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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.

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India Plans To Rent Rooftops In A Bid To Install More Solar Panels

17 Feb

When it comes to solar power, India is in one of the most perfect locations for the technology due to its extraordinary sun coverage and the high levels of unmet demand for electricity. There are very few countries in the world where solar power has a greater potential than India. With a huge landmass and an average of 300 sunny days a year, India theoretically provides five trillion kilowatt-hours of clean and renewable solar power available every year across its length and breadth, enough to electrify the nation dozens of times over. At times throughout the warmest months of the year major cities for example Delhi suffer from regular power outages due to the increasing demand for power.

To capitalise on the opportunity Indian electricity companies are advising potential customers to rent out their rooftops in a bid to host solar panels. Such a push could see a huge expansion for the country’s solar power capabilities.

The main targets are large industrial and commercial energy consumers. Not only do these companies that host the panels end up with a significant discount on their power bill, but the developers also save money on the most expensive aspect of solar development, which is the cost of purchasing large amounts of land to host their renewable energy projects.

Government buildings such as hospitals, schools and office buildings are potential targets for hosting the technology. Other potential landmarks include industrial complexes, commercial buildings and malls are the target for these operators who would set up solar rooftops for free and sell you power at rates that are cheaper than the local utilities.

“Around 240 sq mt of rooftop space is good enough for setting up a rooftop solar power plant that can viably sell power to the building and earn some decent profits,” said Sunil Jain, chief executive of Hero Future Energies. “In fact, some five-six companies including Hero Future Energy have already entered the fray and are on the lookout for large rooftop space in industrial complexes, commercial buildings, malls and gated communities,” he said.

Although a positive plan, a major disadvantage of the idea is that the cost of generating power differs in different places due to difference of the sunlight’s intensity. For example, the sun is the strongest in Rajasthan and the intensity reduces as it moves towards east. Another issue is with the rental model itself as there is no set of standard model agreements, and therefore the power companies don’t yet have a way to make the contracts legally binding. It means that while customers may rent out their roofs for lengthy periods of time, up to 25 years, they might be able to unexpectedly back out of an agreement questioning its reliability.

 

 

 

The Benefits of Solar Panels

29 Jan

It has been argued that solar power will help in reducing the effects of global warming. Many theorists argue that global warming will prove a huge threat to the earth’s ecological system in years to come. Global warming threatens the survival of human society and countless species. Luckily, decades (or even centuries) of research have led to efficient solar panel systems that create electricity without producing global warming pollution. Solar power is now very clearly one of the most important solutions to the global warming crisis.

Solar power is a form of renewable energy, so its use reduces the strain on exhaustible materials like coal and oil – materials which are fast running out. More significantly, solar power doesn’t pollute the earth’s atmosphere with harmful emissions in the same way that coal and oil do. Once fitted, solar panels emit no pollution whatsoever, and only the construction and installation process contribute to the Earth’s carbon footprint. Solar panels are, in fact, the most environmentally friendly of all available renewable technologies.

The Benefits

Solar power provides energy security. First and foremost no one can go and buy the sun or turn sunlight into a monopoly. Combined with the simplicity of solar panels, this also provides the notable solar power advantage of energy security.

Carbon footprint advantages. Research shows over the life of a solar installation it produces on average of 20x less CO2 than coal power – at least! Solar panels are carbon negative after three years. As during this time they produce as much energy as was consumed during their manufacturing and installation.

Solar power creates jobs. As a source of energy, solar power is a job-creating powerhouse. Money invested in solar power creates two to three times more jobs than money invested in coal or natural gas. (see table below for example from 2014).

Earn money for the electricity you generate. The Feed-in tariffs in the United Kingdom were announced in October 2008 and took effect from April 2010. It applies to small-scale generation of electricity, paying a fixed sum for eligible technologies. Feed-in tariffs normally cover all of the energy generated, not just what is fed into the grid. You can also sell the electricity you generate but do not use back to the grid.

Solar power is reliable. The rising and setting of the sun is extremely consistent. All across the world, we know exactly when it will rise and set every day of the year. While clouds may be a bit less predictable, we do also have fairly good seasonal and daily projections for the amount of sunlight that will be received in different locations. All in all, this makes solar power an extremely reliable source of energy.

And finally, one of the biggest advantages to the homeowner…
Cut your electricity bills. Sunlight is free, so once you’ve paid for the initial installation your electricity costs will be reduced.

 

The Use Of Solar Energy Through The Centuries

18 Dec

Did you know that solar energy has been around for centuries but not in the way we know and love today? It has been used in a number of different ways for example during the 7th century B.C people magnified the sun’s rays to create fire!

