Archive | solar power RSS feed for this section

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.

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

 

Why going solar may be right up your street

5 Jun

Are you thinking of investing in a solar powered future for you and your family? Increasing numbers of homeowners around the world are going solar, and the green energy investment not only saves money in the long run, but also helps the environment. What’s not to love?

In terms of global installed capacity, solar is the 3rd most important renewable energy source sitting just behind hydro and wind respectively. Solar panels don’t need direct sunlight to work; they can still generate some electricity on a cloudy day. The cells convert the sunlight into electricity, which can be used to run household appliances and lighting.

The benefits of going solar

  1. Once the panels have been installed there is no need for any fuels to be consumed. What could be greener than that?
  2. In terms of your local community – By reducing the impact on the power grid (with your house being self-efficient) power is conserved for other locations around the community.
  3. The sun must be the most reliable source of power due to the fact it will be around for the next several billion years. An abundant power source if you ask us.
  4. Get paid for generating electricity. The government’s Feed-In Tariffs pay you for the electricity you generate – even if you use it!
  5. SUNLIGHT IS FREE! So once you have paid for the initial installation your energy costs will be reduced.
  6. You could sell electricity back to the grid. Basically, if your system is producing more electricity than you use, you can sell the surplus back to the grid.
  7. A typical home which operates under solar power could save over a tonne of carbon dioxide per year. You could be the greenest person you know considering you could save more than 30 tonnes over its lifetime!

Solar power around the world

You might be surprised to know that in 2010 Germany had the highest capacity of solar photovoltaic power in the world and still does to this day. Despite a slowdown in 2013, Germany is expected to remain the top solar market in Europe for the coming years, and still boasts a quarter of the world’s installed PV capacity 26 percent, compared to the 13 percent held by each of the next two countries, Italy and China.

China is second on the list. Coupled with a commitment to cut its coal use, the world’s biggest carbon polluter could soon also be the country powered with the greenest energy. It helps that China is a major solar panel manufacturer, and the government has had to repeatedly raise its renewable energy targets — from a plan of 20 GW by 2020 to 20-30 GW by 2020 to the current target of an astounding 70 GW of solar by 2017.

Rounding off the top three is Italy. Rising from fifth place in 2010 to third place as of the end of 2013, Italy generates more of its energy from solar than any other nation, with 7.8 percent of its energy coming from solar, compared to 6.2 percent for Germany.

As for the little island called the United Kingdom, we come at an impressive 10th. In 2013, the U.K nearly doubled its solar capacity, installing more even than Italy, the current 5th-place holder. Pretty impressive!

Frequently asked questions

  • A popular question asked by someone wanting to go solar is what happens when they move home. In short, ownership of the technology is linked to the site and, therefore, in the case where a building or homeownership changes, the ownership of the technology would also transfer to the new owner.
  • Another popular subject is the questionable amount of sunshine in the UK. Well, solar panels work using light, and not necessarily sun light. This means that a solar PV or solar thermal system can function in cooler and often cloudier countries. However you will of course generate more energy at sunnier times of the year.
  • And finally, where should you installed your solar panels – Maximum output comes from south facing systems between 30-40 degrees from horizontal. Although most systems are installed on a roof, they can be installed on any surface such as facades, sunshades, garages or ground mounted. They are normally installed in locations that receive sunshine through most of the day.

If you would like any more information regarding solar power call us on 020 8883 4595. One of our dedicated team members will be happy to help!

%d bloggers like this: