Wednesday, December 27, 2006

More on the Tesla roadster

The BBC ran a story on the tesla roadster recently - there's speculation that it'll be available in the UK for about £50,000 in 2008. Start saving :-)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Carbon Trading

Ebico do a handy online CO2 calculator which takes your energy usage details and has a guess at how much CO2 you produce - in my case, it's about 6 tonnes per year. They then go on to suggest that you buy CO2 credits to cover it. I'm not entirely convinced by that - the theory is, because you are buying the credits from the general industrial trading scheme, you are capping the amount that industry as a whole is allowed to produce. But the caps are fairly generous, and people wouldn't be selling them if they needed to produce that amount of pollution. And if a company starts polluting more, who's going to stop them - or measure it precisely enough to prove it ?

I would have thought it would be far better to spend the money on renewables schemes, or planting trees, or sending Goats to Chili, or on a few low energy lightbulbs - otherwise you're just lining the pockets of some market trader with no net practical outcome. In particular, a quick google for 'carbon scheme' came up with a stack of articles entitled 'carbon scheme doomed' and similar.


A report has come out recently suggesting that recycling is saving 10-15 million tonnes of CO2 per year, and that we are now recycling nearly a third of rubbish. A couple of years back, there were claims that recyling was 'burning trees to reuse trees' - ie, that it was pointless and we should just make stuff and put it in landfill. I suspect the people making those claims are the same ones moaning about new landfill sites. To be fair, I think their arguement was based on people driving 5 miles once per week with a few newspapers to recycle, which is clearly daft.

Our council are apparently going to replace all our wheelybins with compartmentalised ones - to help lazy people sort their rubbish. One of our neigbours always fills their bin to the brim - there's usually a wadge of paper or something recyclable or compostable preventing the lid from closing - and there's only one person in their houshold. We've got a baby (about the most un-environmental think you can do!) and we only produce a third of the rubbish - mainly just through sorting out paper, glass and cardboard. The new scheme claims to take plastic bottles as well - excellent news as there hasn't been anywhere local that could do that - and I'm not going to drive miles to the nearest plastic recycling plant!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Carbon neutral housing

The government has finally made some attempt to change the building standards in the UK to be more ecologically sound. This is good news as there seems to have been little improvement in housing technology in the 100 years. A new proposal from Communities and Local Government secratary Ruth Kelly will require new homes to be carbon neutral by 2016. Houses will also be given a star rating for energy efficiency and zero emmision homes will be exempt from stamp duty. It is hoped this will act as an incentive for property developers.

Housing accounts for 27% of the carbon produced in the UK so this move could be a major part of the government's attempt to reduce carbon emmisions by 60% by 2050.

The BBC story can be found here.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Electric car cont'd

Found an even nicer looking electric car - the Tesla Roadster.

How annoying it this ? According to the FAQ, they are built by Lotus in the UK (thought the backend looked familiar) and shipped over to the US. They have no intention whatsoever to sell them over here *groan*. For a performance car, they're not even that expensive - $92,000 .

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


245 bhp

0-60 in 4.3 seconds

range about 200km

Looks, well, rather nice I think. It's the venturi fetish - costs about £300k or thereabouts. Oh, and it's electric.

Yup, you read right - someone has built a proper electric car that's road worthy, isn't just 'not slow' but actually 'really fast' and looks like a proper car. OK, it looks like a proper sports car, but the point is, it doesn't look like one of those stupid concept cars that are designed to look futuristic and end up looking like something from either thunderbirds or the teletubbies.

That's a real pet peeve of mine - just because a car uses an electric power source, why on earth should it look like anything other than a normal car ? No, the designers insist on making them look completely stupid.

There's a film coming out called who killed the electric car, looking into why GM crushed all their electric cars. Basically the public think that all electric cars are milkfloats, requiring 16 hours to charge, range 30 miles and top speed of 5 mph. The fact is, since the 1890s when the first electric cars were about, the technology has got far, far better than that. Even in the early 1900s, 20mph was quite normal for an electric vehicle, which was comparible with internal combustion driven cars at the time. Now, they are at least as good in most respects - just the cost of the batteries to sort out now !