Let’s rewind to six thousand years ago when Neolithic Chinese villagers had the sole opening of their homes south facing. They did this to catch the rays of the low winter sun to help warm the interior. The overhanging thatched roof kept the high summer sun off the houses throughout the day so those inside would stay cool. Two thousand years later Chinese urban planners would build the main streets of towns to run east to west to allow every house to look to the south to catch the winter sun for supplementary heating. Over the many years Chinese cities followed such planning ideas and still today the Chinese favour a south-facing home.

Allegedly in the 2nd century B.C Archimedes, an Ancient Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer from Sicily used the reflective properties of brass to set Roman ships that were attacking Syracuse on fire. Fast forward a century and we saw the Greeks and Romans using ‘burning mirrors’ to light torches for religious purposes.

The Romans also had large windows covered with either transparent stone or clear glass. This was one of the great breakthroughs in building and solar technology. Transparent materials like mica or glass, the Romans discovered, acts as a solar heat trap, admitting sunlight into the desired space and holding in the heat so it accumulates inside. Sun-right laws were passed which made it a civil offence to block ones access to face the south.

In 1767 a Swiss scientist called Horace-Benedict de Saussure created the very first solar cell. He constructed an insulated box with an opening and three layers of glass. It magnified the suns heat to temperatures in excess of 230 degrees Fahrenheit and could be used in a variety of ways. It was known as a ‘Hot Box’ and became the prototype for solar thermal collectors used to heat water and homes.

The first major milestone in the evolution of solar energy took place in 1839 and it was defined as the photovoltaic effect. A young French scientist by the name of Edmund Bacquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect whilst experimenting in his father’s laboratory with an electrolytic cell made up of two metal electrodes placed in an electrolyte.  After exposing it to light, electricity increased.

Fast forward once again to 1905, Albert Einstein published a paper on the photoelectric effect, which Robert Millikan proved with experimental proof in 1916.  This sparked further research into solar energy, and in 1918, Jan Czochralski developed the Czochralski process to grow single crystal silicon, which would later become critical to the PV industry.

Years later in 1921, 16 years after he submitted this paper, Albert Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for the scientific breakthroughs he had discovered.

It was in 1954 that Daryl Chaplin, Calvin Fuller and Gerald Pearson propelled the industry into what it is today. They developed the silicon PV cell at Bell labs, which was the first solar cell able to convert enough energy to power everyday electrical equipment.

Blink and it’s soon to be the start of 2016, it may have took a long time to come to fruition but we can’t argue the power of the sun. It’s a very exciting time for solar energy as its seeing positive signs of investment and growth. Key for the future of solar is the development of efficient, cost-effective solar panels, which will see the development of exciting new technology. Watch this space!

 

 

In France All New Commercial Buildings Must Install Green Roofs or Solar Panels

26 Jun

France has introduced a new building requirement in its commercial zones. It calls for all roofs to be partially covered in either solar panels or plants. This is just a recent green headline to come from France following the Eiffel Tower wind turbines and the tree shaped wind turbines that are being installed in the capital.

Green roofs have been around for centuries in different corners of the world. We have seen an increase in green roof interest due to growing concerns surrounding climate change, carbon footprints and sustainability. It is not only roof’s that can be covered; walls can also have a green makeover. They offer many advantages to the public and private sectors ranging from waste diversion to energy efficiency.

A further benefit of a green roof is its isolating effect which allows buildings to better retain their heat during the winter months while reflecting and absorbing solar radiation during the summer months, allowing buildings to remain cooler.

They can help reduce the distribution of dust and particle matter through cities to combat the smog issue. They play a huge role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and help adapt urban areas to predicted future climates with warmer summers.

Green roofs also have the ability to reduce sound from outside by up to 40 decibels. They have excellent noise reduction, especially for low frequency sounds.

Originally, French environmental activists had asked for all rooftops to be 100% green. The Socialist government convinced activists to limit the scope of the law to just commercial buildings.

By giving businesses the option to install solar panels rather than green roofs, France could catch up some with its neighbours when it comes to solar energy.

Germany currently has the highest installed capacity of solar and shows no signs of slowing down. Think Progress recently reported that France had only five gigawatts of photovoltaics implemented as of last summer, accounting for only one percent of all energy production.

Since 2009, Toronto Canada has had a similar mandatory green roof law in place, requiring green roofs on new buildings. Preliminary studies suggested that the city could save hundreds of millions of dollars in energy costs. France is making an investment in energy independence, efficiency, and stability.

Maybe we should all be looking at green roofs in our cities?

green-roofs-france

 

Winter Vs Renewable Energy

21 Nov

Winter is tapping on the front door just waiting to come in, the leaves are falling, pesky frost is appearing on car windows and temperatures are slowly but surely dropping. What does this mean for renewable energy, could we survive winter purely using clean energy methods? And more importantly who will come out on top, winter or renewable energy?

