Electric Britain: Can We Give Up On Fossils?

 

We’ve already talked extensively about how wind energy is slowly reshaping the way that we produce and consume energy in the UK – but household consumption is just one side of the coin…

 

Recently, Scotland has been breaking records for the amount of wind energy that they are producing, but the United Kingdom as a whole is still falling well behind targets that were made some time ago.

The Environment is fast becoming an issue that the electorate is prioritising and, thanks to online archival records, promises made by previous governments are slowly being revealed to have not been followed through with.

Electric cars have not caught on as much as manufacturers and politicians would have hoped. Despite there being over 30 different makers producing electric cars for sale in the UK, the British public has proven to be somewhat sceptical when it comes to taking the dive and moving away from traditional fuels. The government’s initial target was for 9% of the UK’s entire fleet to be comprised of electric cars by 2020.

About a year ago, the Guardian reported that the UK was falling well behind this target with 4.5% being a more likely target. Instead of tackling this failure head on, the government has instead decided to make another goal, which has already been the subject of criticism by the newly galvanised public as well as the press.

In a recent statement, the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, has declared that the government is planning on banning the sale of all new diesel and petrol cars by the year 2040 – a plan that he is hoping will incentivise consumers into making the leap to electric motors.  As much as this successfully puts the onus on car manufacturers and drivers alike to start investing in the technology of electric motors, the introduction of this new promise is, to no little surprise, being treated with a certain amount of disdain by the press and environmental bodies.

Motoring experts have already come forward to state that purchasing an electric vehicle at this time is neither practical or commercially viable for consumers; they’ve also said that the government has yet to consider the added strain an increased number of electric vehicles would have on the National Grid. The AA has spoken out on the matter, suggesting that having so many electric cars on the road would also cause the Grid to be put under concentrated pressure, being forced to ‘cope with a mass switch-on after the evening hour‘.

As much as the UK has come along away in the production of clean energy, the increased demand in electricity due to the proposed adoption of electric vehicles is said to potentially cause a shortage potentially leading us to import more of our fuel to make up the difference. The National Grid has reported that peak demand for energy would increase by 50 percent, this extra electricity would be roughly equivalent to 20 times the total output of the (as yet incomplete) Hinckley Point C power station in Somerset.

If the government is going to get on top of it’s proposed Clean Air targets then it’s vital that they find a way of persuading consumers to make the switch – let’s just hope we have enough clean energy to keep the cars running!

 

Big Pharma Pushes Wind & Scotland Breaks Records

Unilever looks to go fully renewable, Scotland’s wind reaches new high and Cornwall’s hidden rock power.

Cornwall could be home of UK’s first Geothermal plant

The UK’s first ever geothermal power station could be ready to provide a fifth of the UK’s energy demands if a multi-million pound investment drive is successful.

Crowdfunding platform, Abundance, is hoping to raise a further £5m so that they can construct the groundbreaking station in Redruth. The area has long been considered to be a potential gold mine for geothermal power with local attraction, the Eden Project, has already attempted and failed to secure funding for their own geothermal power station.

Although local trusted expert on geothermal power, Tony Batchelor, has long supported the construction of the proposed station; the project faces a number of challenges before drilling can begin at the start of 2018. The first of these challenges is for the remaining investment to be found. Abundance has suggested that investors could see a 12% return on their investment, over an 18-month term, something that should help attract those with the money to spare.

If the money is secured successfully, the geothermal operation could be up and running by 2020, a plan that will only be hindered by possible safety concerns. As this would be the first plant of its kind in the UK, there are worries regarding the potential returns from the drilling operation with some councilors suggesting that the plan was potentially ‘risky’.

Scotland continues to blow back wind power records

Not content with resting on their laurels after breaking wind power records earlier this year, Scotland has revealed that the first 6 months of the year have proved to be the country’s most successful in terms of producing renewable energy.

On Christmas Day 2016, with a favourable winter wind blowing, wind power provided enough energy to supply 153% of the country’s electricity needs. On that day more wind energy was produced in a single day than had ever been recorded with more than 74,000MWh wired through to the National Grid.

