A Guide to Heat Pumps 2018-2019

air source heat pump

If you’re thinking of improving your home’s energy efficiency and reducing heating bills or you are planning the construction of a new eco-home, then heat pumps may well be a great option for you!

A heat pump collects the residual heat from air, water or the ground around your home and converts it into usable heat inside your home for very little electricity costs. Many other appliances use this kind of technology in your home but in reverse, such as a refrigerator or an air conditioner.

Heat pumps can provide heat in winter and cooling and dehumidifying in the summer, depending upon the variety you choose. Heat pumps are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint as well as delivering significant energy efficiencies and cost reductions for your home.

Ground or air source?

The main types of heat pumps used are air and ground source heat pumps. Ground source heat pumps are geothermal heat pumps, and, in this category, there are many sub-types such as closed and open loop, vertical, horizontal, pond systems and standing well systems. It is important to decide which is best for the job that you need it for, a local installer can advise and costs for these vary wildly as various civil works are required (digging up the ground, boring holes, running pipes etc).

Another popular type of heat pump is air source which uses vapour compression and can be air to water or air to air. Air to water uses large radiators like conventional heating systems and air to air uses vents and blowers like conventional air conditioning systems.

The typical components within an air source heat pump consist of a compressor, condenser, expansion valve and an evaporator, all meaningless to most, but trust me they work, and they work extremely efficiently! Modern high-efficiency air source heat pumps convert a single unit of electricity into 5 or more units of heat (extracted from the air from outside your home). This is called COP (Co-efficient of Performance) and it is this measure that is used to ascertain the efficiency of heat pumps!

The main reason for using a heat pump would be to heat and potentially cool your home. By installing a heat pump, your energy bills would hopefully be significantly reduced, along with your carbon footprint. Electrical energy is needed to power the heat pump, but this is only a small amount and overall, they are still extremely environmentally friendly.

The cost of heat pumps does vary, air source heat pumps costing between £6000-8000 and a ground source heat pump potentially setting you back around £10,000-18000. As mentioned previously, the cost is more for ground source heat pumps because it is a slightly more time-consuming installation due to pipes having to be installed around your house. They are however, the more efficient of the two, so it can be worth it in the long-run.

The government currently offer RHI or the Renewable Heat Incentive which offers money towards renewable heating costs if you live within England, Scotland or Wales.

Savings include:

  • £1400 pounds a year could be possible for ground source pumps
  • £1000 for air source heat pumps.
  • The RHI could offer payments of up to £1300 for air source and £2600 for ground source.

Overall with the incentives on offer you could see a good return on your investment and a positive ROI could be achieved within 6 years. For businesses and industry there is also a similar government incentive, however they differ widely and require some research.

There are some minor, common problems with heat pumps which mainly relate to the maintenance of them, such as:

  • Incorrect sizing for the property
  • not enough heat
  • sudden loss off heat
  • making noises etc

 These can be avoided with some basic maintenance and a professional should check your system around every 3/5 years. This can give you a good idea of any maintenance which needs undertaking, however, the requirements are low and heat pumps should last 20 years or more.

Overall there are pros and cons which should be carefully considered but it is without doubt that heat pumps can lower your co2 emissions and lower your energy costs and with the RHI scheme they can be an attractive investment.

Click here for more detailed information and pros and cons.

Record Braking Cumbrian Wind Powerhouse Comes Online!

Cumbria Walney Wind Farm

Wind power is one of the most popular sources of renewable energy in the world. In the UK alone, last year 15% of power produced was from wind, split between onshore and offshore generation.

Off the Cumbrian coast, the world’s largest offshore windfarm has just been opened and has been designed to provide over 600,000 homes with power using a whopping 87 turbines which are the largest turbines available globally. The installation generates around 695MW and covers an area equal to 20,000 football pitches.

It is becoming clearer that to meet UK targets for the coming years, large-scale projects like this one will be necessary as both the demand for electricity is rising and so is the demand for that increase to be fed from clean sources.

In 2017 the highest percentage in history of electricity was produced by wind, and with prices for renewables falling, it is thought that more than half of our power will come from renewables by 2050.

This project has taken 3 year to complete and become operational. It is now the largest windfarm in the world and its turbines some of the tallest – more than 600 feet in the air. Higher is definitely better when It comes to wind speed!

