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Two Chinese companies are planning to build a giant solar plant in Chernobyl

23 Nov

Two Chinese solar companies have plans to build a huge solar farm in one of the scariest places on earth, the Chernobyl exclusion zone. On the 26th April 1986, one of four nuclear reactors at the Chernobyl power station exploded. As a result, the disaster released at least 100 times more radiation than the atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Much of the fallout was deposited close to Chernobyl, in parts of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. More than 350,000 people resettled away from these areas, but about 5.5 million remain. Scandinavia was badly affected and there are still areas of the UK where farms face post-Chernobyl controls.

After the nuclear plant’s meltdown, Soviet officials set up a restricted area around the site called the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Even though it’s been 30 years since the accident, this restricted area is still exceptionally large. A 1,000 square mile exclusion zone of forests and marshland surrounds the former Chernobyl nuclear reactor in Ukraine and has been largely off-limits since the 1986 disaster. However the site is an excellent choice for the location of a large solar farm. Not only is the land cheap and unused, but there is already substantial electrical infrastructure in place left over from the nuclear plant.

Shu Hua, the chairman of GCL System Integration Technology said “There will be remarkable social benefits and economic ones as we try to renovate the once damaged area with green and renewable energy,” Making the best of a bad situation could prove motivating to others as the global community begins the hard work of implementing the Paris Agreement.

Ukraine has been trying to find an investor to build a large solar farm in the exclusion zone for several months and now the two companies, GCL System Integration Technology (GCL-SI) and state-owned China National Complete Engineering Corp (CCEC), announced their plans to start building a 1-gigawatt solar power plant in an unspecified region of the Exclusion Zone. Comments made by a GCL-SI manager suggested that the plant would be built in an area where the radiation is under control. The site itself has already gone through several rounds of inspections by the company’s technicians. GCL will build and install the solar components, while CCEC will manage and supervise the entire project. Neither company disclosed where exactly the solar farm would be built, or how much the project will cost.

Prior to the Chernobyl project, the Chinese have successfully reformatted contaminated land into renewable energy generators and therefore are the perfect candidate for the construction. Radiation levels around the remains of damaged reactor building still remain dangerously high and are likely to remain so for thousands of years. In the 30 years since the meltdown, scientists have already seen some evidence of the radiation causing harm to local animals.

To discourage urban expansion from absorbing more farmland, China has implemented policies that encourage solar and wind power plants on damaged land. China is currently the world’s top solar power generator with 43 gigawatts of generating capacity expected by the end of the year,

Though they have become the number one manufacturer in solar power, China has been encouraged to slash their carbon footprint since they reportedly derive 66% of their energy from coal use, according to the Energy Information Administration. The nation has since announced plans to eliminate all CO2 emissions by 2030 by expanding their international solar power presence and tripling their generated wind power.

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Solar Joins 1,000 Year Old Gargoyles On Cathedral Roof

3 Nov

A cathedral in Gloucester is having a huge upgrade by installing solar panels to help cut its energy bills by up to 25 percent. Despite its 1,000 years of history, the cathedral was keen to embrace modern technology and is having 150 panels fitted on its roof.

The cathedral is based in southwest England and was built around the year 678 and is coronation site for King Henry III, the burial site of King Edward II and famously had a featuring role in three Harry Potter movies!

Mypower are in charge of the installation and say the cathedral will be the oldest in the UK and maybe even the world to have a “commercial size solar panel system on the roof.”

The great advantage of installing solar panels on cathedrals is that they are really tall. And the fact that they are surrounded by ornate buttresses and gargoyles and other fancy architecture means that the solar panels will mostly be hidden from the ground, meaning the cathedral gets to cut its energy costs by a quarter without really sacrificing its historic, architectural integrity. The panels will generate 25,000 kilowatts of energy a year, enough to power seven semi-detached homes for a year or make an impressive 250,000 cups of tea!

Mypower, the installation contractor on the project and the firms’ managing Partner Ben Harrison said they’ve had to work around twists and spots where the roof has sagged over time. He said they’ve worked closely with the cathedral’s structural engineers and architect to guarantee the work is completed properly. “At times it’s been extremely tight in terms of manoeuvrability around parts of the site, particularly when the work required us to work just inches away from centuries-old gargoyles, but we put strategies and measures in place to protect the building from any damage.”

A further advantage of building on cathedrals and older churches are that they were usually built pointing directly from east to west, leaving a huge area of south-facing roof that’s ideally situated for maximum solar gain.

The Church of England is running a Shrinking the Footprint campaign, and the solar array will help Gloucester Cathedral work towards the campaign’s goal of slashing carbon emissions “by 80 percent by 2050.” Given that the Church of England has declared climate change “a great demon”, and has even stripped itself from the dirtiest fossil fuels, I suspect we will see many more churches going solar as the costs come down.

Once finished, the 1,000 year old building will become the oldest cathedral in the UK, and possibly the world, to claim a commercial-sized solar panel PV system. The installation forms a key part of the £6 million Project Pilgrim scheme to make the cathedral sustainable for future generations.

Solar powered Tuk-Tuk arrives in the UK after 6,200 mile trip

16 Sep

Naveen Rabelli, an engineer has travelled in a solar powered tuk-tuk all the way to the UK from India. Rabelli, who was born in India and became an Australian citizen while working as an automotive engineer there, hoped to end his journey at Buckingham Palace. His journey has took seven months in his solar-powered tuk-tuk on an incredible 6,200 mile (9,978km) journey. It has a top speed of 60km/h (37 mph) and is powered by both electricity and solar power. The vehicle he has named Tejas, which suitably means radiance or brilliance.

The big adventure began in Bangalore in India before the tuk-tuk was shipped to Iran. He then drove through Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and France. The tuk-tuk cost Rabelli £1,100 and spent around £8500 customising it. As well as making it run on solar and electric power, he installed a bed, solar cooker and a cupboard, which he stocked with food donated by well-wishers.

Travelling at around 62 miles a day, he set off on his adventure to raise awareness of electric and solar-powered vehicles as a sustainable low-cost alternative mode of transport. Rabelli converted the petrol-run vehicle to a solar powered one, which seems like a self-sufficient home. He got the idea of creating a solar-powered tuk-tuk after he and a friend got stuck in traffic a few years back.

The 32-year-old Australian has made it to London. Picture: PA

Unfortunately on the last leg of his world tour, Rabelli had to pause his journey one country short of his intended destination after his passport and wallet were stolen from his parked vehicle in Sarcelles, north of Paris, while he was using a bathroom. The 35-year-old had to wait for his new passport so that he could cross the Channel and finish his journey at Buckingham Palace.

Talking of his journey, Rabelli particularly appreciated the support of the local people: “The highlights have been the way people have helped me out along the way and supported me. People love the tuk-tuk, particularly in Iran and many other countries. They come forward and take selfies. And the moment I tell them it doesn’t require petrol, their minds are blown.”

Mr Rabelli says his goal is to create awareness of the potential for solar-powered passenger vehicles in Asian and European countries, presenting an Indian solution to the world. Well Naveen, the world is certainly watching!

Winters Coming: Time To Update Your Boiler?

31 Aug

With winter around the corner, its not surprising homeowners start to worry about their increasing energy bills. Now when it comes to your energy bills, heating accounts for about 60 percent of what you spend annually. About 16 percent of that goes on distribution charge, basically the cost of the gas pipes that get the energy into your home. What about the other percentage? An efficient boiler makes a big difference!

Modern boilers are more efficient for several reasons, but their main advantage is that they are mostly condensing boilers. In a conventional heating system (gas boilers for example) most of the combustion products (heated gases) pass through the boiler’s heat exchange surface, passing the generated energy to the heat distribution system – underfloor heating, radiators. Afterwards, the combustion gases are released into the atmosphere through the boiler’s flue. Therefore, a certain amount of heat is lost, because together with the gases, a considerable amount of steam that forms during the burning process (due to the water contained in the natural gas in its initial state) is being pushed out. The released steam carries an untapped amount of evaporation energy that conventional boilers are unable to make use of, and something that a condensing boiler is capable of converting into additional heat.