Six months later and the wind has kept blowing, helping the country along to break even more records. Independent conservation group WWF Scotland reported that over 1,000,000MWh of electricity was produced by wind turbines alone in June – whereas the total renewable energy created by the country was ample enough to power well over 100% of Scotland’s homes. Acting Director of the conservation group, Dr Sam Gardner, suggested that Scotland’s people should get behind these results and call for a strong climate bill that will keep Scotland ahead of the curve in the renewable energy game.

Transnational paves way for renewable energy use

Unilever, one of the largest and oldest transnational companies in the world, has recently been pushing to power more and more of it’s sites solely with 100% renewable energy.

From April 2017, the company has become the main beneficiary of the energy produced by the 23-turbine wind farm at Lochluichart, currently owned by renewables company, Eneco UK. Unilever is hoping that the 87% of the wind farm’s output will provide their fifteen UK sites with the electricity they need.

This is one of the first steps that the company is taking in the hopes of becoming carbon positive by the year 2030. The surplus of the energy produced by the wind farm will be sold to local communities, fulfilling one of it’s many other environmental goals, which include eliminating coal from their energy mix by 2020 and sourcing all their electricity from renewable sources by the same year.

The Science Behind: A Wind Turbine

Wind Turbines – How Do They Work?

With just under 7,000 turbines currently generating power throughout the UK – these green giants contributed over 10% of the entire electrical power to the country in 2015.

turbine

They’re constantly getting more efficient and it looks like we’ll be seeing even more of them on the horizon soon – but how do they work?

The theory behind wind turbines is intuitive – as simple as a child’s pinwheel – however some basic scientific principles still need to be applied, in order to understand how much energy can be reaped from any one turbine.

The size of the individual turbine is obviously one of the main contributing factors with the physical height of the turbine being paramount. In addition to this, the length of each rotor blade is crucial to maximising the energy produced. Some of the larger turbines have blades that stretch out over 70 metres (over thirty times the wingspan of the average eagle).

Turbines effectively work the opposite way to an electric fan. Instead of transferring electric power into kinetic power, the turbine traps the kinetic energy of the wind and turns it into electric current that can be used to power homes.

tall-turbine

Wind blows into the rotor blades, which are designed to direct the wind into each other, siphoning the kinetic energy of the wind. As the wind powers the blades, the gradient of these blades, as well as the lateral position of the turbine itself, shifts to accommodate for the variable wind direction.

The blades spin, this rotates the main drive shaft within the structure of the turbine. This rotates slowly, but quick enough to activate the gearbox which transfers low speeds into a speed high enough to push power to the generator.

Whilst this is happening, recording devices set within and outside of the turbine, work to record and measure the amount of wind being supplied and overall efficiency of  the turbine – allowing the managing company to keep tabs on it and see if there’s any need for maintenance. These measurements are used in conjunction with the turbine’s various mechanisms to ensure the best angle for electricity generation.

turbine-diagram

The generator then runs the power through a DC/DC converter, which steps up the voltage to be used on the national grid.

Once the power joins the grid, the electricity runs through various power stations, on it’s way to the homes of thousands of people around the UK.

Despite the huge bonuses of using windfarms to produce clean, renewable energy – the systems do have their drawbacks. Although months are spent by energy companies (in the run up to a new installation) strategically positioning wind farms,  to ensure that the investment made will produced a decent amount of energy; the average UK wind turbine will remain idle for around 14% of each day.

diagram-2

Even when they are active, they often don’t generate maximum power. To ensure the ultimate efficiency of an entire wind farm, it is imperative that these turbines are spaced at a good distance apart from each other – otherwise the disruption of wind will affect the amount of kinetic energy that other turbines receive. This means that a windfarm, consisting of just a handful of turbines, could stretch out for several square kilometres.

They might not be perfect, but wind turbines are constantly being developed and perfected to provide a cleaner, greener future for all of us.

