Low Energy Sustainable Buildings

In this modern age, we are always looking for ways in which to be more sustainable, there is no denying that. Whether that is eating less meat, recycling more, or using renewable energy in our homes. We only have one planet and even the smallest lifestyle changes can have incredible results on its sustainability. While switching to a renewable energy supplier is a fantastic way to become more sustainable, there is also another way in which your home can help the environment, particularly if you are planning your very own self-build project.

Self-Build Homes

Self-building has taken the UK by storm recently with an estimated 7-10% of homes built each year in the UK now being a self-build. There are many reasons for this including: designing and building a home individual to you, creating a home for retirement or constructing a high-quality home at a cost-effective price. Another key reason we have seen a sharp rise in UK self-builds is their undeniably positive impact on sustainability, particularly when built to Passivhaus standards.

Passivhaus (sometimes known as Passive House) building is a voluntary standard of construction where design principles are implemented in such a way that allows for the occupant to have a high level of comfort (heating and cooling) while using little-to-zero energy. This ingenious way of building allows the user to have both a reduction in energy costs and much lower carbon emissions from their home. So, not only does this help the environment, but it can also save you money!

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Reduction in Heating Demand

Passivhaus homes often see a huge reduction in heating demand. This is primarily achieved through high levels of insulation using Insulated Concrete Formwork (ICF), while also reducing the number of thermal bridges in the home.

ICF is a revolutionary innovation in both walling and foundation systems for self-builds. With the walling systems, hollow polystyrene blocks are used to construct the frame of the home itself. Concrete is then poured into the blocks which gives unrivalled insulating properties over more traditional materials used in other walling systems. ICF foundation slabs are of a similar idea but used in the foundations of a home or basement. These are ground slabs that are usually cast at the project site, then reinforced with a steel mesh or fibre. Again, offering incredible insulation over more traditional foundation methods in homes and ultimately reducing energy consumption.

Thermal bridging is the areas of a home where heat tries to escape. This is typically where there is a break or penetration in the structure as the heat will tend to follow the path where it has the least resistance when escaping.

This usually will be:

  • Where the floor meets a wall
  • Where a wall meets the roof
  • Pipe or cable entrances
  • Around windows and doors

Passivhaus homes are built to be almost free of any thermal bridging, therefore significantly reducing the demand for traditional heating methods.

Passivhaus and Sustainability

There truly is no denying that there is a direct correlation between Passivhaus building and sustainability. Looking at the key benefit to come from building a home to Passivhaus standards: if there is a reduction in the demand for heating, this will certainly limit the requirement for energy usage and ultimately reduce a home’s carbon emissions.

Heat in a Passivhaus home is generated from appliances such as the oven, a computer, refrigerators or even lightbulbs and candles. It is also generated from a home’s occupants utilising good old fashioned body heat.

As we don’t all have the luxury of living in a warmer climate, particularly in the UK, there will sometimes be a requirement for the use of traditional heating methods even in a Passivhaus home. Building a home to the high Passivhaus standards and going through the rigorous certification process central to sustainability, most self-builders will tend to opt for an eco-friendly energy source too. Having solar-powered energy sources installed in your home or using a renewable energy provider is always the best way in which to ensure that your Passivhaus home is truly built with sustainability at its core.

This article was provided by Econekt. They are a UK-wide low-energy construction firm with a focus on Passivhaus and ICF self-building. So good, even Mother Nature would approve.

Amazon’s Latest Venture in Going 100 Percent Renewable by 2025

Amazon

Amazon, the world’s largest retailer, is no stranger to disruptive technology. The brand built its name by revolutionising e-commerce and defined the smart device movement. But its latest tech venture is in sustainable power. Amazon’s renewable energy investments are reaching new heights.

In 2019, Amazon announced that it aims to run entirely on renewables by 2030. By mid-2020, it adjusted that goal, claiming it’s on track to achieve it by 2025. That’s an impressive statement, considering how massive a company Amazon is, with fulfilment centres across the globe.

A company of Amazon’s size consumes a remarkable amount of electricity. As 2025 draws nearer, the e-commerce giant has little time to switch to renewables. Here’s how Amazon is making it happen.

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Record-Breaking Renewable Energy Projects

Amazon’s renewable energy goals are lofty, so it’s had to take some significant strides to pursue them. In late 2019, the company launched the largest corporate wind power purchase in the U.K. This project, a wind farm in Kintyre Peninsula, Scotland, will generate 168,000 megawatt-hours of energy annually, enough to power 46,000 homes.

This wind farm isn’t the only record-breaking renewable energy project Amazon has started. In December 2020, Amazon became the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable power after adding 26 utility-scale projects. These solar and wind projects will raise the company’s sustainable power capacity to 6.5 gigawatts, supplying 18 million megawatt-hours annually.

Since Amazon consumes so much power, it can’t generate enough on its own yet. To help reach its goals, the company has partnered with Shell to supplement its renewable energy efforts. Shell will provide power from an offshore wind farm off the coast of the Netherlands, helping both Amazon and the company’s own sustainability goals.

Amazon’s Other Investments in Renewable Energy

Amazon’s renewable energy investments include more than generating clean power for its operations. They also cover funding for other businesses that provide sustainable power services or technologies. Since regulations can make it challenging for energy companies to expand, these funds can be of significant help to smaller renewable energy businesses.

Investing in other renewable technology developers can also help Amazon find new solutions to its energy problems. Supporting research in the area can lead to new technologies and services that would make large-scale renewable energy more viable. Amazon would then have a better chance at meeting its goals in time.

Since deliveries are a central part of Amazon’s business model, the retailer has also pursued zero-emissions vehicles. Its first fleet of electric vans started making deliveries in early 2021, with hopes to have 10,000 in service by 2022. This movement will help ensure Amazon’s vehicles don’t generate enough emissions to counter their renewable energy projects.

How Will This Impact Energy and Technology in the U.K.?

This shift towards sustainability could impact the overall energy and technology sectors in the U.K. Amazon is the world’s leading cloud service provider, accounting for 32% of the global cloud market. Consequently, when its data centres run on green energy, the U.K. companies that rely on them will become more sustainable.

Since so many services rely on Amazon’s data centres, its renewable infrastructure must be reliable. Any disruptions or malfunctions could jeopardize the cloud processes of U.K. businesses. In light of these potential consequences, Amazon has to ensure its wind and solar projects will provide constant, sufficient service.

As Amazon shifts to renewable energy, it could inspire other U.K. companies to do the same. If a business as massive and energy-intensive as Amazon can run on renewables, a smaller business could too. The success of Amazon’s renewable energy projects could start a clean power revolution among U.K. companies.

Amazon’s Renewable Energy Goals Are Bold but Not Impossible

Relying on sustainable energy can seem like an intimidating goal for any company. A business as large as Amazon aiming for 100% renewable power in just a few years is a loftier goal than most. As the retailer increases its green energy projects, though, it seems increasingly likely they’ll reach these high aspirations.

Amazon is proving that, with enough commitment, reaching net-zero emissions is possible, and not just in the future. Any U.K. business could start pursuing renewable energy today and become entirely green before long. It will take work, but it’s not impossible.

Choose a Green Energy Supplier to Increase the Sustainability of Your Home

Green Energy

Choose a Green Energy Supplier to Increase the Sustainability of Your Home

In these eco-conscious times, we’re all looking for ways to improve the sustainability of our households and reduce our carbon footprint. Everything from the kind of food we serve at dinner time to the kind of detergent we use can have a powerful impact on the planet we all share. But while switching to a green energy supplier is one of the easiest ways to reduce the environmental impact of your home, it’s also extremely effective.

Can renewable energy really make a difference?

Absolutely. In fact, switching to a renewable energy plan can prevent around 1.1 tonnes of carbon from entering our atmosphere every single year. At The Renewable Energy Hub, we know a thing or two about the impact renewable energy can have on your home. But we often find that people don’t realise just how easy it is to switch to a renewable supplier.

How do I switch to renewable energy?

It’s quick and easy to switch to a renewable energy tariff. Just get in touch with our friends at Switch-Plan. They can help you to find the perfect green energy supplier for your needs, and a tariff that works for your budget. So you can reduce your environmental footprint and save money at the same time. It’s a process that takes just a few minutes, but can result in years of savings. Both in terms of carbon, and your bank balance.

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Who is the best green energy supplier?

