Getting rid of fossil fuels…

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As news of weather stations reading beyond the 400 parts per million of Carbon Dioxide comes in, I ask when and how will we be able to leave fossil fuels behind and therefore be able to avoid runaway global climate … Continue reading

Renewable energy grid…

Some good ideas for the energy grid across Europe and North Africa. The idea is to use the solar power from the N. African sites to counter-balance the production in Europe from wind, tidal and biomass. Part of the plan is that the two different production centres operate at different times of the year and day, with solar in the day, which is then supported by the other types at night.

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Solar panels hit 1 Mega Watt…!

It’s official, even following some months of fairly dull weather (it looks like the real summer was in March and April), our electricity generation from the solar panels has hit 1,000 KWh!

This is the same as one Mega Watt (1MW) and is enough energy to continuously boil a 3,000W kettle for more than 333 hours*!

* 1 unit of energy (1KWh) = 20 mins of boiling time for a 3,000W kettle, multiplied by 1,000 units, divided by 60 to convert into hours.

It’s an incredible milestone but it’s also worth considering that the total produced by our 1.72KW system will produce enough to cover maybe 3/5 of our total electricty use. We still use more than we can generate and the peak times are the opposite of when the sun is shining – the major inherent problem with solar as a reliable energy source!

Even considering this, it is still a major dent in our consumption and we have been effectively providing clean, renewable energy back into the grid for a whole year, which all of our neighbours have been using.

The other major positive is the Feed In Tariff of 43.3 pence per unit will mean we recieve £520 (if the total for the year hits 1200 units, which is realistic). Plus 3 pence per unit for the Export Tariff will also add into the total.

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Monbiot on nuclear…

I’ve just read 2 George Monbiot articles (1 from March last year, and the article linked), and I actually agree with both of them! Normally I hate his aggressive style but he seems to be turning that down a bit more recently.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/21/pro-nuclear-japan-fukushima

A good article, which puts forward a lot of realistic points, such as many people and groups exaggerating the dangers of radiation, the batteries which are needed to store the electricity that the renewables produce are still far off where they need to be, base load still needs to be established and nuclear had less impact than fossil fuel sources.

The first fossil fuel which countries are already turning to (or sticking with in many cases) is coal. I’ve read some estimates that there are over 300 years of world coal reserves, based on present usage. It is the most abundant fossil fuel and produces are large energy output. The infrastructure and technologies are already in place to exploit coal. It is also fairly cheap to extract and to process (certainly more than nuclear). All this leads to it being the top choice for many countries.

I said in the previous post about the latest nuclear technologies potentially being a solution. I’m still not convinced but it’s far better than coal or oil. Gas is also a poor choice, given it’s relatively limited reserve and the fact that natural gas is made up mostly of methane, which as a green house gas is more than 20 times as damaging as CO2.

The solution is to develop a mix of sources, with a continued emphasis on developing the renewable technology. The combination of solar and improved battery technology can work, it will just needs more time and investment.

If nuclear is ACTUALLY less polluting than coal, oil or gas, it should be seriously considered, particularly as renewable technology is not at the stage where it can contribute to the majority of the country’s power needs – I wish it could and hope one day it will be different!

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* since I posted this: not sure how I missed the reference but Monbiot’s article title… ‘Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power’, is a reference to Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’! A nod to humour there and I don’t believe he actually does ‘love’ nuclear.

Roof-top power station online…!

Well, we now have a power station on our roof!

In the words of Hannibal Smith (off the A-Team) – ‘I love it when a plan comes together!’

So, the PV solar panels have been successfully installed and most of the wiring has been completed. The one snag is that they’ll have to come back on Friday to finish off, but it’s nearly there. We’re one of the first homes in Gloucester City to get solar panels and it’s another major step in the life of the house! The panels take up almost the full width of the roof and maybe 2/3 of the slope from the eaves to the ridge.

The main issue was that the inverter (which converts the DC current produced by the panels to AC current which can be fed back into the grid and which most appliances use), wasn’t delivered to the Malmesbury (near Swindon) head office last Friday. This wasn’t necessarily a problem as they said it could be delivered to our house today. Problem was that the courier delivered it to Malmesbury! Not very useful there when the panels are being installed in Gloucester!

So, one of the installers got on the phone and gave them a bit of an ear full (this was all happening while I was checking out progress at the top of the scaffolding!). The supplier then said they would just taxi it over from Malmesbury to my place! Well, this was done but when the package arrived, it was damaged. So, they’ll be back on Friday with a new inverter which will (fingers crossed) finish off the installation.

Had a bit of shock when I got home and Claire started talking about planning permission being required for the panels if they were more than 30mm away from the roof! Well, we just checked and permission is needed if the panels are more than 200mm away from the roof! They’re actually about 190mm away and are on a metal frame, which is itself fixed through the tile roof and into the rafters underneath. All the holes have been sealed inside and around each fixing screw and there is also a rubber seal on top, so it should be water tight.

There’s also a very tempting looking red button by the fuse box! I’ve got visions of the panels ejecting off the roof if we press it though! : ) We’re going to have a full run through on Friday (I hope), so we should find out what it does then!

Overall, it was a very efficient installation and if the inverter had been any good the whole process would have been just a 9 to 5 job.

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