Matthew Wright works for Orsted the Danish company that completed the construction – he told sky news:

“The UK is the global leader in offshore wind and Walney Extension showcases the industry’s incredible success story.”

And it seems this won’t be the only project of its kind, with Orsted planning constructions in Norway and the Netherlands, and even larger projects in the pipeline in Hornsea and the Yorkshire coast. So, whilst Walney Extension may not be the biggest for long, it was the first of its scale and is an important step in the UK becoming greener.

This is proof that wind power has become bigger and better and how far the technology has come in just a few years when compared to the last wind farm project in London in the Thames estuary. Europe is the leader in offshore wind with more than 4,000 offshore wind turbines around various countries. In 2017 the UK was responsible for 1.7gigawatts of power from offshore wind.

Energy minister Claire Perry said:

“Record-breaking engineering landmarks like this help us consolidate our global leadership position, break records for generating renewable energy, and create thousands of high-quality jobs.”

Shell Invests Heavily in Wind to Supplement Falling Revenue

Shell Renewable Energy

Shell have had to make some big decisions in the past regarding renewable energy. 10 years ago, they stopped investing in certain renewables such as solar, wind and hydro power, instead choosing to focus on bio-fuels. Recently they have reconsidered this decision – with oil prices once again falling and considering the Paris climate change deal, Shell have been forced to admit they may have got it wrong.

They are focusing on wind power for their future revenue. After announcing plans to put people out of over 12,500 jobs this year, it’s clear they are tightening their belts. With wind looking like the most promising renewable option, recently Shell reluctantly turned to wind power to supplement falling revenue.

Shell no longer drill in the arctic and currently will not be returning – great news for those against this kind of drilling which has always been surrounded by controversy. With other sites experiencing job cuts, this is an expensive time for oil companies desperately scrabbling to save money.

Shell has joined the GWEC (the Global Wind Energy Council) following the China Wind Power 2018 energy show, and who can blame them when the figures look so attractive! With the industry set to continue growing to 841gw by 2022, it is expected demand for oil worldwide will fall.

Shell vice president said:

“We are pleased to join GWEC and their Offshore Taskforce to help accelerate the development of offshore wind, an important part of Shell’s growing New Energies portfolio. We look forward to working with Ben and his team and the other GWEC members.”

Shell’s support for offshore wind could certainly help the growth within the industry, and they have said they will be investing 1 billion US dollars a year.

Dorine Bosman, VP Shell Wind Development, said:

“We are pleased to join GWEC and their Offshore Taskforce to help accelerate the development of offshore wind, an important part of Shell’s growing New Energies portfolio. We look forward to working with Ben and his team and the other GWEC members.”

The attitudes of Shell have changed towards these renewable options and it is a complete u turn on recent years. Shell isn’t the only company beginning to make this change. With many more big companies realising low carbon alternatives are the future, wind is the main contender, but other investments have been in solar and bio-fuels.

To continue to be big contenders these companies will need to switch focus from oil to renewables to stay afloat in this ever-changing energy market – renewables are on the up and will be worth $777,000,000,000 by 2019.

The Solar Price Tumble – UK Racing for Subsidy Free Solar Energy

Solar Panels

Solar panels have become increasingly popular having been installed worldwide on many homes and businesses, cutting electricity bills and generating income for those that have them via the feed in tariff.

 A recent survey suggests there are more people out there that would be willing to install solar panels, 62% to be exact of the British public saying they would consider not only solar panels but some kind of energy storage devise. Also 71% said they would join a community energy scheme – a huge percentage of people willing to back using cleaner energy if the right government support was present.

Installing renewables and joining community schemes could see your energy bills slashed and with the feed in tariff set to be stopped in 2019, the community schemes could mean a way forward for homeowners and small businesses to still offset the cost of installing.

So, it is apparent that the British public are behind reducing the impacts of climate change and there is much support for the increase of uptake if the government can find new ways to encourage people to push forward. It'[s blatantly obvious that more people could greatly benefit from green energy if more support was available. It does look, however, that with the advocation of government subsidies imminent (for solar anyway), that prices will continue to tumble and with the rising costs of energy in the market, installing solar will rapidly become the norm rather than the exception.