That’s a tricky question to answer. It really depends on your unique circumstances. Different green energy suppliers and tariffs are available in different areas, and the right plan for you will depend on which fuels your home uses, your energy consumption, and when you use it. That’s the beauty of Switch-Plan. The team carefully match the right tariff to your needs. So you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re getting carbon-neutral energy at the best possible prices.

Can I also get renewable gas?

Yes, absolutely. Most suppliers offer some form of green gas to their customers.

This comes in the form of either carbon-neutral or carbon-offset gas. Carbon-neutral gas is biomethane that’s sourced from plant and agricultural waste rather than natural gas from within the earth. Carbon-offset gas, however, is still natural gas, but the carbon it generates has been offset by other carbon-neutral or carbon-negative investments around the world (like planting trees).

Save the planet and save money… It’s a no-brainer!

The right green energy supplier can help you to save money while also helping to save our world. If we were all to switch to renewable energy plans, we could save hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 from entering our atmosphere and save trillions around the world in climate change costs. So, what are you waiting for? See how much you could save by switching energy plans today.

Machine Learning Applications for Renewable Energy Forecasting

Machine Learning

Renewable energy adoption is growing across the world. As renewables make up a larger portion of the world’s energy production, predicting future scenarios becomes more pressing. Thankfully, machine learning applications can bring several improvements to renewable energy forecasting.

Machine learning applications are a subset of artificial intelligence, where algorithms learn to identify patterns from data with minimal human intervention. Many companies use it to find ways to improve or predict upcoming changes that would affect their business. This pattern-based prediction can help renewable energy, too.

Since renewables rely on nature, their efficiency and production can vary widely. Better predictive tools can help energy companies and users make the most of these installations. Here’s how.

Predicting Energy Consumption

One of the most crucial parts of renewable energy forecasting is predicting how much energy users will consume. Unlike other power sources, renewables don’t generate electricity around the clock. Power companies need to understand demand so they can allocate energy appropriately, so as not to waste any.

People can monitor usage trends to predict upcoming consumption changes, but this can be slow and inaccurate. Since computers are generally better at data-heavy tasks than people, machine learning can spot trends and make connections faster. In the renewable energy sector, this looks like an algorithm analysing usage patterns to determine which areas will need more energy at any given time.

With this information, energy companies can deliver power to where it’s needed most. The result is less waste, less disruption, and more consumer satisfaction. Some machine learning algorithms can achieve this even with partial information, making them far more reliable than traditional approaches.

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Predicting Weather Conditions

Another unique issue with renewable energy forecasting is the weather’s impact. Since renewables rely on things like the wind and sun, varying weather conditions produce different amounts of power. Machine learning applications can help predict these more accurately than traditional models.

Most weather forecasting models rely on data from large geographic regions that don’t always accurately represent local conditions. Machine learning algorithms can process far more granular data in a similar or even shorter time. This precision and speed produces more reliable, relevant forecasts.

The same machine learning programs can then predict how the weather will impact energy production. If renewables will produce higher-than-average levels, energy companies can scale down fossil fuels and vice versa. Some days, wind power alone can produce half of the U.K.’s energy, while others, it barely generates anything, so this flexibility is crucial.

Predicting Market Movements

Renewable power vendors need to meet market demands to make sustainable energy more widespread. Like in any business, appealing to customers requires an understanding of consumer trends. Many companies use machine learning applications in this area, and so can renewable energy businesses.

With enough high-quality data, consumer actions are surprisingly predictable. Machine learning algorithms can forecast long-term market movements, so renewable energy companies can understand their audience. Since it can take time to adjust production or marketing strategies, predicting these consumer trends early is crucial.

If more renewable power vendors adapt to shifting markets, they’ll become more attractive to consumers. As a result, sustainable energy will spread faster, helping the world move towards a greener future.

Predicting Potential Issues

Another crucial part of renewable energy forecasting is determining where potential problems may arise. While renewables provide lower lifetime operating expenses, upfront equipment costs are typically high. If companies can predict when conditions may threaten the grid, they can prevent it, leading to considerable savings.

One of the most useful machine learning applications in this area is predictive analytics. In this process, machine learning algorithms look at how equipment is running to predict when it will need repair. That way, workers can prevent costly breakdowns and don’t have to perform any unnecessary maintenance.

