Tag Archives: energy

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.


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.




Why Energy Efficiency is the way forward…

23 Jul

Energy efficiency is “using less energy to provide the same service” being energy efficient is basically about using less energy to do the things we want/need. But are there any benefits? Yes!!! And many, that can massively impact positively in our environments. There are many, which if we all became energy efficient, would be realized greatly by all parts of society.

  1. If you install an energy efficient window into your home rather than a single pane window, the energy efficient window prevents heat from escaping in the winter, so you ultimately save energy and money as you use your electric heater or other heat appliances much less, however stay just as comfortable and warm. It also helps in summer too! Energy efficient windows keep the heat out, therefore you don’t have to keep your air conditioner running as often as you would – which again saves electricity and your money.
  2. Secondly, if you replace a clothes washer, refrigerator, printer, computer, etc, with a more energy efficient model it will provide the exact same service however will use less energy.  This saves you money on your energy bill, and reduces the amount of greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere.

Energy efficiency is key in the fight against climate change as it reduces greenhouse gas emissions, however it does more! Consider these benefits that go beyond climate change:

  • Lowering household energy bills – Energy efficiency is the easiest, most affordable and most efficient way for families to save money on both transportation costs and household expenses.
  • Reducing local air pollutants – Energy efficiency reduces local air pollutants that come from sources like oil or wood. These are separate from greenhouse gas emissions but include chemicals, such as sulphur dioxide, that are dangerous to humans.
  • Improving business competitiveness – Energy costs affect business’s greatly. Businesses that control their energy consumption will massively enjoy lower electricity, heating and transportation costs.
  • Increasing comfort – Energy efficiency offers to reduce energy costs, whilst also allowing more comfort. Energy bills can be incredibly expensive and some households have great difficulty paying to heat their homes. So being able to reduce energy costs and gain more comfort would be extremely significant.

Often energy efficiency and energy conservation are confused. Energy conservation is reducing or going without a service to save energy. However, energy efficiency is replacing an appliance/object with a more energy efficient model.

For example: Replacing a normal everyday lamp with a compact fluorescent lamp is energy efficiency – the compact fluorescent lamp uses much less energy however produces the exact same amount of light. Whereas, turning off a light to save energy is energy conservation. But ultimately both efficiency and conservation reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Now you know about being more energy efficient and its benefit/ability to lower costs, help save energy/electricity and help fight climate change, it’s time to take action.

Indian Railway Tests Solar Powered Trains To Help Cut Fuel Bills And Pollution

16 Jun

India has one of the largest railway networks in the world carrying an estimated 23 million passengers daily on approximately 12,000 trains. In a huge move Indian Railways could soon be running its trains via solar power which would be a momentous move for the countries environmental conservation. The railway also transports around 3 million tonnes of freight daily which requires an enormous amount of energy.

At the forefront of the operation, Indian Railways plans to tackle the railways current fuel bill which currently constitutes as the second largest part of its expenditure, the first being its employee salaries. In 2012, Indian Railways consumed nearly 3 million kilolitres of diesel oil and about 14 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.

Diesel alone is costing Rs30,000 crore (£3.02 billion) and overtime has been chomping away at the bank balance for Indian Railways.

The potential for solar energy in India is massive. Harnessing it will not only control diesel consumption (by up to 90,000 litres per year) and reduce carbon dioxide emissions (by over 200 tonnes), but also prove extremely cost-effective.

A prototype of a solar powered non air conditioned coach is currently undertaking trials, and soon the entire train will be fitted with solar panels, officials have said. At present, nearly 17 units of electricity are being generated from the solar powered coach. The cost of installing the panels on each coach, according to the Economic Times, is about Rs3.9 lakh (£3,905), and these are expected to result in savings of Rs1.24 lakh (£1,241) per year.

By 2020, Indian Railways plans for renewable energy to create at least 10% of its total energy consumption. The primary action is to implement solar-powered lighting via panels mounted on the roofs of trains.

As per the plan, the train would be pulled by conventional diesel-run engines while solar panels will provide all the internal electricity needs for lights and fans on both air conditioned and no air conditioned coaches.

The solar panelled coach will be tested in an assortment of conditions in the upcoming weeks by the Indian Institute of Science and the coach makers themselves, Integral Coach Factory.

Indian Railways also propose to harness solar energy in their train stations by implementing solar panels to the buildings roofs. The rail network plans 1,000 megawatts of solar-power projects in the next five years, Minister Suresh Prabhu said in parliament. Developers can use the railway land and buildings to set up solar panels.  The solar power will be used to light up stations and office buildings.

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 🙂

I’ll huff and I’ll puff, and blow your new straw house down

20 Mar

We all know the story of the three little pigs? In short there were three pigs, one greedy wolf, a house made of straw, a house made of sticks and a house made of bricks. The wolf blew houses down all but one…you can imagine which house survived and the fate of the three little pigs. Anyhow the reason behind this blog is that straw houses will no longer be the preserve of little pigs as the first straw houses are now being offered on the housing market.

A specialist architectural company called Modcell bumped heads with the University of Bath to research the project which led to the construction of seven houses. They were built on a street filled with traditional brick-built properties in Shirehampton, Bristol. Though, we must mention the seven houses are clad in brick to fit in with the area.  The houses have timber framed prefabricated walls and are filled with straw bales which are in cased in wooden boards. Someone’s been reading the three little pig’s story haven’t they?

The team have promised homeowners that they could see a 90% decrease in their fuel bills, much cheaper than the average brick home. They also boast a lower purchase price…what’s not to love? The project leader Professor Pete Walker said;

“The construction sector must reduce its energy consumption by 50% and its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, so radical changes are needed to the way we approach house building.

“As a construction material, straw is a low-cost and widely-available food co-product that offers real potential for ultra-low carbon housing throughout the UK.

“Building with straw could be a critical point in our trajectory towards a low-carbon future.”

The team behind the project insist that straw houses could help to meet housing demand in the UK sustainably. With so many young buyers struggling to get on the house market due to high purchase costs, could this be the answer? Or is some greedy wolf rubbing their hands together waiting for the house to fall down so they can have a tasty snack? Apparently not as Professor Walker continued;

 “Over the past three years of research we have looked at various aspects of the performance of straw,”

“Two that particularly come to mind as concerns or apprehension from potential users of straw are fire-resistance and weather-resistance.

 “In terms of durability, we have undertaken laboratory tests and undertaken monitoring of existing buildings and we have also done accelerated weather tests.

“The results of all these tests suggest that straw is a very durable construction solution.”

The team have thoroughly tired and tested the technology, working on its weight bearing properties and its thermal insulation. Straw houses have been on the increase especially in the USA, Australia and China who have been implementing straw bales in their housing construction.

Researchers have estimated that after wheat production and animal bedding, a remaining 3.8 million tonnes of straw is left. This is enough to build 500,000 new three bedroom homes that only require 7.2 tonnes of straw. Smashing.

Even though the big bad wolf blew the straw house down, we think we have learnt enough from research and short stories to learn from our mistakes. So let’s start the story again…three little pigs, one greedy wolf and one straw house. The greedy wolf kept trying to blow the house down for hours but the house was very strong and the little pigs were safe inside. He tried to enter through the chimney but the third little pig boiled a big pot of water and kept it below the chimney. The wolf fell into it and died.

The moral of the story? Technology wins.

%d bloggers like this: