What Are Energiesprong Homes?

energiesprong homes

Retrofitting older homes and making them more energy efficient has always been a big but necessary challenge in the UK. Towards the end of last year, 10 homes in Nottingham were chosen to take part in a new and exciting pilot scheme. It seems the answer to more efficient older homes might be a system called Energiesprong, a method of retrofitting which has proved highly successful in the Netherlands.

What Is Energiesprong?

It’s a revolutionary approach to retrofitting homes, bringing them up to 2050 standards and creating a highly efficient properties. The whole process takes just a few days and essentially wraps the home in a prefabricated wall with solar panels on top for energy production. The aim it to create a net zero energy home (where the amount of energy created is balanced by the amount of renewable energy produced) and each property comes with a 30 year warranty for those that have it installed.

The installation has proved a great success in the Netherlands and is now being pushed out to other countries including the UK. The company is currently working with social housing providers and councils, but it’s hoped that this can be expanded to the private housing market if it proves a success.

A big key to the success is going to be how the retrofit is funded. As the company website explains:

“Part of the innovation is how the works are funded. The household pays an ‘Energy plan’, and the landlord (NCH) receives an on-going income to fund similar works to more homes. The resident has a much more comfortable home, and a flat rate cost for energy, which will not rise significantly when energy bills rise.”

The project is part of a number of different undertakings by Nottingham council designed to help improve energy efficiency across the city. While theirs is the first pilot to be set up, it’s not the only one planned over the next 12 to 18 months. London boroughs, Essex and Devon are all looking to benefit from the Energiesprong effect. Nottingham’s initial project is for ten homes to be refitted but with the option for 400 more if things go well.

What is A Net Energy Zero House?

Key to the success of the project is the idea of achieving as state of net energy zero. This means a property that produces just enough energy to heat and power itself compared to the amount of power that it produces through technologies such as solar panels.

Not only does the retrofit deliver energy efficiency for homes, it also provides a brand new façade that greatly improves the life expectancy and look of a property. The reduction in energy bills and maintenance for landlords means that this money can then be spent on paying for the upgrade. For it to work, tenants will have the same outgoings but benefit from the savings so that it doesn’t impact on their standard of living or their rent.

Projects like Energiesprong are just as vital in delivering a low carbon future in the UK as other, bigger undertakings. While it’s currently being rolled out through housing associations and councils, there’s no doubt that it could have a real impact for older buildings that often get forgotten when it comes to clean energy.

According to Jane Urquhart from the local council:

“As well as a significant cost to the household, losing excessive heat due to drafty homes has an environmental impact too. The REMOURBAN project is trialling interventions in the housing and transport sectors to accelerate Nottingham’s low carbon future and the Energiesprong model is a really exciting development for this project and for Nottingham.”

Is Onshore Wind Back on the Renewables Menu?

onshore wind

A sizeable group of MPs got a little hot under the collar recently when rumours that onshore wind was about to make a comeback started to circulate. This softening of stance goes against the Tory policy of basically banning the building of wind farms anywhere in the UK except offshore. David Cameron put it in the Tory manifesto as far back as 2015 and there’s been a rush to get projects up and running by developers before subsidies run out this year.

Last year some 2.6 GW was installed across the UK onshore but, because of changes to funding, the future now looks a lot bleaker. According to industry experts, not being able to compete for subsidies will see capacity drop dramatically. In comparison, off shore wind farms will be able to compete for the £557 million that is available in subsidies.

Unfortunately, many believe that removing subsidies for onshore wind farms could add as much as £1 billion to the nation’s fuel bill. According to the Energy and Climate Change Intelligence Unit last year:

“Generating power from new onshore wind farms would be £100m a year cheaper than doing so from new nuclear reactors or biomass plants, and at least £30m cheaper than under the latest offshore wind-power contracts.”

How We Got Here

Once the Tories gained a majority in 2015, then Prime Minister David Cameron was under pressure from some in the Conservative ranks to reduce the growth of onshore wind. This came down to basic nimbyism – people didn’t want huge turbines spoiling their nice, pristine leafy suburbs and countryside. This despite the fact that polls taken around that time found that people were in favour of renewables for energy production. Getting rid of onshore wind became a clarion call for any MP that was against ‘all this green crap’ as Cameron once called it.