While human inspectors can attempt to do the same thing on their own, they’re not as effective. One study found that AI-assisted predictive maintenance is up to 25.3% more efficient and 24.6% more precise. These savings can help make renewable installations more cost-effective, helping them grow further.

Machine Learning Makes Renewable Energy More Viable

Machine learning can help forecast many relevant factors impacting renewable energy. As a result, renewables will become more reliable, affordable, and desirable. With these improvements, they could overtake fossil fuels faster.

Renewable energy is promising on its own, but machine learning expands its potential. By making renewables a more viable alternative to fossil fuels, machine learning is improving sustainability across multiple industries.

How To Keep Your Home Warm And Save Money On Your Energy Bills

warm eco home

With temperatures plummeting and stormy and wintry weather sweeping the country many people will be thinking about how they can make their homes warmer and more energy efficient. In an effort to curb the Coronavirus, anyone who can work from home has been encouraged to do so. This means that many of us are spending far more time at home leading to higher energy bills and more awareness of the efficiency of our heating systems. Heat escapes from houses from roofs, floors, doors, windows, and walls wasting a portion of the money spent on your heating system. There is still a lot that can be done to lessen heat loss and wasted energy spend in most homes in the UK, meaning you could have a warmer and more comfortable home while wasting less money on heating.

Research conducted by Nationwide building society and shared with Guardian Money reveals that some households could be wasting as much as £27.50 a month or £330 a year due to inefficient heating and poor insulation. The research is based on data from Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs). Since 2008 an EPC has been needed whenever a house is built, sold, or rented. An EPC contains information about a property’s energy use and typical energy costs as well as recommendations about how to reduce energy use and save money. An EPC gives a property an energy efficiency rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) and is valid for 10 years.

There are several measures people can take to improve the energy rating of their home. Although there can be big differences in the costs involved, thanks to the government’s Green Homes Grant, help is at hand and homeowners in England can apply for vouchers that in most cases will pay two-thirds of the cost of certain energy-efficient improvements, up to a maximum of £5,000 a household. If you are on a low income and on certain benefits you can claim the whole cost up to £10,000. You may also be able to get help from your energy supplier or another company. To give you an example, Nationwide offers a green additional loan that allows mortgage customers to borrow between £5,000 and £25,000 at a discounted initial interest rate as long as they spend half of the money on energy efficient home improvements.

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Here are some of the measures that you can take to make your home warmer and more energy efficient with some help from the Energy Saving Trust:

  • Insulate Your Water Tanks, Pipes, and Radiators  

A simple measure like insulating your hot water cylinder with a jacket could save you over £100 a year on an uninsulated tank. Water tanks and pipes lose heat quickly, so insulating them will keep them hotter for longer, saving you money and reducing the energy you use. It’s also worth topping up the insulation on your hot water tank by replacing 25mm with an 80mm jacket which would still save you between £25 and £35 per year. Jackets can be bought for about £10-£15 from retailers such as B&Q which means that you would save more than the cost of the jacket in the first year.

Foam tubes can be used to insulate pipes at a cost of only a few pounds from DIY stores.

You can also install radiator reflector foil behind your radiator which reduces heat loss by reflecting it back into the room.

  • Cavity Wall Insulation

About a third of all the heat lost in an uninsulated home escapes through the walls. If your house was built after the 1920s it is likely to have cavity walls, but many homes built before the 1990s do not have any wall insulation. The normal procedure is to employ an installer to drill small holes in the outside walls, inject insulation material into the gap and then seal the holes with cement. Typical installation costs of cavity wall insulation will vary depending on the size of your home. But whatever the size of your home you should be able to make back the installation cost in five years or less due to the yearly energy bill savings you will make. The Energy Saving Trust puts the average cost at between £345 for a flat and £610 for a detached house with more than one floor. Some energy suppliers offer free cavity wall insulation under the official energy company obligation system. The ECO scheme is designed to help reduce carbon emissions and tackle fuel poverty. Generally, you need to be in receipt of one or more qualifying benefits.

  • Roof & Loft Insulation

You can lose 25% of heat through the roof of an uninsulated home, so insulating your loft or roof is a great way to lower your heating bills. Although topping up your loft insulation involves an initial cost the Energy Saving Trust estimates that loft insulation is effective for at least 42 years. It should pay for itself many times over.

You may want to install the insulation yourself if your loft is easy to access. You will need rolls of mineral wool insulation, some of which are designed to be used as a base layer while others are for topping up existing insulation. Basic versions can be bought from DIY stores for less than £20.

If you decide to use a professional installer you can go on the National Insulation Association’s website to find someone local. Their charges will range from about £285 for a mid-terrace house, £300 for a semi and £375-£395 for a detached property. The EST says this is based on installing a 270mm of insulation where there is none (the recommended depth for mineral wool insulation) so it will be cheaper if you are just topping up existing insulation.

Some energy suppliers offer free loft insulation to eligible households under the energy company obligation scheme.

  • Solid Wall Insulation

If your home was built before the 1920s, its external walls are probably solid walls rather than cavity walls. Insulating your solid walls could cut your heating cost considerably. These solid walls can be insulated from the inside or the outside. This may take the form of insulation boards fitted to the walls. The EST estimates the cost of internal wall insulation at about £7,400 and external wall insulation at about £13,000 for a typical semi-detached house. As this can be quite an expensive process you might want to reduce the bill by carrying out other improvements at the same time or opt not to do the whole house at once.

  • Floor Insulation

Insulating your ground floor, or any floors above unheated spaces like garages, will help keep the heat in your home. Newer homes generally have ground floors made of solid concrete while older homes are likely to have suspended timber floors. For older homes you can lift the floorboards and lay mineral wool insulation between the joists and for newer homes you can lay rigid insulation on top of the concrete floors.

A professional installer will typically charge between £520 and £1300 according to estimates from the EST though costs can vary significantly depending on the size of the house.

Installing insulation under floorboards on the ground floor can save you about £40 a year on heating bills.

There are, however, some cheap quick fixes such as blocking gaps in the floor and skirting boards with a tube of sealant from a DIY store or putting down rugs or carpets.

  • Double or Triple Glaze Windows and Doors

Double or triple glazing doors and windows will also help to reduce heat loss from your home. You can replace an external door with a more energy-efficient one or install draught-proofing measures.

  • Draught-Proof Your Home

Draught-proofing your home is one of the most cost-effective ways of keeping your energy bills low. Heat can escape from your home through any gaps, holes, or cracks, including gaps in windows and doors through to open chimneys.

  • Solar Photovoltaic Panels

Installing solar panels can dramatically reduce your carbon emissions as well as save you money on your energy bills. Solar PV panels convert energy from the sun into electricity.

The EST says:

“They are an effective measure that will cut electricity bills and your carbon footprint.”

Solar energy is one of the biggest and most effective kinds of renewable energy in the world. The natural power of the sun is harvested to create electricity to heat and light your home. Your solar PV system can either produce electricity or heat your water whilst reducing the amount of carbon dioxide you produce. There are lots of options, from panels that can be fitted on a sloping south-facing or flat roof to ground-standing panels or solar tiles. The average domestic solar PV system is 3.5KWp and costs around £4,800.

There will be times when your PV system generates more electricity than you can use, or store and your surplus will be exported to the grid to be used by somebody else. You can be paid for the electricity you export to the grid but first you need to find a company that will pay you for this surplus. In March 2019, the Smart Export Guarantee was introduced to provide financial support to small-scale renewable energy generators for the electricity they export to the grid. The savings from solar PV with the SEG are considerably higher than without it. In the UK, the SEG pays you for the electricity you generate but you must have a smart meter installed to benefit from the scheme. You can make an annual saving of between £250 and £330 per year if you are signed up to the SEG in the UK.

  • Air Source Heat Pumps

Installing an air source heat pump can be a great alternative to continuing with your current heating system. They tend to be both cost effective and energy efficient. Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the outside air to warm your home and water. They can still extract heat when air temperatures are as low as -15°C. Running costs will vary depending on things such as the size of your home and how well insulated it is.

Air source heat pumps need electricity to run, but because they extract renewable heat from the environment, the heat output is greater than the electricity input. This makes them an energy efficient method of heating your home.

Installing a typical system costs around £9,000 – £11,000. You will still have to pay fuel bills with a heat pump because it is powered by electricity, but you are likely to save money on your fuel bills depending on the type of heating you are replacing. If your old heating system was inefficient, you are more likely to see lower running costs with a new heat pump. For example, you could save up to £1000 per year in an average sized, four-bedroom detached home if you are replacing old electric storage heaters with an air source heat pump.