And before anyone asks 'filling up a petrol car is really easy' - well, if you're out and about, that is true - however, you can't fill up with petrol at home, or at work. Swings and roundabouts I guess, but if I could plug the car in for a few hours and get 200 miles in the tank, well, that's as far as I really want to drive in a day so that would be enough.

speeding ticket

Just discovered an electric car in the US recently got aspeeding ticket. It is suspected that it's a publicity stunt, though it's a good'un. is a good looking uk based blog about electric transport; headover and take a look.

On the same site is a list of electric cars which kind of proves my earlier point about how stupid people make them look. There are about three or four on there I wouldn't be ashamed to own; the rest look utterly ridiculous - imagine the smart car with all the style removed, crossed with that BMW motorbike with the roof and you'll get an inkling...

Solar generation getting more cost effective

The payback time on photovoltaics is getting better. Not, you might thinkk, because economies of scale are making the manufacturing process cheaper. Not because they are getting more efficient. Nope, it's because the unit cost of electricity generated by other means is going up *groan*.More here.

I spotted a letter in the guardian today - complaining about the 'hidden' CO2 emmissions of wind turbines. Yup, the anti wind league is now bleating on about the energy used to make the 'wretched things' - for example in the concrete bases. Funny that, what do coal fired power stations use for foundations then ? I don't think they publish the enbergy payback time for fossil fuel plants.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Abandon hope. We're doomed.

Tom DeWeese ( the president of the american policy centre ) said:

"To save liberty in America, Sustainable Development must be stopped."

"And I will tell you now, if you want to keep your guns, your property, your children and your God… if you love liberty… Then Sustainable Development is your enemy!"

Obviously 'Sustainable Development' could have been replaced with almost anything. Simply slot in your least favourite religious, racial or idealistic group and repeat. Still, this seems to be official American policy now. (insert favourite deity) help us all.

[ more here ]

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Energy Statistics

From the Ecotricity website:

"It is worth noting that a 1994 briefing note from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee identified that each unit of electricity produced from fossil fuels, such as coal, results in excess of 860g of carbon dioxide, 10g of sulphur dioxide and 3g of nitrogen oxides being produced."

Impovements in solar power

The problem with solar panels is that they cost too much and produce too little electricity per square meter. An example of this problem can be seen with major high street stores selling panels for £10,000 that will save £200/year. Most consumers don't want to spend on a micro-generation system that will pay for itself in 50 years (if it lasts that long). To be commercially viable pv solar panels need to undergo a dramatic reduction in cost, a dramatic increase in efficiency or both.

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have created solar panels that generate from a greater range of the EM spectrum. By doping a zinc-manganese-tellurium alloy with oxygen atoms they have produced a solar panel that responds to lower energy photons. This panel has an estimated efficiency 45%. Find out more here.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Old smoke detectors

We've had a smoke detector fail. I'm sure it's not 7500 years since it was installed; that being the half-life of the radioactive material they use to make them.

So, what do you do with a busted smoke alarm ? Apparently the best thing to do is throw it in the rubbish bin - that seems to be the recommended practice. The radioactive material costs about £1000 per gram, so you can imagine how little of it there is in the smoke alarm (clue: about 0.0002g). Allegedly it's even safe to swallow it - it doesn't get absorbed by the gut as it's not soluble in water or fat, so apart from a few stray gamma rays passing straight through you, there should be no harm done.

Still, I'm not entirely comfortable with chucking it into landfill - or even incineration.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

eco cad package

Ecotect is a package that lets you design a building and work out the environmental impact of it. Not had chance to test it yet but it looks good. Allegedly works under WINE on Linux too though I've never had much success with that on any non-trivial application!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Pledge Bank

Re-discovered pledgebank today, and signed up to one by Steve Jalim to 'replace all of the traditional light bulbs in my home with low energy versions'.

Click on to show your support.

Steve Jalim's pledge will close on 31st December 2006 and it currently needs the support of 60 people before it goes into action.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Sweden is aiming to be independant of oil for energy and transport by 2020 - without resorting to nuclear power. They city climate change and the cost of oil increaing as supplies run out. I feel a letter to my MP coming on... See here for a report from the Swedish government on this.

