Wednesday, November 28, 2007

hybrids, solar and google

Google are getting into the renewable energy market by investing (through in solar, and in hybrid cars.

here's a link to the stats on one of their hybrid cars - this one has been fitted with an extra battery to improve performance.

Note the MPG is a rather pathetic 54.4 - which is about what we get from our petrol C2. Shockingly the average MPG for an american car is 19.8 - this presumably is why the americans think the Prius is great, where as the rest of the world views it as a waste of space, or more charitably, a testing ground for mass production and marketing of electrically powered cars. Some little diesels can get at least /double/ the milage without the complication and cost of having batteries and generators on board.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Gas Fire

Our gas fire broke last winter and we've just got round to thinking about getting it replaced. Gas is more efficient than electricity for heating, as the combustion is done at the point of use. Power stations on the other hand use heat to turn water into stream, drive turbines which drive generators, which send electricity down miles of cable just for you to turn it back into heat again. The generators are typically 40-60% efficient, and a further 6-8% or more is lost in the power cables and substations. (see here for more info)

Clearly then, the sensible choice is for us to replace our gas fire with an electric one and just not use it. We've been quoted £1600 + £400 installation for a gas fire, and £200 all up for an electric one. This includes a fireplace and mantle (£700 for the gas one). This isn't just about choosing the one that is most efficient, or makes most financial sense - this is about not actually owning sufficient money to buy the environmentally more friendly option.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hanbury Hall and the national trust

The national trust are going all green - as a conservational body they approve of the idea of reducing their impact on the environment, so they are starting a number of 'green' initiatives. One of which is a green energy tarrif in association with npower. Another is using renewables where possible.

I spotted this anomoly at Hanbury Hall - I couldn't find out much about it, but it does look rather incongruous seeing the ultra modern thin film solar panels, mounted on a 300 year old wall in front of a 500 year old house:

I /think/ its for powering a fountain - if anyone figures it out for sure, let me know !

Friday, September 14, 2007

The last horse finally crosses the finishing line

According to Professor John Marburger scientific advisor to President Bush, climate change is almost certainly due to the activities of mankind and we need to start reducing CO2 emissions. President Bush is going to invite leaders from major nations to the White House this month to discuss the problem.

Thanks for the timely response guys.

Find out more about Professors Marburger's cutting edge look into established facts and the painfully obvious here.

Friday, August 31, 2007

US energy policy

According to this, Carter came up with a energy policy proposal in 1979, specifically to prevent the US from having to go to war with the middle east to secure oil. Naturally it was opposed by many, and led to the bin Laden family essentially getting Bush2.0 in as the presedent.

oil subsidies

Just found this article detailing the extent of the US oil subsidies. It boils town to tax breaks - the oil industry gets taxed at 11%, other industries at 18%, which if you do the math comes out to about $6billion. This clearly doesn't square with the $16billion mentioned below - which demonstrates the saying that there are lies, damned lies and statistics :-)

Wozniak Green Plans

Steve Wozniak, of Apple fame, is jumping on the green bandwagon in a big way. He's discovered the idea of building homes that require little or no power to heat. Some of his ideas are a little misguided (eg, he suggested in an interview that one should knock down energy inefficient housing and replace it with shiney efficient housing - neatly ignoring the aount of energy required to build a home, not to mention the landfill required to dispose of the old one), but it's excellent that someone in his position has publicly declared energy efficiency to be a Good Thing&tm;, particularly as there is a certain class of Apple customer who will do everything the Steves tell them to :-)

One facinating idea he's come across (and no doubt will invest in) is that of using a particular wood for your core building material. Southern Yellow pine has sap that melts at about 22C, so as the external temperature rises above that, an enormous amount of energy is absorbed by the wood to melt the pine - keeping the internal temperature down. Neat idea - there's a few complications that I see - eg, sap tends to dry out over time, so it may lose effectiveness over time. Also, many people are allergic to pine sap, and as it evaporates (which surely it must if it becomes liquid) the house is going to be infused with vapourised sap. Not so good. Perhaps a synthetic version could be produced, with the working fluid sealed inside the structure of the building.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Oil industry in US

Finally, the oil industry is getting attention from the US government. For all those people who bleat on about the millions of pounds of subsidy that renewable energy companies receive, here's an extract from the BBC news site today:

"The draft law details support for "clean" energy sources like biofuels, wind, solar and geothermal resources. It would withdraw some $16bn (£8bn) in annual subsidies from the oil industry."

Obviously, it is opposed by Bush, who is entitled to veto it, but at least it's an indication that people who matter in the US government are starting to realise that there are other ways of generating energy.