Installing an efficient condensing boiler can save you significant amounts of money, but also improve your carbon footprint. Here are some other examples:

Reduce your electricity bills: Because condensing boilers are so energy efficient, they need to burn much less fuel to extract the same amount of energy to supply to your home. This means considerably lower fuel bills, which is a relief in today’s unstable fuel market with prices rising all the time.

Cut your carbon footprint: Condensing boilers have much lower CO2 emissions than other boilers available, and because of this are much more environmentally friendly. Every year a condensing boiler could save up to 1.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide that would otherwise escape into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Save space: Condensing combi boilers don’t need a hot water tank, saving you space. Next to a clunky older boiler type, a condensing boiler is sleek and will often fit into convenient spaces the size of an average kitchen cupboard.

Simple controls: Condensing combi boilers don’t need timers for hot water as they produce hot water when you turn the tap on. Also heating controls have changed so much over the last decade and as a result it is now as easy to control heating your home than ever before. With these changes comes longer life boilers and savings from heating your home smarter and more efficiently.

Faster heating: Upgrading your heating system and heating controls will not only reduce your energy bills but will also help heat your home faster.

In conclusion a new boiler can save 1.5 tons of CO2 each year. Not sure exactly how much that is? It the equivalent of the emissions given off on a return flight from London to San Francisco; a flight covering 5,351 miles!

Sometimes, wanting to be greener and reduce your carbon footprint and energy bills can seem daunting when you have to find the total cost of installing some measures, that’s why Eco People has become FCA approved so we can offer you a variety of finance options when we provide you with a quote. Call us on 020 8883 4595 for more information or visit us at www.eco-people.co.uk

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A Birdhouse That Gives Out Free Wi-Fi When The Air Quality Improves

2 Jun

There is something really cosy about a birdhouse isn’t there? Well an Amsterdam based start-up company called TreeWiFi agree and are planning on combining it with a much loved technology around the world…Wi-Fi!

They are planning to build bird houses that can measure the amount of pollution in the air, and make them levels visible through an LED status light. The birdhouse will measure when the air is clean and when it is, will give out free Wi-Fi. The roof of the birdhouse will then light up green to show people that the air is of good quality and that Wi-Fi is available on the street.

The technology works by the treehouse sending air quality data to a server where it is analysed and made public for everyone to see.

The brilliance behind the TreeWiFi is its ability to measure air pollution around the world in a much cheaper way than regular government owned air quality measuring stations. The more birdhouses installed means we can get a much more realistic idea of the air pollution around cities and towns.

Currently in Amsterdam air quality is not measured locally and thus local citizens tend not to get involved in improving air quality. The Wi-Fi element will not only offer researchers a better understanding of the workings of air pollution, but also motivate citizens to get involved in reducing air pollution. TreeWiFi also aims to encourage people who live in a city to use their bikes and public transportation more often, and to organise car-free days in their districts.

The project began with funding from the Awesome Foundation Amsterdam in March 2016, since then the team has grown from founder and designer Joris Lam to five in total. TreeWiFi is now hoping to raise €6.500 to further support the development of the prototype and to be able to build five units that they can place in the city of Amsterdam for testing.

Founder Joris Lam hopes to install at least 500 units in the city of Amsterdam, or other European cities who want to tackle air pollution. Due to the project’s fun and relatable approach to a subject otherwise hard to bring attention to, the reactions have been positive from local citizens.

We think it’s a great idea all round – Who would love to see the TreeWifi installed in your local towns and cities? Would they make you more aware of your carbon footprint and air polluting ways? Or are you just here for the free Wi-Fi? (We had to ask!)

 

Germany generated that much renewable energy, they actually paid people to use it!

17 May

What a time to be alive – on Sunday 8th May 2016, Germany produced an incredible amount of renewable energy. For a few hours, the European nation went full ‘green’. Its power grid had surplus, and for a few hours residents actually earned money from using electricity, rather than paying for it. We were just as shocked as you!

The weather was so sunny and windy that at about 1pm in the day, the wind, hydro, solar and biomass plants in Germany generated 87% (55GW) of the entire amount of power (63GW) being consumed in the country. It’s an astonishing achievement and one that unfortunately the industry just was not expecting.