When you consider that an average onshore wind farm is now able to produce electricity for a £57.50 per MWh (compared to nearly £100 per MWh for Hinkley C), it’s not surprising that industry experts are trying to get their voices heard and deliver a counter argument.

The sharp fall in costs over the last few years has caused a rethink some Tory circles. Back in October, certain energy ministers began to tout the idea that onshore wind farms could make a return to the renewables mix and compete on the same level playing field as other technologies.

After all, part of the reason for reducing support like Feed in Tariffs, according to the Government, was to ensure that consumers weren’t paying too much to subsidise renewables. At half the cost of nuclear and 30% cheaper than offshore wind, that should make onshore turbines the most viable technology at the moment.

This February, however, 100 MPs wrote to the Prime Minister warning her not to walk back the policy on onshore wind. This after energy minister Claire Perry stated that they were exploring ways to deploy onshore wind for those area in the UK that want it.

The Nimby Factor

Not in my back yard or nimbyism has always played a factor in renewable energy, whether it’s for wind turbines or solar panels. That’s despite the growing consensus amongst the population at large that renewables are a pretty good thing. And it’s not simply a British thing – the same issues have come to light as far afield as Asia and America as well as the rest of Europe. The equation is generally simple – solar panels look ugly, wind turbines get in the way, we don’t want them near us.

The truth is that many people want cleaner, renewable energy – they simply don’t want it changing their own landscape. That poses a problem for technologies such as wind turbines which have earned their spurs and need to contribute to our future energy mix.

It’s likely that the Prime Minister will give in to the 100 MPs who have warned her about doing a U-turn on onshore wind – there are bigger problems at the moment that take precedence including the growing Brexit mess and her own weak position. The unfortunate thing is that, in the end, this kind of decision could cost consumers a lot of money in potentially cheap electricity.

Could Our Coalmines Provide Geothermal Energy for the UK?

coal mine

Most people don’t immediately think of the UK when it comes to locations for geothermal hotspots. We tend to focus on areas such as Iceland with their hot sprints and where they’ve turned creating large scale geothermal power plants into something of an artform. Then there’s New Zealand where geothermal provides 13% of their heating.

The truth, however, could be a little more complicated, at least according to researchers at Durham University. Indeed, we might be sitting on top of heating source we never really considered. If what the scientist’s say is true, it may be entirely possible to extract geothermal power from our old coalmines.

Ground heat tends to increase the deeper you go. Around the UK we have vast networks of mining tunnels that have been left abandoned but could still be a useful asset when it comes to energy. For it to work, you need to have tunnels that are flooded with water in order to extract any heat. The good news is that most of the mining infrastructure is actually underwater and this could be very beneficial.

According to the Huffington Post, there’s a vast region of space under the ground that we could potentially use for district heating:

“Vast volumes (over 15 billion tonnes) of coal have been extracted from deep mines in the UK over the last century. To put this into context, if this extracted coal were spread over the UK land surface, this would result in a five cm deep layer of coal across the country.”

Researchers believe that the temperature difference in the water below ground could be used to provide heating for around 650,000 homes with the aid of heat pumps. The value of the heat pump is that it will take the slightly lower temperature of the underground water and boost it to more useful levels that can be used to provide hot water in homes and businesses.

The disadvantage is that, for this system to work, the users need to be close to the water source. There are hundreds of communities, however, that are situated right on top of abandoned and disused mines around the UK and these could certainly benefit from this kind of technology.

This isn’t a pie in the sky idea either – we already know it works. Creating district heating systems from old mines has been carried out successfully in areas such as Nova Scotia where the technology has been in place since the late 90s. A similar project was set up in 2008 in the Netherlands to provide district heating for residences and businesses over a 500,000 square metre site.

These successes abroad suggest that a similar approach in the UK could help provide local mining communities with decarbonised heating. We currently get around 70% of our heating from natural gas which is something that the Government is desperate to change. If we are to create a low carbon solution, it’s going to be necessary to draw on all available resources and try new ideas.

Investment in our old coal mines isn’t a complete solution but with other low carbon alternatives they could make a significant impact. And there’s something slightly ironic in using the remains of one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet to create new, clean energy.

Africa Could Double Renewable Energy Capacity in 5 Years

renewable africa

While developments of renewable energy in areas like Europe, America and particularly China have topped the news in recent times, Africa is also forging forward, something that is helping to transform local communities.

Solar and wind, as well as water, are bringing sustainable energy solutions to remote areas and will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the economy and standard of living for people over the next decade or so in many countries.

According to Reuters recently:

“Strong demand is set to give a huge boost to renewable energy growth in Sub-Sahara Africa over the next five years, driving cumulative capacity up more than 70 percent…From Ethiopia to South Africa, millions of people are getting access to electricity for the first time as the continent turns to solar, wind and hydropower projects to boost generation capacity.”

While there has been some resistance from large corporations and companies dependent on fossil fuels for their revenue, technologies such as roof top solar are beginning to expand on the continent. Areas like Ethiopia have huge resources for taking advantage of hydroelectric power and South Africa is putting huge investments into installing wind power.

When you consider that over two thirds of people in Sub-Saharan Africa still don’t have access to a reliable energy source, there’s obviously some way to go but the future looks highly promising.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, countries could deliver at least a quarter of their energy from clean sources over the next few years if the right investments are made. One of the big problems, of course, is simply the huge size of the continent and the logistical issues of creating a comprehensive energy grid. The installation of local wind farms and community solar panels can make a big difference – especially when you consider that energy for lighting from fossil fuels can be as much as $10 per kWh.

Many areas in sub-Saharan Africa have more than 300 days of sunshine a year which makes them ideal for solar installations. Wind is the primary resource in areas like West Africa while the East has immense potential for geothermal technology. The move towards off-grid systems makes more sense here than in many other countries where the infrastructure is already in place. And with the development of battery technology, remote locations may all soon be able to access electricity 24/7.

The potential and the challenge to change the economic landscape in Africa cannot be underestimated. There’s not doubt that growth in technology goes hand in hand with having power – something we take for granted in developed nations.

In 2005, only 2% of people had access to the internet in Africa. By 2016 that had increased to 25% compared to nearly 80% in Europe. Being connected to a power source is not only helping provide people with the things they need to run a home and better health care, it’s also helping them access resources and education from around the globe. The use of renewable energy and a boost in capacity is one of the most transformational things that has happened on the continent in the last 100 years.

According to Planet Earth:

“Sub-Saharan Africa has access to a wealth of primary renewable energy supplies, with enough geothermal, hydro, wind and solar resources to provide terawatts of power. The continent has the potential to source an additional 10 terawatts of solar energy, 1,300 gigawatts of wind power, and 1gigawatts of geothermal potential.”

Despite confidence in the future, there are still big challenges for African countries to overcome. Undoubtedly the is that it is a continent with major fossil fuel resources and changing minds has not necessarily been easy, especially where large corporations and energy companies are concerned. The second is access to technology and, more importantly, training people up in renewable technology and creating the installers and innovators of the future. That requires putting in the infrastructure and make enough resources available that help raise the skills level of communities, including those in remote locations.

The construction of a huge 310 MW wind farm in Lake Turkana, Kenya, highlights what the future could like for a continent with so much to offer in the way of natural resources. The project was funded by Norwegian, Dutch and German investors and Kenyan politicians are hoping that infrastructure such as this will go hand in hand with faster economic development.

The State of Solar Shingles

solar shingles

When Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the birth of the Tesla Solar Roof last year, it was greeted with enthusiasm by the entire solar market. A photovoltaic solar system in the form of roof tiles, invisible to the naked eye? The solar world marveled at the ingenuity of Tesla, once more.

But the concept of solar shingles is not a new one. In fact, the technology to create such a product has been public knowledge since 2009 and solar shingles have been gracing the roofs of users since 2011.

As we move into 2018, when Tesla’s Solar Roof will see its full rollout, it’s important to remember where this technology came from, so that we can better predict where it is going.

The History of Solar Singles

DOW Chemical

The solar shingle concept was created by DOW Chemical Company, who first unveiled it in 2009. The company rolled out its Powerhouse Solar Shingle in 2011, and predicted at the time of announcement that it could see up to $10 billion in revenue by 2020.

The shingles were designed to blend in with a typical asphalt roof. They were heavily touted, due to their being an aesthetically pleasing alternative to traditional solar panels. Another added benefit of the shingles were the ease in which they could be installed, as there was no need for locating rafters and anchor points to bolt into, like with solar panels.

Using Copper Indium Gallium Slenide solar cells, the shingles worked the same as most standard panels, pulling in the rays of the sun and converting it to electricity, before transferring it to an inverter box, from which it enters the home.

In 2009, when TIME Magazine declared DOW’s solar shingle one of the 50 Best Inventions of 2009, it was estimated that the solar shingle would sell for 10% to 15% less than traditional solar panels.

Unfortunately, that did not prove to be the case, as solar shingles ranged in price from $4 to $12 per-Watt, while traditional solar panels in 2015 were only $3.50 per-Watt (learn more about Solar Costs at PowerScout). Federal, state and local incentives helped to decrease the price point, sometimes by almost half, but the product was failing to catch on as predicted. Before it’s downfall, Powerhouse had only been installed on 1,000 homes.

DOW discontinued the Powerhouse line in mid-2016, announcing the news on the same day the company cut 2,500 jobs globally.

Enter Tesla

Tesla threw their hat into the clean energy game in 2016 with its $2 billion acquisition of Solar City. Following the termination of DOW’s Powerhouse shingles, many companies attempted to take over the industry. CertainTeed and Atlantis Energy Systems tried to compete, but Tesla has become the major name in the solar shingle game.

Once Tesla announced the Solar Roof to the masses they seemed to solidify their hold on the industry. In 2017, the first two variations of the Solar Roof were released in the form of textured and smooth glass.

The Future of Solar Shingles

The Tesla Solar Roof

In 2018 we will see a full roll out off the Tesla Solar Roof, with Tuscan and French Slate designs on their way to American homes this year. While the performance of this new product remains to be seen, there are certainly a large number of pros and cons associated with it.

For starters, the Tesla Solar Roof touts an impressive layer of protection as compared to the average roof. Tesla has released a video test, which shows a Solar Roof panel pelted with a 2-inch ball of hail traveling at 100 mph. The Solar Roof withstands the impact perfectly while traditional roof tiles shatter like glass. Coupled with a lifetime warranty, it seems like a smart investment at face value. Traditional solar panels, however are equally durable, so this is not a viable advantage that one product seems to have over the other.

The main issue plaguing the future of the Solar Roof seems to be its pricing. Much like DOW before them, Tesla may suffer from a market unwilling to shell out big bucks for their product when traditional solar panels cost so much less. Tesla’s Solar Roof is estimated at being 70% more expensive than installing solar panels on a home with a sturdy roof and 35% more costly than installing a solar panel system and having your roof fully replaced.

Another potential roadblock for the technology powerhouse is the energy output of their costly system. While the Solar Roof does produce enough power to save you money on your utility bills, it only produces 70% of the power generated by a traditional solar power system.

To top it off, competition is looming as DOW seeks to reclaim its lost throne.

The Return of DOW

Following an agreement between RGS Energy and DOW, the solar shingle market could start to see competition in the form of Powerhouse 3.0. Backed by the commercial prowess of RGS, the original solar shingle system could return with a bang and challenge Tesla’s dominance over the industry.

The major differentiating factor between Powerhouse 3.0 and its previous incarnations is an adoption of silicon solar cells, which reduces the cost of production, thus eliminating the biggest opponent of DOW’s past success, pricing.

The 2018 Battleground

2018 proves to be a fascinating year for the solar shingle industry. The success of the Solar Roof is far from assured and it will be interesting to watch its successes or failures as the full rollout concludes. What’s more, are we fixing to see a knock-down drag out battle between Tesla and DOW? Could DOW’s new, less expensive Powerhouse shingles reclaim its lost industry?

China Moves to Solar Powered Roads

solar-panel-highway-china

Every so often a news article appears exploring the potential of turning our roads into super energy highways, particularly when it comes to renewables. It’s not a new idea. Ever since the clean power revolution began, the roadside has been peculiarly attractive to research and development bods, including those involved with solar power.

Now China is looking to take solar powered roads to the next level. In recent years, the country has put itself forward as the world’s leader when it comes to all things renewable. There are others such as France and Holland who have already explored the possibilities of solar, but there’s a hint that China might be able to nail it. They have the resources and the infrastructure as well as the focus to turn their roads into power plants.