Sam bright said:

“Our generation is witnessing an energy transformation unseen since the industrial revolution. We are moving from being locked into large-scale fossil fuel plants, powered by coal and gas, to smaller, cleaner and locally owned energy systems”

It’s a great time to be thinking about installing solar panels as they are becoming more affordable and new technology is now available. Smart batteries now exist which means evening energy costs can be cut, so despite the feed in tariff no longer existing after April 2019, this isn’t the end of world for solar power and it is still a great way to start a greener way of life and saving ever increasing amounts money too!

2017 The Record Breaking Year for Renewables

2017 Renewable Energy

2017 was a record-breaking year for renewables and this is set to be beaten yet again by the time 2018 is up. The breaking of Renewable records includes the following:

  • Solar and wind exceeding the most electricity produced together at one time
  • A whole day without coal power
  • The greatest production of wind power in one day

When you look back just a few years these are all achievements that would previously have not been thought possible.
This shows an all-time high in support of green energy and renewables and results for 2018 could be even more exciting – if they continue, we could see a drop-in energy price. 30.7% of UK power in 2017 came from renewables and low carbon sources of power now provide over half of power with the UK halving its carbon output since 2012. Wind supplied 15% of the 25% output supplied by renewables during 2017 and 50% of power last year was also from low carbons sources.

Duncan Burt said:

“It’s been an exciting year managing the many network firsts – from a day where we operated the system with zero coal power, to one where over half of Great Britain’s energy demand was met by renewable generation.”

It has been said by WWF that the UK is behind on the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, so an extra push will be needed to meet targets. They believe more focus is needed on building, using less power and supporting electric vehicles. Despite concerns, we are on track for a greener 2018 and we now have the seventh cleanest electricity sector in the world.
Gas usage will need to be tackled to ensure carbon targets are met, and many believe the government need to act to ensure success. In October the clean energy strategy was released and sets out ways in which climate change can be challenged and how the country plans to meet national and international targets.

Records so far for 2018 include:

  • the most first-time buyers of renewables
  • solar power produced the highest ever weekly output
  • 30.1% of energy generation was produced by renewables

By 2030 it’s hoped that 75% of power will be supplied by renewables and coal power plants will no longer exist by 2025.

Duncan Burt said:

“We’ve gone from renewables being a part of the mix to often being a significant, majority part of the mix.”

Cleve Hill – Will it be the first subsidy free solar park in the UK?

Cleve Hill Solar

So far, solar installations and growth has relied on government subsidies, but a new project gives hope that solar energy can be self-sufficient, giving the government less control over the growth of the industry.

 Cleve Hill in Kent is hoped to be home to a solar and energy park. It is said that enough energy will be produced to support 91,000 homes and no government money will be required for this to operate. Energy storage will be used on the site along with a habitat area for birds and wildlife, this being the main cause for concern from the general public as the area is home to many species of birds. While there are plans to lessen this impact, should we accept that there must be some environmental impact related to these projects but recognise, however, that what they bring to the table is also extremely valuable.

A final decision is expected by 2019/2020 and planning applications have been made. If successful, this will be the first subsidy free solar park – a great achievement for renewable projects and solar which has so far relied on subsidies to make them happen.

The UK has had uncharacteristically sunny weather this summer. On some of the sunniest days, solar was responsible for 30 percent of the electricity supplied nationally and teamed with wind at another 30 percent, that’s over 50 percent of electricity supplied by renewable clean energy!

We do need projects like Cleve hill in the UK. By 2025 coal power will no longer exist and the demand for electricity is rising with new technologies and electric cars becoming used more widely. Projects like this will provide clean energy to homes and potentially save homeowners money on their energy bills in the future.

After fears that abolishing the feed in tariff and cutting subsidies would deter further solar PV projects, this brings fresh hope to future projects and smaller installations. While over previous years the momentum for projects has slowed down based around what the government subsidies where offering, Cleve Hill could prove these subsidies are no longer needed to make solar projects a success. This could mean significant growth of the industry and good news for installers and businesses alike.

Hugh Brennan of Hive Energy said:

“The Cleve Hill solar park is a pioneering scheme that aims to optimise the technological developments in solar energy.”

So, while the final decision is unsure at this stage, it will certainly be a ray of light for a clean energy future if successful.

Cornwall’s Geothermal Ambitions

Geothermal Power Station

Geothermal energy or heat from the earth is a natural source of clean energy and it is sustainable. This is the reason a team in Cornwall is planning the UK’s first geothermal power station. The aim is to have a zero-carbon source of electricity.