Sixteen billion dollars is quite a lot of money, though a tiny fraction of what has been spent invading the middle east in recent years to support America's oil addiction.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wind Power For Campers

I recently made a post on this blog about inflatable wind turbines. Trudy commented that it would be nice if there was a smaller version for campers. Orange clearly thought the same thing and commisioned a prototype tent mounted wind generator. The resulting device charges up a battery which in turn can charge up another device. Here's a picture: -

  • The good news is that it only weighs 150 grammes.
  • The bad news is that to generate enough energy to fully charge a mobile requires 24 hours of 12mph wind (I guess it won't run a cool box).
Still it is only a prototype and may improve. Find out more here and here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tesco improves carrier bag policy

Tesco have improved their drive to reduce plastic carrier bag use. They have finally realised that there is no point in including carrier bags in home deliveries that already come in tough reusable crates and now offer delivery without them. I am a little surprised that it took them this long to work that out but well done all the same.

In the mean time I have signed up with Abel & Cole that deliver all of their food in re-usable boxes that are collected by the delivery guy next time they arrive. (I hope you enjoyed the wine Tony).

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Inflatable wind turbines!!!

A company in Canada called Magenn Power have developed a lighter than air inflatable wind turbine called MARS (Magenn Air Rotor System). I love conventional wind turbines and hope to see many more spring up across the country (especially outsde the homes of countryside alliance members). However they are not exactly portable. The Magenn system would allow a 4KW turbine to be packed into the boot of a family hatchback and be deployed anywhere with speed and ease. They are planning version capable of 1-2MW. These can be used for anything from the supply for a small town to power for emergency aid locations. They also have little or no chance of killing birds because they have no long blades and they are bouncy. Magenn's website is here.

Now for the picture: -

Solar powered sausages

Spring has arrived with a vengance and summer is clearly not far behind. With such wonderful weather many people are starting to have barbeques. While I will gladly admit that charcoal and gas powered barbeques are not that important in the grand scheme of planetary climate change it is still possible to take the green option. The technology for solar cookers is not new or complicated and has been used in countries around the world. This is useful in places where firewood is scarce and it also removes smoke from cooking fires which kills millions every year. However this is the first time I have seen a solar cooker targetted at the European barbeque market. A Swiss company have prduce a solar grill based on a simple parabolic mirror. It requires no gas, wood or charcoal only a reasonably sunny day (which we get even in the UK). It is also reasonably priced (about £120 plus postage and packing). You can find out more and order here.

Now for the picture: -

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Looks like the government is on the right track on this one - they are proposing a lower rate of VAT for energy efficient products. Here's the response to the on-line petition regarding low energy lightbulbs

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Air Powered Car

A french company called MDI (Moteur Developpement International) have developed an engine powered by compressed air and a car for it it to go in. The car called the MiniCat should sell for about £5,500, have a top speed of about 70 mph and be able to cover about 125 miles on fully charged tank. The cost of charging a tank of air should be about £1 and could be done from home or fuel stations. This is hardly a performance car but it is a very economic and practical solution for everyday use. More information can be found here. Now for the pic: -

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

new budget

According to the BBC, the new budget promises that until 2012 all new zero carbon homes up to £500,000 will be exempt from stamp duty.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Tetrapak attempt 2

Well, I wrote a short blog about how to recycle tetrapaks - you know, those little boxes that spill orange juice over you every morning. Sadly, it went the way of many things blogger, and disappeared. Poo. Anyway, there's an address of a specialist recycling place on the tetrapak website to post them to once they are empty. Most councils wont touch them as they are a made of several different materials all laminated together. I'd be interested to know if the energy you have to put in to recycle them is more than that required to make a new one - I suspect it is, but saving landfil is usually a worthy aim.

Could just burn the damn things I guess.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Are they taking this seriously?

The government has just allocated £500,000 to grants for domestic renewable energy projects. I can't help but feel this amount shows a less than total commitment to renewable energy and domestic micro generation. To demonstrate how woefully inadiquate this allocation heres what happened: -
  • 1st March 2007 09:00 Grants phone lines open.
  • 1st March 2007 10:15 Grants phone lines closed after 189 callers qualify and all the money is used
That's right 75 minutes and 189 households helped in a 1st world country with a population of over 65 million The Renewable Energy Association is calling on the government to invest a further £15 million, Read more here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thursday, January 18, 2007

What are we waiting for?

Greenpeace has produce a short (18 min approx) film about decentralised combined heat and power systems. It explains problems with the current centralised system that is used in the UK. It also shows some fantastic examples of decentralised multi-fuel combined heat and power systems being used elswhere in Europe. Such examples include: -

  • Systems that get 95% efficiency as apposed to the british average of 35%.
  • Powerplants that supply thousands of hectares of greenhouses with heat and CO2 as fertiliser.
  • Powerplants that use multiple fuel types including locally produced biofuel.

The film can be found here.

The Greenpeace website can be found here.