Monday, 12 April 2010

Renewable energy

The event in town on Saturday turned out to be exactly what I expected. There were quite few trade stands there, though, and the attendance seemed fair to middling. However, as I thought, the companies were selling hugely expensive equipment, well out of our range even if we decided to invest in some of these technologies. There was absolutely nothing at all on the really small, domestic, do-it-yourself scale, which I found sad and a bit dis-spiriting, to be honest. As I see it, people are being coaxed into investing in these new things, very soon to go out of date and become obsolete as the next new thing follows hard on it shells; the cost and energy expounded in teh making, transporting, marketing and seeling must be phenomenal. All the usual energy saving tips were there - insulation, light bulbs, etc. Nothing enw or startling. An awful lot of brochures and glossy bits and pieces, even from our own Transition town group, a small separate leaflet about their allotment and garden share scheme they are tyring to get going.
An excellent leaflet on solar photovoltaics was produced by the Dorset Energy Group, which gave a lot of details, and importantly the cons as well as the pros. From this :

Dorset has an excellent solar resource - on average a south facing roof inclined at 30 degrees will receive between 100 - 1200 kWh of solar radiation per square metre per year. A 2kWp PV array facing due south at an angle of 45 degrees might produce 1800 kWh of electricity per annum. This is approximately half of the annual electricity requirements of an average house. However, there is evidence that hosueholders with PV installations are also likely to install low energy lighting and appliances, power down adaptors to turn appliances off standby etc. In these circumstances a 2kWp PV array may meet 3/4 of the annual electricity demand.

For sola water heating, if your roof faces between south east and south west, with no buildings or trees overshadowing it, then it should be suitable. If the roof surface is in shadow for part of the day, the output of the system is significantly reduced.

For an average domestic system, total costs can be around 5,000 - 8,000 pounds.
In order to get paid for surplus electricity not used in the home, which is then exported to the grid, you will need an export meter costing 400 pounds.
Domestic grants for renewable energy may not be available once the Feed-in Tariff is introduced in April 2010.
Pros of photovoltaics: easy to integrate into existing buildings; virtually no maintenance.
Cons: technology with relatively high capital cost; might require lifestyle changes to gain maximum benefits;need large areaof roof space and aspect between SE and SW;5 year carbon payback

I found all that lot very interesting, and exactly the information I was after, and in plain English too.
I think the concerns of property suitability for the desired ssytems are just not stressed enough; wind turbines need good wind to function well and efficiently, as in the above references to aspect for the phtovoltaic panels; is there really enough sunlight to make these worthwhile on several levels?
As for me, I'd like the emphasis to be put on using no energy, or less energy, pure and simple. Just switch the things off; change to hand powered, wind up, etc; use candles or other forms of lighting; use less or no gadgets - that's where the elctricity goes, with not much being used for actual lights.
So, I'll continue to switch off manually - I don't need an expensive plastic overpackaged gadget to do that for me - and eschew the electric powered versions of things that can be done perfectly well by hand, or some other form of power.
I really don't think the answer lies in us all having wind turbines, solar panels or mini hydro systems at a domestic level.
Just consume none, much less and cut back drastically. Free to do, no gadget required, good for the planet and good for the soul - it's the best way to actually address the problem, in my view.
Don't like sitting in the dark? Then go to bed and get up when it's light - it really is as simple as that.

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

I'm with you on this. I'm just not sure I can get the boys to agree to the up when its light thing!!! LOL
How's the book writing going?