Tag Archives: solar

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:

Pro’s

  • 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:

Con’s

  • 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!

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

 

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.

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!

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