The first Chinese solar powered road has been installed in Jinan. It covers about 1 km and consists of three distinct layers. There’s a top layer of ‘clear’ concrete. Underneath that are the solar cells. And below these is a layer of insulation to reduce impact.

There are plenty of challenges when it comes to developing highways that produce electricity, however good an idea it may seem. The first is how you protect the solar cells from heavy traffic while still ensuring that they operate at maximum efficiency. The other is the cost of building what is essentially a long, narrow solar farm. The construction at Jinan has cost $459 per square metre. It may be some time before we see these kinds of roads being rolled out across the country. Cost is a big issue.

The first solar road in Normandy, France, came with a price tag of $5.2 million and only covered an area of 30,000 square feet. The cost of Amsterdam’s 70 metre solar bicycle path in 2014 was a staggering €3 million which had many experts shaking their heads. A crowd funded experiment with solar roads in America makes the cost even more eyewatering – estimates put construction at around $11.6 billion per square mile. While there’s the potential to bring the price down once the technology is developed, there are many who believe that solar roads are starting an unsustainable high water mark.

Another problem is the positioning of the solar panels making them less efficient than roof top arrays which are usually angled towards the sun. Then there’s the issue of traffic running over the panels all the time as well as problems with dirt, debris and even snow in some locations. How much maintenance would cost for a whole infrastructure of solar roads, at least at the moment, doesn’t bear thinking about.

Of course, solar roads remain an idea well worth exploring. At the right cost and the appropriate technology, they could provide intricate arteries of power production that can contribute to the national infrastructure. Unless the cost is bought down considerably, however, it remains an intriguing pipe dream.

Find out how solar panels work on our main site.

Is 2018 The Year You Change to an Air Source Heat Pump?

heat pump

We’ve become so used to gas central heating in the UK that even considering something different can appear anarchistic and dangerous. But that’s precisely what the Government is trying to achieve with it’s Renewable Heat Incentive – weaning us off gas, oil and electricity heating systems onto more carbon friendly and renewable options such as heat pumps.

One of these technologies is the air source heat pump. If you have a gas or oil heating system costing you a considerable amount and constantly raising your utility bills, you may want to pay attention for a little while. The air source heat pump is an alternative form of heating which delivers lower fuel bills but also reduces your carbon footprint.

What is an Air Source Heat Pump?

Think of a fridge and put it in reverse and you’ll have a fair idea about how an air source heat pump works. It essentially takes the normal cool air from outside, runs it over some pipes and converts it to heat.

 An air source heat pump fits to an outside wall (for example, in the kitchen or in the loft) and draws air in through a fan network. There are two different types of pump you can get installed: ones that heat the air through a ventilation system and ones that are used to heat water and power up your radiators.

The cost of installing an air source heat pump can be anywhere between £3,000 and £11,000 depending on the kind of system you install. They don’t produce as much heat as a traditional gas system but they do provide it constantly and they only need a small amount of electrical power to do so. In return you get a system that has a low carbon footprint and which, properly installed, should deliver all the warmth you need. The pumps are generally low maintenance and the return on investment is pretty good when replacing a gas or oil heating system.

Is There a Disadvantage?

Technically, there is one – and that’s the level of heat that is delivered which is much lower than conventional systems. That means you either need larger radiators or decide to install underfloor heating. You also need to ensure that you home if properly insulated and there are no draughts causing heat loss. That could mean, if you have an older home or property, you might need to do some retrofitting to ensure you are fully insulated.

Sort this out, however, and you will have a flexible heating system that will keep your home warm in winter and cool during the summer. You’ll also be able to dramatically cut your heating bills over the long run.

The Renewable Heat Incentive

The big key to installing an air source heat pump is that the government is currently providing a financial incentive for you to do it. For every kWh that you produce in heat, you can get a certain amount back in the form of the Renewable Heat Incentive. This was introduced to encourage us all to move towards more carbon neutral energy systems in the future. The incentive applies not just to air source heat pumps but ground source ones, biomass boilers and heating systems as well as solar thermal panels.

According to the Yorkshire Post recently:

“An air source heat pump fitted in a typical three-bedroom home could generate an income of more than £961 per year, which is £6,727 over seven years. Installation costs have fallen over the past few years, according to NIBE, as the technologies become more user-friendly and contractors become more familiar with the systems.”

