Tag Archives: Electricity

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.

Could Wave Power Satisfy our Energy Needs?

12 Apr

The UK is a great location for wave power and it is often argued that marine energy converters could offer a more consistent source of energy in comparison to alternative clean energy sources. Researchers at the College of Engineering at the Oregon State University have recently established a new analysis that suggests wave power could also prove to be a cheaper alternative to its renewable energy equivalents. The new analysis has suggested that large-scale wave power arrays could balance out supply and demand by not putting a substantial amount of pressure on the grid.

What do we already know about wave energy? An advantage to wave energy is that it will never run out. There will always be waves crashing upon the shores of nations, near the populated coastal regions. The waves flow back from the shore, but they always return. Unlike fossil fuels, creating power from waves creates no harmful by-products such as gas, waste, and pollution. The energy from waves can be taken directly into electricity-producing machinery and used to power generators and power plants nearby. In today’s energy-powered world, we know a source of clean energy is hard to come by.

Waves are hardly interrupted and are almost always in motion. This makes generating electricity from wave energy a reasonable reliable energy source (at least when you compare them to solar and wind). Beneficially, the energy density is typically around 30-40 kW for every meter (2.2 feet) of wave along the shore. As we go further into the ocean 100kW for every meter is not uncommon. A wave farm that is occupying less than a half square mile of an ocean could generate more than 30 MW of power, the equivalent of 20,000 British homes.

Let’s take a look at the other advantages of wave power:


  • Low Operating Costs – Once installed there are few ongoing operating costs or labour costs, unless there is a device breakdown.
  • No material resources are used or changed in the production of wave power, making it a truly renewable power form.
  • Most wave power devices are installed mostly or fully submerged in water. By installing the devices far enough from shore there is minimal “damage of water views” that has been associated with offshore wind turbines.
  • It offers shoreline protection, as capturing the kinetic energy of the tide will lead to less power crashing into the shore, which should help prevent damage to the shoreline.
  • Most wave power devices operate at optimal efficiency levels regardless of the direction of the waves.

Similar to most good things, wave power does come with a number of disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage to getting your energy from the waves is location. Only power plants and towns near the ocean will benefit directly from it. Because of its source, wave energy is not a viable power source for everyone. Landlocked nations and cities far from the sea have to find alternate sources of power, so wave energy is not the clean energy solution for everyone. Other disadvantages include:


  • The high cost of device and associated power products could lengthen the payback period and be cost prohibitive based on the characteristics and size of each project.
  • Sea life could be harmed or have habitats disrupted or displaced. The machines disturb the seafloor, changing the habitat of near-shore creatures (like crabs and starfish) and create noise that disturbs the sea life around them.
  • Strong ocean storms and salt water corrosion can damage the devices, which could increase the cost of construction to increase durability and/or cause frequent breakdowns. This especially holds true with the increased complexity of the devices.
  • Aesthetically unpleasing, the overtopping devices could produce a loud, constant noise. This noise is unlikely going to be significantly louder than the waves would make on their own.
  • The performance of wave power drops significantly during rough weather. They must withstand rough weather.

Installers should consider the pros and cons of this energy source and consider who and what they may be disturbing. Who knows what the future holds for wave power!

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.


Save your house from the energy vampires!

15 May

Energy wasted through ‘standby’ mode is often referred to as “vampire energy loss,” and it’s easy to see why. Like the blood-drinking creatures of the night, your devices are sucking down power while you sleep–albeit without the bite marks!!

Studies have found that vampire energy loss accounts for 5-10% of the total electricity in residential homes and accounts for about 1% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Devices such as televisions, microwaves, scanners, and printers use standby power, even when off. So why don’t you sink your teeth into the following energy saving tips to banish those pesky energy sucking vampires…

  1. Do you enjoy movies? Watch them on your TV rather than a games console. Using a games console i.e. a PlayStation 4 to stream a movie can consume 10 to 20 times the amount of energy than an internet connected TV.
  1. Plug electronics into a power strip, and then turn the strip off when not in use to save energy. Game consoles, DVD players, or stereos can continue to draw power even when the TV is off if not turned off at the wall.
  1. Get rid of the screensaver – We have all walked around the office seeing countless screensavers of dogs, cats, beaches, people falling over and trees but these still use power. Instead of having a screensaver displayed when not using the computer, adjust the settings so that the monitor turns off after 10 to 15 minutes of inactivity, and the computer itself goes to ‘sleep’ after 30 minutes or less of inactivity.
  1. Do you own a smart TV with the quick start feature enabled? If so you will be attracting the vampires as some of the modern ‘smart’ TVs that connect to the internet will continually use anywhere from 10 to 24 watts even when not being used.
  1. Whether you use Virgin, Sky, or any other TV provider they are continually updating their boxes to make them more energy efficient. Older boxes tended to pull full power even if they appeared to be off, so if you have an old box, ask for a newest energy efficient version!
  1. Unplug devices you don’t use often or remain on standby for a long period of time. This probably won’t work for your TV box, but if you have an extra TV, an old desktop computer or a stereo you only use from time to time, you should consider unplugging them until the next time you need to use them.
  1. Unplug any once a day items – for example hair dryers and even microwaves!
  1. Unplug once charged – So many things now run on battery power for example mobile phones, electronic razors and computer tablets. There’s no need to keep it plugged in the wall once fully charged.
  1. Unplug at bedtime – Even if you use something all day, you aren’t using it when you’re asleep. Unplug common electronics for example computers and televisions; just reboot them in the morning.
  1. Adjust your thermostat and water heater settings – A programmable thermostat can make it easy to cut down on heating costs when there’s nobody home, and the settings should be reviewed and changed as the seasons and schedules change.

So remember these energy saving tips and don’t let your house turn into an episode of True Blood. If you have any more tips leave a comment below 🙂

Could your urine soon be lighting up refugee camps around the globe?

6 Mar

We have already blogged about the power of peoples pee – mainly for astronauts but now the University of the West of England are proving how useful urine can be. Students and staff at the Bristol based university are proving that urine can generate electricity. The experiment has gained interest from Oxfam who say it shows great potential for use in refugee camps.

A prototype toilet has been positioned on the university campus, conveniently by the Student Union bar to prove that urine can generate electricity especially after a few pints! The study will also highlight the potential for helping to light up toilet cubicles in international refugee camps around the world where people are at risk of rape and sexual assault in dark toilets.  Staff and students are widely being encouraged to use the toilet.

Microbial fuel cell stacks convert the urine into energy, as microbes feed on urine for their growth. The equipment that converts the urine into power sits underneath the urinal and can be viewed through a clear screen. Research lead Professor Leropoulos stated; “(It is) in effect a system which taps a portion of that biochemical energy used for microbial growth, and converts that directly into electricity – what we are calling urine-tricity or pee power.

“This technology is about as green as it gets, as we do not need to utilise fossil fuels and we are effectively using a waste product that will be in plentiful supply.”

A projected 6.4 trillion litres of urine is produced by humans across the globe every year. Thus researchers argue it will be a cheap and reliable way to create energy.

Head of Water and Sanitation at Oxfam, Andy Bastable has said: “Oxfam is an expert at providing sanitation in disaster zones, and it is always a challenge to light inaccessible areas far from a power supply.

“This technology is a huge step forward. Living in a refugee camp is hard enough without the added threat of being assaulted in dark places at night. The potential of this invention is huge.”

Researchers at Bristol BioEnergy Centre made headlines in 2013 when they demonstrated that the same technology can be used to turn urine into power which can charge a mobile phone. Professor Leropoulos announced that the unit installed at the university would cost around £600 to set up. He said: “One microbial fuel cell costs about £1 to make, and we think that a small unit like the demo we have mocked up for this experiment could cost as little as £600 to set up, which is a significant bonus as this technology is in theory everlasting.”

How do you feel about the “Pee Power” toilet? Would you use one? If this kind of technology takes off you could maybe see one installed in your home powering your appliances. Is pee the answer? Only time will tell.

The worlds largest wind farm approved for the Yorkshire coast

27 Feb

Ahhhh Great Britain…home to the Queen, tea-lovers, James Bond and the rain. Soon to be added to this impressive list is only the world’s largest offshore wind farm. It has been announced that the UK energy secretary has just approved an array of 400 turbines to be constructed around 80 miles off the Yorkshire coast in northern England.

The wind farm will be more than twice the size of the UK’s current biggest offshore wind farm and could satisfy 2.5% of the UK’s electricity needs. This is enough to power around two million homes. Smashing.

The project has been named ‘The Dogger Bank Creyke Beck Project’ due to its location being the Dogger Bank. It will cover around 430 square miles and cost £6bn to £8bn to build. A huge positive to the project is that it could support an estimated 900 new jobs in Yorkshire and Humberside.

The location of the project is ideal due to it having a shallow seabed, only around 30 meters deep. This will make it easier to set foundations and install the large turbines. Though there has been little exploration that could confirm this officially. If built at this location, the turbines will be the furthest offshore that has ever been attempted.

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat energy and climate change secretary, states: “Making the most of Britain’s home-grown energy is creating jobs and businesses in the UK, getting the best deal for consumers and reducing our reliance on foreign imports. Wind power is vital to this plan, with £14.5bn invested since 2010 into an industry which supports 35,400 jobs.”

We do not manufacture the large wind turbines here in the UK, but the Department of Energy and Climate have said half the costs connected with building a wind farm are spent with UK businesses for their products and services. Construction of the first turbines could still be years away.

The last big offshore wind farm in the UK was the London Array. Sadly the project had some issues between 2005 and 2007 after gaining the government’s green light in a drawn out process. It led to investors withdrawing and the costs escalating. Nonetheless, the London Array came through strong with its 175 turbines and was installed in 2013.

Currently in the UK we have around 1,200 offshore wind turbines generating a total capacity of about 4GW. Impressive when you think of how tiny we are in this huge world.





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