In 2015, Germany’s renewable energy mix was at 33% but Germany managed to use the sun, wind and rain to provide 87 per cent of an entire country’s energy requirements which is an incredible achievement. Usually, renewables just top up the main supply. Gas plants were actually shut down due to the green surge, but nuclear and coal plants couldn’t suspend activity fast enough. It meant the grid was overrun with power.

So Germany’s target of becoming 100% renewable by 2050 (which Denmark is currently hitting) seems not as ambitious as once thought. Germany will of course need to keep some of its nuclear and coal plants running due to the unpredictability of its renewable energy sources as they are dependent on the weather. In July last year, Denmark’s wind power was generating 140% of its demand, meaning energy could be sent over to Germany, Norway and Sweden.

At the moment there is a north/south split in the country, as wind turbines are located mostly in the north of Germany and solar power plants in the south. The authorities are also wanting to phase out nuclear power by 2022. With the country making exciting gains towards its goal, experts believe Germany to be a good role model for other developed countries.

It has been argued that the grid needs to become more flexible in order for the transition to renewable energy to be successful. Presently, renewable energy plants generating a lot of energy on sunny and blustery days have to push it into the grid, resulting in inefficiency and these negative prices. But with developed grid management and power storage technology, sudden spikes could be handled better and utilised in a more effective way.

Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, A Geothermal Dream

27 Apr

Iceland is home to the ‘Blue Lagoon’, a geothermal spa located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula, southwestern Iceland. People from all over travel to this famous landmark which is an oasis for relaxation and tranquillity. The lagoon is surrounded by an ethereal landscape of black volcanic rocks, fluffy green moss and bluish-white natural pools. Essentially the Blue Lagoon is a giant bathtub that pools six million litres of geothermal seawater from 2000 metres beneath the earth’s surface.

How does the Blue Lagoon work?

The water originates where freshwater and seawater are combined at extreme temperatures. The waters are then harnessed via deep holes at the nearby geothermal plant providing electricity and hot water to the site and nearby communities.

The lagoon is a man-made lagoon which is fed by the water output of the nearby geothermal power plant Svartsengi and is renewed every two days. Superheated water is emitted from the ground near a lava flow and used to run turbines that generate electricity.

After going through the turbines, the steam and hot water passes through a heat exchanger to provide heat for a municipal water heating system. Then the water is fed into the lagoon for recreational and medicinal users to bathe in.

It was in 1976 that the pool was formed at the site from the waste water of the geothermal power plant that had just been built there. In 1981 people started bathing in it after its purported healing powers were popularised. In 1992 the Blue Lagoon Company was established and the bathing facility was opened for the public.

What makes this location so special?

Iceland has enormous geothermal potential as the island is basically an eruption of porous basalt at the crack in Earth’s crust where the North American and Eurasian plates are pulling apart.

Historically, Icelanders used the Earth’s heat directly for washing and baking the “hot spring bread” known as hverabrauth. In 1930 water from boreholes drilled into geothermal springs in Laugardalur, just east of the capital city of Reykjavik, was piped to Austurbaer primary school about two miles away.

Iceland has two of the traits dearest to geologists in search of available geothermal power, according to power company Reykjavik Energy: enormous underground reservoirs of water that are continually renewed by levels of annual precipitation that range as high as 177 inches (450 centimetres) over Iceland’s glaciers, and shallow plumes of magma that heat the deepest reaches of these reservoirs to temperatures in excess of 750 degrees Fahrenheit (400 degrees Celsius).

What are the benefits of geothermal energy?

1)  It is a renewable source of energy.

2)  By far, it is non-polluting and environment friendly.

3)  There is no wastage or generation of by-products.

4)  Geothermal energy can be used directly. In ancient times, people used this source of energy for heating homes, cooking, etc.

5)  Maintenance cost of geothermal power plants is very less.

6)  Geothermal power plants don’t occupy too much space and thus help in protecting natural environment.

7)  Unlike solar energy, it is not dependent on the weather conditions.

The biggest disadvantage when it comes to geothermal energy is that only few sites around the world have the potential, usually located far away from towns and cities where it is needed to be consumed. The Blue Lagoon (although not a natural wonder) is a wonder nonetheless.

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