 

Solar

Did you know that solar panels are actually more efficient in colder temperatures? During the winter months solar panels energy production can increase by up to 15% because the panels capture energy from photovoltaic light, not the suns heat. Heat actually reduces the efficiency of a solar panel. Although this is a winning situation for solar, winter months have fewer daylight hours and therefore the amount of energy produced will be lower than that of other times in the year.

Winter = Nil

Renewable Energy = Nil

 

Wind

Is the answer blowing in the wind? It could very well be as the winter months generally bring stronger winds. These stronger winds could help offset the loss of production seen from solar. This same balanced system design can also be applied to differences between night and day, where solar panels create energy from light during the day and wind turbines take benefit from night-time winds.

 

Winter = Nil

Renewable Energy = 1

 

Location

Coal and natural gas power plants have the capability to create energy regardless of their location. Unfortunately for wind and solar, they require a strategic placement which is also very dependent on the time of year.

Renewable energy system designers plan for these changes, using weather data, anemometers, and modelling software to ensure the system is reliable and efficient all year round. Often this means designing a system based on the historically least sunny and windy day of the year.

Renewable energy systems are most productive and cost effective when they are customised to their unique environment. For example, Polar Regions have very little sun during the winter months thus being a good location for wind but not solar.

Winter = 1 (We gave this due to the natural power of the winter months, they could heavily push the cost of renewable energy up, by means of more expensive planning and deployment).

Renewable Energy = 1

 

Snow!

Ah snow, some love it, some hate it and some love to hate it. Personally I’m a sucker for snow – snowball fights, snowmen, yellow snow…erm not so much, but how does this effect renewable energy?  Snow does prevent the technology from absorbing light, but can easily be brushed off or will melt quickly in the sun.

Snow and ice can cause added load on solar panels, so this possibility should be factored into structural design as well as energy production estimates for the winter season.

Winter = 2

Renewable energy = 1

 

Peak power demand

During the winter months we all use more energy to heat our homes. This can lead to energy shortages which cause natural gas prices to rise. With the increase in demand we also see an increase in power outages. The good news for renewable energy systems is that they are designed for off the grid use and can provide us with uninterrupted electricity even if the power lines go down.

Winter = 2

Renewable energy  = 2

 

There you have it, it’s a draw. Renewable energy technology is quickly advancing before our very eyes for example solar panels can now self-cleaning…who knew? At this moment in time it’s hard to pick a clear winner and the power of winter remains a strong opponent, but who knows what will happen in the next five years!

 

A windy October provides Scotland with 126% of their electricity needs met!

7 Nov

Scotland has one of the best wind resources in Western Europe so it came as no surprise when ‘The World Wildlife Fund Scotland’ announced that renewable energy in Scotland had a “bumper month” in October 2014. Wind alone was the major provider with enough energy generated to power around 3,045,000 homes, an enormous number when you consider the population of Scotland which stands at 5.295 million (2011). Solar and hot water generation also added to the country’s success, who said Scotland was rainy and grey?

An estimated 982,842 MWh of electricity was generated equating to 126 percent of the electricity needs of Scotland met.

Wind power is Scotland’s fastest growing renewable energy technology with their installed on and offshore wind farms. The Scottish Government has a target of generating 100% of Scotland’s electricity by 2020. The majority of this is likely to come from wind power.

The country lies in the path of eastward-moving Atlantic depressions and these bring wind and clouds regularly throughout the year. In common with the rest of the United Kingdom, wind prevails from the south-west, bringing warm, wet air from the Atlantic. The windiest areas of Scotland are in the north and west, parts of the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland have over 30 days of gales per year.

It wasn’t just a successful month for Scotland as the UK as a whole saw an increase in wind power generation, providing the island with 2,496,842 MWh of electricity. This is enough to meet the needs of 7,736,000 UK households according to figures from WeatherEnergy. The figures equate to a huge 28 percent of households electricity needs being met for the month.

Solar production also managed to pull in an impressive result as according to the WWF; “For those homes fitted with solar hot water panels, there was enough sunshine to meet an estimated 41% of the hot water needs of an average home in Edinburgh, 31% in Inverness, 30% in Glasgow, and 27% in Aberdeen.”

Considering summer has officially ended these are remarkable figures for this time of year. The population of Scotland that are living with installed solar panels or heat water, around a third of their energy needs were met from the sun this October, helping reduce their reliance on coal, gas, or even oil. Impressive stuff!

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks has said; “The science is clear, if we are to prevent the worst impacts of global climate change, then the world needs to move away from fossil fuels. The good news is that here in Scotland we’re making good use of wind power to create clean electricity.

“With nuclear power plants were being forced to shut because of cracks, Scotland’s wind and sunshine were quietly and cleanly helping to keep the lights on in homes across the country.”

Well done Scotland, and hopefully the success will continue!

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