 

UK Renewables On The Rise & Stateside Research Heats Up

The UK continues to smash it’s own records in the world of Renewables – whilst the University of Houston is coming close to discovering a new method of harnessing waste heat energy.

A Carbon-Free Future Might Not Be Far Off

renewable-energy-bars

Last quarter was a record breaking one for the UK, in terms of renewable energy production.

It might not have been terrifically promoted, but Britain passed a major energy milestone – spending almost 6 days running without the use of coal. This is the first time in over 130 years that Britain has been able to run without the use of burning the black stuff and signifies a major step forward for us, in terms of embracing and utilising renewable energies.

Over half of the power produced in the UK last quarter was from low-carbon sources. The combined imports of nuclear, biomass, wind and solar energy pushed us over to 50.2%, a big improvement over renewable use in 2010 which rested at a lowly 20%.

Although we’re some way off from a completely renewable powered energy system – it looks like that future might not be as distant as previously thought.

Wind Farms Could Power Future Britain

henrik-poulsen

When a grand statement of declaration is made by a politician in the UK, it’s safe to meet them with a decent level of scepticism.

When a similar comment is made concerning Wind Farms, from a chief executive of one of the biggest Energy companies in Europe – you can treat it as more of a statement of intent that anything else.

Henrik Poulsen, CEO of Dong Energy‘s Renewable branch, recently came forth with such a statement. The man in charge of the UK’s biggest windfarm recently stated that he plans on selling the companies massive fossil fuel divisions, in favour of further investment in renewable technologies.

Renewable energies have slowly been becoming a major focus of the Danish company, who originally made their money exploiting oil fields in the North Sea.

Some have cited their shift in strategy as a reaction to the terminally low prices of oil, however, it’s hard for us not to see further investment in UK Windfarms as a bad thing.

Newly Formed Thermoelectric Material Holds Great Power

carbon-electric

A problem that the Industrial Power sector has had to deal with for a decades is the issue of waste.

Whether it’s the harmful gases or chemicals that are discarded in the process of power production, or simply the heat that is lost through intense reactions – scientists are always looking for a way to increase the efficiency of their energy production processes. Researchers in Houston might have just come one step closer to solving one of these problems.

Professor of Physics, Zhifeng Ren has been leading a project that has discovered a metallic based compound that is leaps and bounds ahead of it’s contemporaries – in terms of heat energy conversion.

Adapting a previously used blend of iron, niobium, antimony, with the addition of titanium, Ren’s team of researchers have been able to produce a new compound at an incredible high temperature – around 1100 degrees celsius – which means that it’s power factor (the ability for it to transfer waste heat energy back into usable electricity) will be much higher in practice.

Soon, heat energy lost through industrial smokestacks or even exhaust pipes, might be able to be reclaimed for further use.

Biomass Opportunities Arise Locally

There has never been a better time to invest in Biomass!

It’s the unsung hero of all the renewable energies and one that could very well earn you some money in the long run.

Biomass is the name give to any fuel that is derived from living, or recently deceased, organisms – as opposed to fossil fuels.

These come in a huge range of forms but can be divided into four general subsets:

Wood

The most traditional of all the Biofuels.

burning-wood

To most, the burning of wood would seem antecedent to the idea of conserving the environment, however, as long as the wood fuel is sourced from sustainably grown trees, and processed in a fashion that is in line with the guidelines set forth by the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive, the burning of wood pellets can be an environmentally friendly way of heating your home.

Although installing a wood burning system in your home might cost a fair sum initially, you can reap dividends in the long run as the government will repay you for every Kw of energy you use. You can further save on carbon emissions by buying your wood pellets locally from Volcano Wood Fuels.

Biogas

This is an option for those living in more rural or farming communities.

biogas

Requiring access to large amounts of agricultural waste, manure or food waste – the process of anaerobic digestion is used to beak down the organic elements in the materials, producing a blend of methane and carbon dioxide as a by-product which can then be used as fuel to heat homes or even cook with. More applicable to those looking to generate energy on a larger scale – the production of Biogas has long been touted as a proven method that can significantly help reduce emissions and generate electricity for an entire community.

