Thursday, 23 February 2012

‘Renewable Heat Incentive is Rubbish’

, is what someone would say who lived on GJ 1214b. It is one of many planets orbiting stars in other solar systems that have been found over the past twenty years. At 200oC (392oF) and with a confirmed high presence of water this is a truly exotic place where your cocktail might be poured over ‘hot ice’ after an afternoon’s surfing on ‘super-fluid’ waves.

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Thursday, 16 February 2012

Ground Source Heat Pumps – Tapping the Energy of the Universe

Geothermal energy – the life blood for ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) – is often described as solar power stored in the ground but that is not even half the story. From a depth of about 15 metres (49 feet) into the earth temperatures become quite stable. In other words they don’t fluctuate much throughout the year and are independent of the variations we experience on the surface with the seasons. In Britain the range is between 7oC – 15oC (45oF – 59oF). From hereon down this increases by 2.6oC (4.6oF) every 100m.

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Friday, 10 February 2012

Eco Renovation – Are Old Buildings Plight or Remedy?

A Wasting Disease

Part of being more careful with the environment and our impact on it is not to be so wasteful. Energy is an ever present element in this. That can be directly by leaving the door open in the middle of winter or indirectly when food that was never going to be eaten is thrown away and the gadget that has lost its novelty appeal ends up in the bin while still working perfectly.

All these will be replaced – the heat that has escaped, the leftovers that have been forgotten in the fridge for so long they jump out and strangle you, the i-Whatsit whose one major fault is that it is last year’s model. And every time wasting energy is inescapable, because we use it when we try to stay warm, go to shops to buy something new that wasn’t necessary, that certain something is being produced.

The same goes for throwing away buildings. When there is talk about eco-friendly houses normally we are thinking of property not even built yet. The growing trend of reducing our impact on the environment concentrates on the latest technologies and discoveries. ‘New’ and ‘better’ are words uttered in the same breath by politicians, developers and environmentalists with unfailing regularity – groups not usually known for the harmony between them.

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Friday, 27 January 2012

Small Scale Wind Power

There is a ‘Windy City’ (Chicago), the ‘Windy Isle’ (Fuerteventura), and from own experience I can vouch for the fact that there is nothing much to the west of New Zealand that would slow down a breeze. Antarctica takes some beating, though. Officially the coldest and driest place on Earth it is also the windiest. Some regions experience an average speed of 40 miles per hour (64km/h) over the year. Imagine the wind chill factor with even summer temperatures struggling to reach a not so balmy 20o Fahrenheit (-6.7o Celsius).

Moving air is a steady feature on our planet, which is why it has been used to generate electricity since the late 19th century. Despite this wind power remained a niche, mainly used on boats to recharge batteries. As a serious contender in the clean-green-energy stakes it has become a main force only over the past 20 to 25 years but goodness me it has made its mark.

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Friday, 20 January 2012

Fuel out of Thin Air – Science Fiction or Carbon-Neutral Future?

An Old Lodger

Nowadays even toddlers know carbon dioxide (CO2). Open a newspaper and you can’t help falling over it. As an Earth dweller it has ancient rights. Scientists reckon it arrived here with comets and other celestial bodies that ploughed into our young planet.

It has had some bad press lately but to see it only in a negative light is unfair, dangerous even. CO2 has many uses. For a start it helped to stabilise a liveable atmosphere at a time when things were too toxic for anything but a few algae. Plants could not survive without it, and neither could anything that depends on them, which includes us. Dough rises because of CO2, it is used to decaffeinate coffee and can extinguish fires. It being a normal component of human blood, too low a concentration is even harmful.

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Friday, 13 January 2012

The Environmental Account of Rail Travel

Dirty Pleasure

‘Murder on the Orient Express’, ‘Some Like it Hot’, ‘The Lady Vanishes’ – some of the greatest movies featured trains as settings for romance, mischief and mystery. No wonder, the confinement of the enclosed space while thundering along adds a sense of inescapability and tension. Accompany that with a steam engine and it’s heaven for those with a fondness for nostalgia.

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Sunday, 08 January 2012

The Weird and Wonderful World of Alternative Energy

Where a new invention promises to be useful, it ought to be tried” This piece of advice by Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States of America, seems to be heeded by a vast number of people in the search for the clean energy that we are all craving. When I do the background research for my articles I come across all kinds of ideas, projects and technologies. Some are well advanced, others are novel and daring, but a few look outright weird.

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Friday, 30 December 2011

The Sustainable Future of Aviation – Biofuel at 38,000 Feet

The ambition to be able to go from anywhere to everywhere probably is as old as mankind. Thanks to technological advances it has turned into more than just a fantasy. Victorian traveller Phileas Fogg still used ships for long passages, but the transformation from journeys for those blessed with infinite patience into global accessibility was down to the aeroplane. Mind you, if you ask people stuck in a queue for security checks at an airport now, they will tell you that everything has gone into reverse and endurance is a desirable trait once more if you want to get farther than the end of your street.

Not that this seems to discourage too many people. Even in these commercially difficult times for airlines some might fail but many survive and the next growth phase for air travel is said to be on the horizon. At the moment the five percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that aviation is responsible for looks small in comparison to heating and electricity generation. Once the financial problems in Europe and America will be over, buoyed additionally by demand in growing economies, this will increase, though. So what is someone supposed to do who wants or needs to travel and is concerned about the environment?

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Saturday, 17 December 2011

Pros and Cons of Sheep Wool Insulation

I really don’t envy the Babylonians. Apparently, about 6000 years ago they wore one of the earliest examples of cloth woven from sheep wool. Going by some of my sweaters it is no wonder they became the byword for everything nasty. All that itching and scratching must have driven them mad.

Even so, since this isn’t a blog about apparel, why should wool be a topic at all? The reason is we cannot talk about renewables and forget conserving energy. For someone with a heart for ecology both go hand in hand.

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Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Rise and Fall of Biodiesel

Do you think defining biodiesel is easy? After all, it seems logical to see it simply as a fuel that is derived from renewable oils in contrast to fossil sources and be done with it. Of course, things are not quite that simple. The substances that a diesel engine can use vary in terms of their natural base material and the processes to manufacture them. This is not to make it more complicated. On the contrary, it gives me the opportunity to lay down a couple of ground rules so we all have the same starting point from which to tackle this subject. Especially, since the terms biodiesel and biofuel are sometimes used interchangeably. Therefore

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Welcome to PM on Renewables

This is the hub for renewable energy and those who use it. Whether you are an individual or someone representing a business come here to get information, discuss and engage. To give it flavour it will often be spiced up by my own views. So while the information will be as objective as possible, the treatment might not be.

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