Geothermal energy can be extracted at any time of day and night, 365 days a year, making it arguably one of the best ways to produce electricity on earth. The site in Cornwall has some of the most accessible and abundant natural resources such as wind, sun and geothermal heat, making it one of the best places to start. If the geothermal power site in Cornwall goes ahead and is a success, it could mean greater plans in the future for other areas of the UK, especially ones that have been identified as having geothermal resources.

Geothermal energy utilises the natural heat of the earth’s crust. Two holes are drilled into the ground – this is not a quick process as the depths are usually around 3-10 km. The ones drilled in Cornwall are predicted to be between 2.5 km and 4.5 km which will be the deepest in the UK. Water is then pumped into the shallower hole and is heated by the natural volcanic heat; this heat is then extracted in the form of steam which can be used to power a turbine which in turn produces electricity.

geothermal energy
Geothermal energy extraction

This process is, of course, not without its problems. There have been instances of these projects causing minor earthquakes and as with any drilling of this kind, it will be important that things such as speed and volume of water are controlled but these risks are minor compared to fracking and other forms of fossil fuel extraction.

Ryan law said;

“Any relative risk of induced seismicity is very well controlled.”

This kind of technology can only be used in certain locations, so it is debatable whether this can become something bigger and be economically viable. Another issue raised is the potential of water being extracted, releasing carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide. The success of the project will depend on the fact that little to no greenhouse gasses are released or created during the process.

Despite these possible potential issues, it is hoped the project near Redruth proves a success, as the results will be a great indicator of whether this kind of scheme has potential and is to be used more across the UK in the future.

Ryan law said;

 “For the broader industry it is a very important project. Should this project succeed it really will be a kick-start to the geothermal industry in the UK,”

Funding has been issued by the EU at a figure of around £10.6 m with Cornwall council offering £2.4 m – the rest of the £5 m has been raised by crowdfunding. The project should take around 5 months for the first well to be completed, hoping to be fully operating by 2020.

Tony Batchelor told the guardian;

“This £18 m is basically our chip in the game. Then we look at delivering bigger and better projects.”

Another fantastic step forward for clean, green energy!

UK Renewable Energy Capacity Triples as it overtakes Fossil Fuel

UK Wind Farm

The race for renewables has stepped up a gear, and for the first time its capacity has overtaken the capacity of fossil fuel for the UK.

So why is this?

The capacity from renewables such as wind, solar and biomass has tripled in the last five years making the yield 42 GW compared to that of fossil fuels’ 40.6 GW. This would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago according to experts!

This is great news for the UK and our never-ending battle to combat climate change. These figures will need to rise continuously in the future as the power from fossil fuels was still greater overall at 40% compared to the 28% from renewables.

Wind and solar continue to lead the way in renewables providing 20 GW with solar providing 13 GW of capacity. We are still talking capacity and not generation however as these figures are not to be sniffed at. This has led to real and positive change in recent years.

Dr Iain Staffell who was the lead researcher said:

“Britain’s power system is slowly but surely walking away from fossil fuels, and this quarter saw a major milestone on the journey.”

In the last few years alone we have seen more electricity provided by wind, solar and renewables – in total 57% of electricity generated was low carbon.

Coal usage has dropped as providers have been hit by UK carbon tax. In 2012 coal provided around two fifths of electricity but this year, thanks to solar and wind power, it has provided less than 6%.

Solar and wind have of course been helped by weather and emerging new technology. Last year saw more wind and sunlight than usual. Nevertheless, the figures look good and it has been said that ministers intend to phase out coal completely by 2025.  With coal plants set to close and offshore wind farms in talks, we are well on the way to achieving this.  Click here for wind maps of the UK.

A spokesperson for the department of business said:

“The UK leads the world in tackling climate change and this shows the time of unabated coal fired electricity is being ended by a cleaner, greener future increasingly powered by renewable energy.”

We still however have a way to go. Oil and gas are still the cheapest form of energy, but the cost of renewables is falling, and falling fast! By 2020 its hoped that renewables will compete on price with fossil fuels and that’s thanks to the improvements in technology. Fuel prices are at an all-time high and new ways to balance these costs will be key to our energy transition success. Over time it will become clear that using renewables will almost certainly become the smarter decision.