Installation costs are high, however, for farmers or large-scale food manufacturers, the benefits that can be seen from producing energy from waste are huge.

Landfill

Many see the siphoning of landfill gas as a rather defeatist attempt of combating our society’s rather wasteful habits; making use of gases produced by the slow decomposition of household waste can, for the time being, make the most of a bad situation.

main_landfill

Although this isn’t a realistic option for homeowners, as far as producing energy on a useful scale goes, they can still use the principles of the concept in their back gardens. Creating your own compost heaps is a quick and easy method of reducing the amount of waste that is thrown into landfills and can provide budding gardeners with nutrient rich compost which can bolster the growth of plants.

In the early 2000s, nearly a third of all renewable energies were produced by landfill gas – although this hopefully won’t be the case for the foreseeable future!

Fermentation

The process of fermentation in order to produce renewable energy is very similar to that of brewing alcohol.

bioethanol

Using carbohydrates produced from sugars and starch crops; biologically engineered ethanol is produced to blend with conventional fuels. This form of biomass is not suitable for home use but, if the trend is embraced in the UK (as much as it has been in the States) then there’s a good chance that it could be used more prolifically. Currently, American cars are capable of running on a blend of conventional gasoline and up to 15% ethanol.

Whilst it may seem like a big investment in the short term, switching to a renewable source of energy could save you hundreds of pounds, in the not so distant future.  

Green Cheshire in the News

Cheshire’s been making the headlines once more – pushing for a Greener future..

This month: the council picks up yet another environmental award, Bentley pushes forward with solar power plans and the Government suggests that the county could be seeing a boost in renewable investment.

Cheshire & Chester Recycle Themselves to the Top of the Table

For the third year in a row, Cheshire West & Chester have been crowned as the leading the recyclers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

chester-recycle

The league table, known as the Recycling Carbon Index, takes into account the weight of Carbon Emissions that are saved per person in the area. The recycling services, provided by the internationally acclaimed Kier Group, were deemed to be the most effective throughout the United Kingdom (although they just narrowly beat out the services provided to North Somerset, coming just 1kg behind) – the people of Cheshire managed to save 109kg of CO2 per person in the area.

That the county has been awarded this title, for the third year running, proves that the people of Cheshire are taking environmental issues seriously. Recycling is an important contributor to the reduction of greenhouse gases – helping to reduce the amount of waste that is sent landfills or the incinerator.

Bentley plans for UK’s largest Solar Carport

Car manufacturers have been attempting to offset their own carbon footprints by investing in renewable energy plants for a while now and Bentley, based in Crewe, appear to be the next company to follow suit.

bentley

SolarPowerPortal reports that a plan has been submitted to the Cheshire East council for a huge 2.938MW solar panel farm, mounted above the employee car park. Comprising of over 11,000 solar panels – neither Bentley or Solarcentury (the company rumoured to be planning the development) have commented on the project.

Bentley have already set industry records for rooftop solar installations – so this plan would appear to bolster their commitment to developing more solar technology at their manufacturing sites. Although solar carports are popular options overseas, they’ve yet to make a real impact on the UK’s shores – this step forward may well set the trend for other large scale manufacturers in England.

Promising words from Government hint at further investment in Renewables

Finally, it looks like the government might well be investing more money in off-shore wind farms.

greg-clark

The Government has confirmed, through an official post online, that they are committing to spend £730m on renewable electricity projects. Details for the second round of ‘Contract for Difference‘ auctions have been released, with £290m of investment up for grabs, for any company willing to compete.

In a recent statement from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark had this to say:

“We’re sending a clear signal that Britain is one of the best places in the world to invest in clean, flexible energy as we continue to upgrade our energy infrastructure.”

The Government is hoping that the electricity derived from this scheme will power one million homes and reduce carbon emissions by a total of 2.5m tonnes per year, form 2021 onwards.