phased out, which was annoying. I’m now willing to give Brown the benefit of the doubt and hope this was because they were gearing up to a new and improved scheme. It isn’t easy. I’m not as obnoxiously and knee-jerkingly anti Brown/New Labour as the Mail’s readers, but past performance does mark the Government as untrustworthy.

The schemes for householders will be announced later this Summer. I’ll be looking out for them and will try to do some number crunching on them when they arrive.

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The power of cheese

An Austrian cheese factory now gets some of its power from a gas burner that uses methane released when whey is heated. The system, created by a Rochdale business, is dual fuel, switching to piped natural gas when methane production is too low, and has helped the factory cut its carbon footprint by 30%.

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Using Africa's sun to power Europe and provide fresh water

Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan has proposed a grand solar power scheme to the European Union. Using cheap land on the African and Middle Eastern coasts of the Mediterranean, a string of concentrating solar power stations could be constructed to generate power for local towns and Europe and run desalination plants to provide fresh water.

It’s another grand scheme, and I’m dubious of grand schemes, but it has the benefit of being made up of lots of smaller components. Rather than waiting a decade for one big power plant to come online, as with nuclear or plans like the Severn Estuary barrier, saller plants can be built in shorter time periods and start making a difference immediately.

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Gordon Brown's climate cowardice

I’ve been away for a while, sorry about that. (And I flew across the Atlantic whilst I was away, I’ll have to look into offsets.) But I’m back again now, and with something to really rant about.

Ministers are drawing up plans to abandon plans and promises to drastically increase Britain’s renewable energy production. Faced with some expense and a bit of hard work, new New Labour (or whatever we’re supposed to call them now Gordon’s in charge) want to bottle out and go home. So they’re trying to team up with Poland and others to try and have the targets turned down before the final draft goes through.

Some of the reasoning behind this move is nonsensical to say the least.

One of the main objections of government to meeting the renewables target set by Mr Blair is that it will undermine the role of the European emission trading scheme. This scheme was devised by the Treasury under Mr Brown and allows wealthy governments to pay others to reduce emissions. “[Meeting the 20% renewables target] crucially undermines the scheme’s credibility … and reduces the incentives to invest in other carbon technologies like nuclear power”, say the papers.

Investment in reducing emissions is going to harm investments in reducing emissions? That doesn’t make any sense.

Gordon could find the estimated £4billion a year required to make the change, probably quite easily. For one thing he could stop funding terrorism by bringing all of our troops back from Iraq and coming up with a more coherent plan for Afghanistan. He could create a multi billion pound industry in this country by subsidising start ups in the renewables sector (who’ll than employ lots of people and pay masses of tax). And he could champion smaller, local, schemes that aren’t as doomed as resurrecting nuclear power or hopelessly long term as a Severn barrage. Mini barrages up and down tidal estuaries might be an idea. Or community geothermal schemes. Taxing/ banning incandescent bulbs and putting a rebate on compact fluorescents would help cut the country’s energy needs drastically, as would increasing the standards for new build homes.

There’s so much that could be done that would pay back so quickly. I fear our political class lacks imagination and spines.

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Wood- the once and future fuel

Wood pellet stoves may not have the romance of a log fire or solid fuel stove (my parents just got a Rayburn, which I haven’t seen yet, but they’re surrounded by a near free supply of downed trees and off cuts), but they could be as near to carbon neutral as an energy solution gets.

A few thoughts-

How are the factories making these pellets powered?  If they can close the circle and have a combined heat and power system on site powered by some of the pellets produced that will be brilliant.

The fuel will never be entirely carbon neutral until the chainsaws are powered by ethanol and every vehicle used runs on biodiesel.  But that’s being picky, it’s still a hell of a lot closer than anything else, and they could always plant excess trees to offset production costs.

How clean do these stoves burn?  A lot of Britain is now smoke-free zone, which has to hinder the uptake of solid fuel.  I imagine as they become more efficient the stoves create less smoke.

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