There’s a lot to be said about air source heat pumps and uptake has begun to gather pace since the recent increase in tariffs for the RHI. Whether this will encourage people to change to greener energy systems remains to be seen. Gas is still relatively cheap and the initial cost can seem prohibitive despite the long term gains and return of investment that can be achieved. There’s no doubt, however, that heat pumps are starting to attract more attention and they’re worth taking a deeper look at if you want to improve your heating efficiency and have a greener home.

Find out more about heat pumps on our main site.

The UK Will Need 25,000 EV Charging Points By 2030 To Meet Demand

Volvo-C30-electric-charging

There are big changes taking place in car manufacturing. With plans to outlaw petrol and diesel vehicles over the next couple of decades, everyone from BMW to Ford are looking to develop electric vehicles. The biggest challenge for the UK and other countries, however, is not the car itself but how these will be charged.

A recent report, suggest we can expect almost 60% of new car and van sales to be for EVs by 2030 and we’ll need at least 25,000 more charging points to cope according to the statistics. That requires a significant investment in infrastructure – costing some £530 million – and will need input from both public and private funds. According to the General Manager of ZipCar, Jonathon Hampson:

“UK’s EV infrastructure has a long way to go before it can support a viable EV fleet, and this report provides for the first time a look at the size of the opportunity and the challenge that the UK faces.”

What is EV Charging?

Ever since electric cars were developed, the challenge of charging their batteries has been high on the list of priorities. In many countries, including America, a good deal of investment has gone into providing stations, particularly in states such as California. Just like petrol, drivers need to be able to stop off and plug in their cars wherever they are in the UK.

Unfortunately, EV charging is not the same as opening your traditional petrol tank and filling up. It takes time to recharge any battery, as we all know. There are three different types of charger that are currently available:

  • Rapid Chargers: AC or DC chargers operate between 43 and 50 kWs and are designed to charge your car to about 80% capacity in around half an hour.
  • Fast Chargers: These operate between 7 and 22 kWs and can fully charge your car in three or four hours.
  • Slow Chargers: These are normally found at home locations and are suitable for overnight charging – it generally takes between six and twelve hours.

You have several options when it comes to charging your electric vehicle. You can use public charge points that are run by companies and which are considered the electrical equivalent of the petrol station. These include businesses like Ecotricity and PodPoint and they cover set regions as well as operating over the whole of the UK. Another, increasingly popular, option is to charge your car at work or a public area like a shopping precinct where points are installed. The government is trying to encourage more businesses to install charging equipment like this to vastly improve coverage. Finally, the other place you can charge is while parked outside your own home.

To get the coverage that is required to service an large increase in electric vehicles over the next decade or so, more points are going to needed in places like local businesses.

EV Charging Grants

One way that the Government is hoping to get businesses and homeowners to install EV chargers is by offering grants. An OLEV grant of £500 can be used by homeowners who have off-street parking and install an approved charging unit. In addition, the Government is offering grants to businesses for each charging point that they install on their premises.

According to ZapMap, we still only have just under 15,000 connectors in the UK at the moment across 5,211 locations, which is about a 4,000 increase on this time last year. Around 20% of these are found in Greater London, however, and areas like Wales still have less than 500 stations ready to connect. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to reach the 25,000 needed by the end of the next decade and to give good coverage over the whole of the UK.

Find out more about EV vehicles and charge points here.

Could Perovskite Panels Transform the Solar Landscape?

saule-tech

Mention perovskite to anyone involved in the development of solar panels and you might hear a soft purring sound of contentment. It’s a part of solar that’s had a lot of attention in R&D over the years. Many believe that it could help revolutionise the installation and efficiency of panels in the future.

Now perovskite panels are set to be used in installations in Poland and, if successful, could see them coming to a rooftop near you over the next couple of years. The project comes out of a partnership between Saule Technologies and the SKanksa Group. These particular panels can be printed to any shape or size, something that means greater flexibility in the installation process. While the panels should deliver 100 watts per square metre and have a 10% efficiency, it’s the ability to customise that is attracting much of the attention.

According to the founder of Saule Technologies Olga Malinkiewicz:

“We may customize the shape, colour and size of the module depending on the needs of the customer and install them wherever there is a free area of the building. This also means not being limited to the roof.”