New links

I've added a bunch more links on the side bar. Go on, spend a lunch break browsing :-)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Underground homes

Interesting article on - about building non-conventional housing. Has a chunk on building underground and also on treehouses.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Special offers

1. If you sign up to Abel and Cole and mention us, we get some free wine :-) Contact ant at loadtrax dot com if you want to get us drunk

2. If you sign up to Ecotricity and select the Global Action Plan link, they'll match your current supplier's rate, and donate £15 to Global Action Plan. We found out because earlier in the year we wrote a cheque to GAP and they never got round to cashing it.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Let's go fly a kite

Researchers in Italy have developed a new a form of wind turbine called KiteGen. The vertical axis turbine uses power kites. The kites are computer controlled by winches that are able to adjust the altitude (up to 2000m) and orientation continually to give optimum performance. Also with the assistance of radar the kites can avoid aircraft and even birds. The researchers believe a 100 metre diameter KiteGencould provide up to 500 MW at about £1 per GWh, the current average cost for electricity generation in Europe is about £30 per GWh. They also envision a KiteGen 2000 metres in diameter that could generate 5GW.

Here is an artist's impression: -

The official site (mostly in italian) is here, an interview with the disigner is here and an article about it on Wired News is here.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Solar stuff

Mini solar update, from - Corus, you remember, British Steel that sold most of itself to a Dutch consortium and then sold itself in its entirity to an Indian firm - they are going into the integrated solar roofing market with PowerFilm

BP are investing heavily in the Chinese solar market

Cardiff is the new home of G24 Innovations, who will be manufacturing very high efficiency solar panels

So despite the lack of interest from Westminster, the market for renewables in the UK is looking better.

I've discovered that having a 2kw electric heater in a 2.5m x 3m shed, with all the insulation I've put in, is serious overkill; it went from being freezing cold to unbearably hot inside two minutes. It seems that my PC chucking out about 150W, is more than enough to keep the room comfortably warm.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tesco's carrier bag craziness

Tesco have recently begun a campaign to reduce the number of carrier bags people use. They have a launched television adverts containing famous people transporting their shopping in alternative containers that are in some way humorously related to the line of work that made them famous (Whoever thought of showing Alan Titchmarsh transporting his shopping in a wheel barrow is clearly a genius.). They are also offering extra loyalty card points to anyone bringing their own bags into the supermarket.

Don't get me wrong, this is a good thing and I applaud any effort to reduce our use carrier bags. The environmental damage caused by discarded carrier bags cannot be underestimated. While in Tenerife I heard about a turtle that had been pulled out of the ocean with 5kg of plastic bags inside it (It is surprising how many millions of carrier bags are estimated to be drifting through the worlds oceans and also how similar they appear to jellyfish if you are a hungry turtle.).

What I don't understand is why if they are so keen to reduce the use of these bags does the Tesco online groceries always arrive in carrier bags despite being in reusable crates. Why also do their shiny new self service checkouts force you to use their carrier bags. I understand that these checkouts use scales to detect when an item has been put in the bag but if the scales where tared when you press the start button you could put you own bag own the scales beforehand.

I have searched my local Tesco's as well as their website and have not found a place where I can post a suggestion to have this changed. Any ideas?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Global Cooling ??

Hmmm, a group of russian researchers have come to the conclusion that we are heading for a mini ice age, and soon - good news for skiers but possibly a problem for anyone north of, say, Madrid.

Richard Branson hurls cash at environment

Spotted this piece on the BBC today - Sir Richard Branson is apparently going to hand over all the profits from his travel businesses to go to environmental research, via a company called Virgin Fuels - in the region of three billion dollars. Looks like they're starting off with ethonol etc sourced from biological processes - makes sense, as that could easily replace diesel in his trains, for example. Some prop drivel aircraft (see here) can run on a bio-diesel blend already, so with a bit of research cash it could be used for shorthaul flights too.

Well done Richard Branson, for having the courage and the cash to make a stand on the environment. Lets hope that a few more multibillionaires have the same idea; clearly the governments aren't interested so as usual scientific progress is up to a few people with the will and the cash to do it.