Spain’s 2050 100% Renewable Energy Target

Madrid Spain

Spain have recently announced their ambitious plans to be entirely reliant on renewable energy by 2050. Their war on climate change will set the standard for other nations to follow suit and these changes surely can’t come soon enough. 2018 brought us extreme temperatures in some countries with longer spells of warm and extreme weather – we had snow in March and some rather impressive storms! There should be no doubt that this change in weather is caused by man-made climate change.

An impressive 3,000 MW of wind and solar power is set to be installed during the next decade alone in Spain.

This ambitious plan could see emissions produced by Spain cut by a massive 90 percent. To achieve this the country will have to increase budgets for renewables significantly, planning on banning oil and gas exploration as well as beating EU targets of 32% renewable energy generation. Spain plans to have a 35% target for not only renewables but also energy efficiency by 2030. By 2030 they plan to cut greenhouse emissions by 20%.

The Spanish nation’s determination is commendable. If we are to make a positive change, every country in the world needs to follow suit and commit to such plans.

Laurence Tubiana said Spain  “is showing the European Commission the way”

In their plan, Early Retirement schemes will see Spanish coal mines closed and people retrained in jobs in renewable energy and restoring the environment, and buildings shall not be leased unless they have nearly zero grid based energy consumption, showing just how serious they are about meeting these targets and educating the public on climate change and the benefits of clean energy.

These plans come after it was said that Spain has struggled to meet targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the past, blaming spells of dry weather causing a rise in emissions – 338.8 million tons of CO2 to be exact. Hydroelectricity could not be used during a drought and as a result coal took over. These are the kinds of problems that must be overcome if Spain is to reach the targets set out by 2030.

Solar power Europe’s James Watson said

“it is exciting to see Spain setting the pace in its commitment to a 100% renewable powered future”, adding that it confirms that “it is possible to power large economies by renewables in the near future”.

Spain has the fifth largest economy in Europe so it important they take action and set an example, and that rides on the climate change plan being passed in parliament. The current government will have to rely on other parties for the plan to be passed as they currently don’t hold enough seats.

This is an important step forward for the country and could hopefully spur others on to ramp up efforts to tackle climate change over the next decade.

Christina Figueres says:

“It sets a long-term goal, provides incentives on scaling up emissions technologies and cares about a good transition for the workforce.”

Liquid Solar Energy Storage

sun energy capture

We know that our planet’s supply of fossil fuels has an expiry date, however, what we don’t know is precisely when this finite resource will expire!

What we do know is that we need to rapidly find a solution – one that is better for our planet than our current rate of consumption of its resources and pollution of its skies and earth.

Scientists in Sweden are trying to do just that. So far, the most promising answer has been solar panelshowever, these are not without their problems. The Swedish scientists have been working on a revolutionary new liquid derived from combining hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen. This fluid is a molecule called solar thermal fuel.

solar storage
solar storage

Jeffery Grossman an engineer at MIT recently told NBC News:

“A solar thermal fuel is like a rechargeable battery, but instead of electricity, you put sunlight in and get heat out, triggered on demand.”

The fluid itself becomes an isomer by altering, changing and bonding its atoms. When sunlight hits the liquid, it becomes energised and the energy is captured by the robust chemical bond, norbornadiene. When this is converted, the energy it creates called quadricyclane, stays cornered in there even once the temperature has become cooler. To release power, this liquid is placed through a catalyst which converts the molecules to their original type and releases energy as heat.

This could solve many problems as less storage is needed and so less space  is required for it. The energy it captures can be stored for when it’s needed and activated when energy is required, so that when the sun is not shining this reserve can be used to supply energy. This technology can be used all year round, any time of day or night. The technology is not without its challenges though and scientists must overcome significant challenges to make it cost effective and consumer friendly and more importantly, efficient.

Kasper moth-poulsen (an organic chemist) said:

“The energy in this isomer can now be stored for up to 18 years. And when we come to extract the energy and use it, we get a warmth increase which is greater than we dared hope for.”

This has potential to heat homes and workplaces such as factories and the technology is gaining momentum and excitement across the industry. It is yet to be proven to be the answer to all our fossil fuel problems but it certainly shows promise and anything that protects our planet from greenhouse gases’ finite resource reduction and helps cleans our air, has to be worth exploring.

Moth-poulsen goes on to say:

“There could be lots of industrial applications as well.”