That could mean we’ll start seeing different kinds of panels on roof tops and the partnership is hoping to go into full-time production as early as August 2018. The wide flexibility in design means that places like office blocks could benefit from perovskite panels as windows to help improve their energy mix.

The Power of Perovskite

These are still early days for perovskite but the future is looking bright. Not only is it semi-transparent but there is the potential to further improve the efficiency of solar cells. Research at the Australian National University has, to date, produced cells with 26.4% efficiency, way above traditional silicon panels.

The big challenge to date has been converting all this great research into something that is commercially viable. The move by Saule Technologies could be the first step in creating the next generation of highly efficient solar cells but it’s all about bringing down the cost, of course. To do that, researchers and developers need to make more stable cells, something that has been achieved by combining it with other materials.

One of the other key factors that makes perovskite a potentially good material for solar cells is it’s ease of manufacture – traditional silicon cells need to go through expensive processing while perovskite can be manufactured relatively easily in a laboratory environment. Their stability remains one of the biggest issues, however. To be viable, manufacturers will need to produce a system that is comparable to the 20 year lifetime of current silicon varieties.

Who are Saule Technologies

Saule Technologies prides itself on being one of the first companies attempting to make commercial perovskite panels and has already gained notoriety for developing the ink jet style printing process for creating its products. The launch of their prototype modules which are designed to be used in the construction industry could mean a major game changer for the industry if it works out. We’ll begin to get an idea by the end of the summer when the first large format panels are released.

Government Accused of Not Being Serious About a Renewables Future?

Palace of Westminster

The Government has been accused of working against renewable energy by boosting subsidies for fossil fuels such as gas and diesel. This comes following plans to outlaw diesel and petrol cars and turn the UK towards a carbon neutral heating economy for the future.

According to the Renewable Energy Association:

“The Government maintains a de-facto ban on onshore wind, large-scale solar and biomass deployment by not funding “Pot 1” of the Contracts-for-Difference auctions and ending Feed in Tariffs for smaller generation.”

The Association says this comes in addition to cuts to renewable energy such as the lowering of the Feed in Tariff back in 2016. All of this has led to much less investment in the sector over the last few years, something that could be highly damaging for the future.

The Capacity Market Auction is intended to secure the future of the energy market for 2018 by paying for backup power generation capacity. Of the power secured during the auction, three quarters is gas with renewables only getting 6% and 2% for storage.

This has led some experts to wonder if the Government is serious about green energy and its future in the UK. There’s also the news that MPs are not looking to create any new spending on renewables beyond 2021. It has led to accusations that the Tories talk a good plan but aren’t willing to follow it through. To some, the results of the auction point create a situation where fossil fuels are being unfairly propped up by subsidies – something the Government is fond of saying that renewable energy has to learn to do if it was going to be viable.

A survey last year by the Government found that just 5% of people were either strongly opposed or moderately opposed to renewable energy with the vast majority in favour of new, clean technology.  The Government will, of course, point to the fact that they have bolstered the Renewable Heat Incentive to promote low carbon heating and are investing in research and development for battery storage. Stalling on infrastructure such as the Swansea tidal lagoon and investment in the Hinkley Point nuclear power station, however, are seen as signs that many in the Tory party are not as enthusiastic as the general public about clean energy.

According to the Guardian last year, while many parts of the EU were set to meet its targets for 2020, the UK was lagging some way behind. Of course, the UK isn’t the only one struggling to meet the grade and bring on cleaner energy but the fact that the Government has stopped insisting that it will meet the deadline undoubtedly points to a lack of will, something that seems to have solidified in the aftermath of the Brexit decision.

Despite that, the UK has just gone through it’s greenest year and has been reducing emissions more than many of it’s G7 counterparts. Officials point to the dropping cost of renewables that make it more likely to survive without subsidies. According to Green Energy News, however, the Government needs to have clear and coordinated plans in place if we are going to let renewables take centre stage:

“For the UK, a strong, coherent, and consistent set of policies are required to accelerate growth and  to help ensure that the UK reaches its emissions targets while simultaneously creating powerful new industries that generate good jobs for years to come.”

Like their Brexit policy, however, the clean energy agenda seems to be a mix of uncoordinated strategies that don’t really add up to a clear, coherent policy. This could prove problematic as we move into the next decade, especially if other countries start to move ahead at a greater pace.