Now if someone could bung an odd million or so towards equipment for the Great Ormond Street neonatal unit, I'd be really happy :-)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Greenpeace looses its taste for juice pt3

Here is NPower's explaination. They were trying to correct an error in the government calculations for reduced UK carbon emmisions :-0


Good afternoon Mr Payne,

Thanks for your email.

Earlier in the year all European countries published figures for reductions in the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from power stations. However, the UK Government miscalculated its figures for the basis of these reductions. As a result npower, together with other energy businesses, decided to initiate legal action against the European Commission to get approval for this major error to be corrected.

Although Greenpeace understands our position, they are completely opposed to any increase in the level of CO2 emissions. On this fundamental point of principle we have been unable to find common ground and, as a result, the formal relationship between us will end in August.

Although Greenpeace will no longer formally endorse Juice, they will be happy to recommend it as the best non-premium green electricity product.

Trust this has answered your query.


Steven Wright
Correspondence Department
Midlands Electric
tel: 0845 166 3443

new solar panel manuf facity

A few people have figured out how to print solar panels, and with a little backing from people like the founders of Google and Swiss Re.

They hope to get up and running next year, producing panels at about a tenth of current prices. How long then before we can actually /afford/ (as cash stapped proles) to use solar extensively for domestic power production ?

Tornado powered ? describes a method of harnessing the energy from a man-made tornado to generate electricity - no mean feat if they can pull if off.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

more ski

Found a bit more about Les Gets and their solar powered lifts. They claim to have a number of envi9ronmentally friendly policies, frmo the elimination of cars to managing water supplies more effectively. Here is their website.

Cynics might say that the ski resorts are jumping on the environmental bandwagon and duping 'rich' punters into staying somewhere the wouldn't otherwise stay. Every little helps though, and it would be nice to go boarding in a mountain that doesn't smell of diesel...

That's another pet peeve of mine - why is skiing seen as a rich man's sport in the UK, whereas in countries with mountains it's just what people do in the winter to keep themselves amused ? I blame the british ski club...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Greenpeace looses its taste for juice pt2

Here is the reply from Greenpeace

Hello Colin,

Thank you for your enquiry regarding Greenpeace's relationship
with Juice and npower.

As you know, for the past five years we have been working with
npower to promote Juice, a green electricity scheme linked to
offshore wind. Partly as a result of Juice the UK's first offshore
wind farm was built at North Hoyle off North Wales. The green
electricity market has also been transformed and now several
non-premium tariffs are available. So we can be pleased with
what we have achieved in campaign terms through the relationship
with npower.

Offshore wind is now on the way to becoming established as an
energy source in the UK. Npower have plans to build a second
farm next to North Hoyle and a third, much bigger one, in the
area over the next few years. Gaining public support for
offshore wind through Juice greatly helped to get the first wind
farm under way, however such campaigning and our involvement
should not be necessary in order to get the subsequent projects

In addition, we learned recently from npower that they have
decided to join with other electricity generators to take the]
UK Government to court to try to secure an increase in their
emissions allocation under the European Emissions Trading System.
In other words, they want to be allowed to emit more carbon than
the Government wants to allow them. At a time when the UK is
off course o meet its carbon targets, and when scientific news
on climate change is becoming ever more alarming, we do
not think that this decision by npower is justifiable.

In the light of this court case we have now decided to end our
formal partnership with npower and, therefore, our pro-active
promotion of Juice. We have given npower notice of termination
of contract. This does not mean that Juice has suddenly become
a bad product. We continue to believe that it is the best non
price premium green electricity scheme on the market, and will
continue to recommend it to people contacting us to enquire
about green energy. I personally get my electricity at home
from Juice, as does our Executive Director, and we have no plans
to switch suppliers.

I hope that helps,

Lisa Weatherley
Supporter Services, Greenpeace UK

Monday, August 21, 2006

Truly fantastic news

I know many of you come to this blog because of your concern for the environment and how our growing need for energy has become a threat to the world we live on. Tonight I want you to sleep soundly in your beds. We have no need to concern ourselves with the petty ideas of domestic solar panels or wind turbines. Biodiesel and biogas plants are redundent. Fossil fuels and nuclear power can be placed in the dustbin of history. Rejoice brothers and sisters for the holy grail of energy is in the hands of man at last.

A company called Steorn have produced a limitless energy supply with no impact on the environment and an effective efficiency greater than 100% !!!!!! They do not explain how it works or what it looks like and they have not had it verified by any scientist whatsoever. They also undertsndibly claim that their idea "represents a significant challenge to our current understanding of the universe".

I am confident that within the next five years the worlds energy problems will be solved giving us time to abolish war, famine and disease as well as invent jetpacks and meals in pill form.

Learn more here.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Greenpeace looses its taste for juice

I received a letter today from NPower Juice saying that they are aiming to increase their capacity to allow a further 50,000 homes to join. Juice accounts for a third of all green energy homes in the UK. This move would increase the total green energy homes in the UK by 30%.

The letter also says that Greenpeace are ending their partnership with NPower and no longer formally endorse Juice (although they still recommend it). I have emailed Greenpeace to find out their reason for this decision and will post their reply when it arrives.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ski holidays

Mid august - time to start thinking about a ski trip. Found this on ; I've not checked it yet but if true it's a fab idea - ski resorts get lots of high-energy UV radiation so should be ideal for solar power :

"Thumbs up to Les Gets for taking steps to reduce the huge environmental impact skiing has by replacing its diesel generators with solar panels to power the ski lifts." ( from )

Monday, August 14, 2006

Simple solutions to major problems.

I studied engineering at university and now work in the IT industry. Some people might think that this would make me a fan of advanced technology. In all fairness they would be correct, I have a very fast PC, a mobile phone, MP3 player and even a GPS. However I am also a fan of appropriate technology. By this I mean technical solutions that are no more advanced than they need to be. This philosophy can best be summed up by two well known sayings: -

      1. The right tool for the right job.

      2. If it's not broke, don't fix it.

Why put nails in a piece of wood with the nail-o-matic ultra 4000 when a hammer is cheaper, simpler, doesn't require batteries and if properly cared for can last a lifetime? I suppose this does tie in with my time studying engineering. Engineers like to solve problems and they usually like their solutions to be simple and elegant.

It is when market forces come into play that technology is driven forward further than is really required. I want a phone that can make calls, send text messages and has a decent battery life. As a consumer, phone manufacturers want me to be able to stream TV clips over 3G networks because if I don't they won't be able to sell me their new phone. These market forces have given us a population desperate to buy gadgets that will only have 5% of their features used.

But what about people who can in no way be called consumers. People in the developing world are among the most vulnerable in the world. For people whose main concern is getting clean water and a steady supply of food appropriate technology can have a profound effect on their lives. It can help them solve problems such as transport, agriculture, home building, energy, water supply and purification. It can help them create successful and profitable industries. Because the technology is simple it is reliable and can easily be maintained, improved and replicated by local people using locally available materials. It doesn't need to be complicated, it just needs to work and it certainly never needs to be able to stream TV clips over 3G networks.

I used to walk past a bookshop on my way to work. It was called "The Intermediate Technology Bookshop". The books in the window fascinated me, they covered such topics as wind energy, water purification, solar cookers, human and animal powered transport, hut building, agriculture and international trade on a small scale. If an asteroid hit us and civilization went back to the stone age this shop would tell the lucky finder everything they needed to know to pick up the pieces and start again. The shop closed (perhaps I should have gone inside and actually bought something) to be replaced by a down-market Italian restaurant which also closed to be replaced by an empty shop.

Fortunately the shop was just one part of the Intermediate Technology Development Group who have renamed themselves to Practical Action (Their site is even more fascinating than the bookshop was). Practical Action are a charity that design and implement a range of solutions to problems faced by people in developing nations around the world. They also make many of their designs freely available online along with a host of technical information. Go on, try making some of them, I dare you. Practical Action have provided such life changing solutions as: -

      • Solar powered cookers.

      • Improved wood burning stoves that require less fuel and produce less smoke (Excess levels of cooking smoke kills 1.5 million people a year.).

      • Gravity powered rope ways in Nepal.

      • Composting toilets.

      • Wind and hand powered water pumps.

      • Bicycle trailers and bicycle ambulances.

      • Small scale electricity generation from wind, hydro, and biogas.

      • Solar water distillation.

Practical Action was founded by a guy called E.F. Schumacher, an economist who wrote a book called "small is beautiful: a study of economics as if people mattered" The book suggested that the current economic model of profit and progress that leads to large corporations was damaging both the environment and the developing world. It is hard to watch the news without at least considering that he might have a point. Schumacher attempts to befriend tree-hugging hippies and scruffy communists alike by suggesting that a better way for man to move forward is the use of intermediate technology based on communal ownership and regional workplaces using local materials. When he published the book 33 years ago it caused a sensation and although the developed world clearly didn't pay that much attention the methods he described are being used by people through the developing world (aided by many fine NGO's) to create improved resilience, prosperity and quality of life for themselves. It can put the lives and futures of people across the world into their own hands. It can help make a better world.

btw I have bought the book and may write a short review when I have finished (or not).

Renewable Super Grid

The German government has recently commissioned a plan for a collaborative multinational electricity grid covering Europe, north Africa and some countries in the middle east. The grid would link together a range of large scale renewable energy generation plants of types most suited to the local climate. A simplified map is shown below.

As you can see the vast majority of plants on the north African coast are solar and rather than using low efficiency photo-voltaic panels they are using concentrated solar power. This method uses mirrors to direct sunlight onto fluid filled tubes which heat up and are then used to boil sea water. Many of you may remember that boiling water is often considered a good starting point for generating electricity. Boiling sea water is also a major part of de-salination so these plants would produce clean water as a by-product of generating clean electricity. The system is also able to store heat in rocks to continue production at night.

The grid is intended to use high-voltage direct current transmission and it is anticipated that it could transfer energy across 3000 miles (Morocco to mid-European latitudes) with only 15% loss. at about 4p/KWh delivered.

By adopting concentrated solar power north African countries could produce energy and fresh water, two things that are in ever growing demand in that region. 90% of the world's population lives within 3000 miles of hot desert and to supply the worlds energy needs would require 0.3% of that desert. The map below shows the potential for this method of energy production.

More about the plan can be found here and the executive report can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Ref: The Big Issue no 701

Friday, August 04, 2006

Toilet madness

We've been looking for a toilet for a while now - our current one has a leaky cistern, and uses quite a lot of water per flush. It's also 20 years old, and it's huge and ugly.

However, almost all the retailers insist on selling complete bathroom suites - it is generaly more economical to buy a loo, sink and taps (and often a bath too), and then take the bits you don't want to the dump (after all, there is no market in second hand sinks) than it is to get just a toilet on special order. We were looking at toilets that were close to £200, and complete suites for less than that. This is just a crazy situation; it's so wasteful. The sellers try and lure you in with discounts on suites just to make sure consumers waste as many resources as possible.

Luckily, the new B&Q in gillingham now sells 'Toliets to go' for £50. Yup, that's what they call them. It's a complete toilet in a box, with all the cistern fittings etc. And if you just want a cistern float valve or other spares, they'll sell you that too. Amazing - the application of a bit of common sense. Now we've got the almost-as-silly situation where we need to pay a plumber probably double the cost of the loo to install it !

Power meter readings

Laptop: 60W
PC: 120W for the CRT monitor, 90W for the base unit
Upstairs Routing hardware: 40W (cable modem, wireless router, Lex PC for linking with work)
Downstairs Routing hardware: 24W (Voip phone, hub, wireless bridge)

The question is, is my 64W x 24hr energy expenditure on homeworking equipment more than what I used to use commuting by train up to london every day ?

Monday, July 31, 2006

Consumer solar ?

Currys have started selling solar panels in retain outlets :

Maybe the start of a solar revolution ? We desparately need the price of solar to come down; it's just not affordable for anyone but the very rich at the moment; from a financial point of view it's crazy installing solar panels; you're looking at £10,000 to install enough to knock say £200 per year off your electricity bill. The panels are rated to last about 30 years.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Power meter

I bought a power meter the other day from Doctor Energy - their customer communications could do with some work but it was only a tenner and turned up within about 2 weeks. It measures current, voltage and power factor, and from that derives total power consumption and cost. So the oxygen generator for Jamie uses about 400 W, the steriliser costs about 1p/day and the phone charger doesn't even register. I'll hook it up to a few different things to see what they use - I'm interested to see what the video and cable box consume when they are on standby; also my intenet gear is on all the time so must gobble up a fair amount over time.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Solar anyone ?

Popped out on my bike for half an hour - two things struck me. Firstly, how nice and sunny it was. Secondly, on all of the thousands of new houses around here that heve been put up recently, there was not one with any kind of solar collector on - whether for hot water or photovoltaics. Seeing as the cost for the hot water collectors is only a grand or so it's amazing they don't bother putting them on from new - I'd have thought it was a good selling point that the heating bills will be about half what they would otherwise be.

And yes, I know ultimately the builders don't make that saving so they don't give a damn, but really, it's irresponsible.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Peak Oil

Read more here

Water usage

Meat production uses an astonishing amount of water. Example: to produce a kilo of beef takes about 50,000 litres of water. Compare that with rice, which takes about 1000 litres, or chicken a mere 4,500 litres. As people are getting wealthier, they are eating more beef,so water demands are going up.

Apparently in the USA, the averge water usage per head is 500litres - in the UK it's 200 and in places like Gambia it's less than 10.

Must get the leak fixed in the header tank...


Counter Currents
The rather shocking Vegetarian Now!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Travel by train

I recently discovered a fantastic site for anyone who wants to travel abroad but doesn't want to fly. The site is called "The man in seat 61" and gives vast amounts of info on how to travel from the UK to places all across Europe and the rest of the world by train and ship. There are lots or reasons to avoid flying: -

  • It creates a lot of pollution.
  • Some people are afraid of flying (although it is very safe).
  • Some people feel the journey is as important as the destination and an adventure in it's own right.
  • Lining up at the baggage check in followed by hours sitting in an airport then spending hours in a plane being served vile food while trying to avoid DVT and having the seat in front slowly crush your kneecaps only to have to make your way through passport control and then finding your luggage took a much more luxurious trip than you to a different continent IS NOT FUN.
I know many of the people likely to visit this blog would probably use the train where possible anyway. For those who wouldn't, give it a go. If you have to fly and are wracked with guilt over the pollution created to to get you where you were going you could try carbon offsetting. Some companies will plant and maintain trees for you. They will even calculate how many trees are required to absorb the carbon created by your journey (or household utilities). Some companies will offset carbon use through a range of different project. All they ask in return is that you give them your money.

Two such companies are: -

The CarbonNeutral Company
(They take part in various carbon reduction schemes and also sell a range of environmentally friendly gifts and gadgets.)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Green electricity

About 2 years ago I signed up with Juice. Juice is an electricity tarrif from npower. It costs their same as their standard tarrif but is produced from 100% renewable sources (mostly offshore wind farms like North Hoyle). It is also run in partnership with Greenpeace who ensure that the 100% renewable agreement is adhered to. They also give £10 a year for every Juice customer to renewable energy research projects.

I personally feel that the best future for electricity generation is decentralised generation by homes, offices, etc across the country. However it will take a while to happen and for people to save up for roof mounted solar panels and wind turbines. In the meanwhile signing up to one of the many green electricity providers is a good alternative.


We bought a washing machine recently - we ended up with a Bosch one, mainly because it used 11 litres less water per wash than the hotpoint one. It also uses less electricity - and seems to wash a bit better than our old hotpoint as well. Sharon spent quite some time crawling round the floor in the showroom trying to read the efficiency data on each model; why don't they stick that data on the top ?!

It's getting good usage now - Jamie gets through quite a lot of nappies, and even factoring the cost of the washing machine into account, we should break even inside 2 years now that we have reusable nappies.

Portable Solar

I recently bought a sunlinq set of solar panels with the idea of recharging various gadgets (GPS, MP3 player, phone, AA batteries, etc) when I was away from home and had no access to mains. The solar panels are light, flexible, waterproof and very durable they also fold down to the size of a thin book. The come with a range of of adapters including clips and a female car lighter socket which when combined with a 12v dc to 5v usb adapter can charge virtually any gadget you care to name. Unfortunately it is pretty expensive but comes in a range of sizes and costs (I went for the 12 watt one)

More info can be found here and a UK supplier can be found here.

Here are some pics: -

More Books

This is a book with lots of simple tips for reducing your impact on the environment while often saving money.

Saving The Planet Without Costing The Earth

For those who are a little more hardcore in their environmentalism this book explains how to build a house that from building materials to energy generation and water collection and re-use will have virtually no impact on the Earth at all!

Earthship: How To Build Your Own

More info here

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Passive solar design

A book about keeping your house at a sensible temperature regardless of the weather:

The Solar House: Passive Heating and Cooling

House cooling

Nick asked,"What is the most acceptable way of cooling down a house?"

I think the most acceptable way is to stop it getting hot in the first place! My shed now has foil-backed bubble wrap inside the roof and on the windows, which reflects heat back out - between the foil and the roof the temperature was about 46 degrees; in the shed it was a mere 30 degrees while the outside temperature was 27 degrees. In our baby's room I've put the same stuff on the windows (kitchen foil would do), as well as a blackout blind, plus we keep all the curtains shut on the side of the house that gets the sun. Oh, and open windows on both sides of the house to get a breeze through - even if there's no wind you should get a bit of movement through convection.

After that, paint the roof white (ideally silver), grow tall trees on the north and west sides, face the house south and have minimal size windows on the west side, use shutters and have an overhang over all the windows to reduce the heat coming in in the middle of the day. Um, not too practical for a rented house though :-)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Aircon ?

Aircon isn't particularly environmentally friendly, but running it in reverse to do heating can be, as you are moving thermal energy from outside to inside rather than converting it directly from the electricity supply. Finally someone has released a device that works both ways, and doesn't have a stupid price tag.

Tony pointed out that if you have a wind turbine, this would be a completely free way to heat your house, particularly at night when it is often a) cold, b) windy c) you don't have anything much using electricity .


Windsave are doing mini wind turbines to fit on your roof for about £1500 - they generate 1Kw in a stiff breeze and thanks to some new planning laws are fairly simple to get approval for. When we get our big house in the country (ie, about 30years after I'm dead at current progress) maybe we'll get a couple.

Friday, June 30, 2006


How many compact fluorescent lightbulbs do you have ? We've only got six, but they are in the rooms we light most often. We still have halogen lamps in the kitchen; I /think/ they tolorate being turned on and off more often than CF lights, but that's a debatable issue.

Dr Matt Prescott wrote an article about them on the bbc site recently.

Food miles

We've started getting an organic veg box delivered from Abel and Cole. They've got quite a nice website where you can place standing orders for various size boxes which they fill with in-season veg from local suppliers.

We started buying 'organic' veg when we got Jamie home, as we figured he'd had enough random chemicals in hospital without adding pesticides etc. In the supermarkets though, the tiny amount of organic stuff they have is typically imported from a long way away - Egypt, Israel and Argentina seem to be popular. It does seem silly to me to transport, say, butternut squash from 8000 miles away. Seeing as we live in Kent, it's even sillier to ship apples from more than 10 miles away - we accidentally bought some recently that had come from some far flung corner of Europe.

I read somewhere that Germany send as many potatoes to the UK as we ship to Germany - the bbc did a piece about it if you want to read more.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Here's an easy one - when using a kettle, put as much water in as you expect to use, and turn the kettle off when it's at the right temperature.

Here's the maths: for every degree temperature raised, and for every 1ml of water, you need 4.3joules of energy. So raising one litre by eighty degrees takes 1000x80x4.3=344,000 joules.

To figure a cost for that, convert to kilowatt-hours:

1 watt == one joule per second

1 kwh == 1000 joules used continuously over a period of 3600 seconds, ie, 3,600,000 joules

At about 10p/kwh, that's roughly a penny, to raise a litre of water to just under boiling point from room temperature.

Trouble is, if you actually boil the water, you use a lot of energy just to turn the water into steam - and you don't pour steam into your tea so it's just wasted.


This is a silly little blog to act as a list of enery efficiency tips and maybe discussion.