For many people, installing renewable heating technology is a major investment. Fortunately, the government is currently offering a financial incentive in the form of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). The RHI offers quarterly cash payments over 7 years for generating low carbon heat, which improves your return on investment. 

Further to the RHI, the government is currently offering financial help to homeowners with the Green Homes Grant introduced to encourage the uptake of Renewable technologies.

  • Ground Source Heat Pumps

Installing a ground source heat pump can be an excellent way of using a major source of renewable energy, the heat from the ground. One of the best methods of extracting and harnessing this valuable energy is a Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) which can be used for producing hot water and operating warm air heating systems. This heating system uses pipes buried in the garden to extract heat from the ground that can be used for radiators, underfloor or warm air heating systems and hot water in your home. A well installed Ground Source Heat Pump can be 300-400% efficient in terms of its use of electricity. For every unit of electricity used by the heat pump, three to four units of heat are captured and transferred.

Installing a typical system costs around £14,000 to £19,000. Running costs will depend on a number of factors including the size of your home and how well insulated it is. You could save up to £1,470 per year if you were to replace an old (G-rated) LPG boiler with a ground source heat pump for an average sized, four-bedroom detached home.

Both the RHI scheme and the Green Homes Grant can also apply to ground source heat pumps.

Home Working – Making a Better Environment

home working environment

Have you found yourself working from home during this COVID 19 pandemic?

Well, you are not alone. As a surveyor being out and about on surveys during the pandemic (we are allowed to work during the lockdown). I am meeting a lot of people working from home.

Makeshift office spaces in the home are becoming the normal.

With winter now upon us, your heating is running more than when you are typically away, and more lighting too is to be expected as the days are dark and miserable of late.

So, to be expected the utility costs have gone up!

 Well, the good news is you are saving more by not travelling to work which is a plus.

However, it is important that you keep your home heated. I have to stress, that living in an inadequately heated home can lead to health problems such as stroke and heart attack. The optimum temperatures for good health are 18 degree C in bedrooms and 21 degree C in main living areas.

An acceptable indoor temperature for office workers is 20 degrees

So how can you achieve this to help keep your utility costs down. If you have TRV (thermostatic radiator valves) fitted to your radiators you can turn down the temperature in the rooms you are not using. This will ensure your boiler is not running to heat all the spaces in your home. This means you will burn less gas/oil. Be sure there is no furniture blocking the radiators. You may have to re-organise your work area.

If you are working in your main living area and have a secondary heating source such as a gas fire, you can use this and keep the central heating off. Try to just heat the space you are occupying. Keep doors closed as much as possible to retain the heat in your work area.

If you are working in an area of the home that has tall vaulted ceilings, try to locate your work space to an area in the home with lower ceilings. You will be heating less volume of space.

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Lighting, be sure to use low energy light bulbs, use as much natural light as possible, unless you work at night! Not sure the moon will be bright enough.

 Be sure you are dressed warm, unplug any unnecessary appliances, use energy efficient equipment where possible.

You can claim £6.00 a week back on your taxes for remote working. You will just need to complete a P87 form online or paper form.

Change your habits

Regularly boiling the kettle at work or leaving your computer on in the office may not affect you, but the same habits will cost you money at home.

Filling the kettle with the amount of water you need could save around £6 a year and completely switching off appliances rather than leaving them on standby could save around £35 annually, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

Similarly, turning down your room thermostat by just one degree and wrapping up with a jumper or cardigan instead could save around £60 a year.

This would be a good time to check if your home is properly insulated. If you visit the Energy Saving Trust web site you can find out about grants and local schemes that are running. Insulation is key!

Is it time to change your utility provider? You may be paying too much. If you are having difficulty paying your utility bills, talk to your supplier they should be able to help.

And always remember…

As people work from home more it may become difficult to separate work hours from one’s own spare time.

7 Environmental Lessons We Can Learn From The Pandemic

pandemic environment

While the pandemic has frustratingly put our lives on hold during the last twelve months, the resulting restrictions have also provided an opportunity to pause for thought and consider our responsibilities in tackling one of the biggest issues facing our planet today – climate change. There are many lessons to be learned as a result of the pandemic about our response to environmental issues, including rethinking how we use transportation, our habits as consumers of energy and resources and how we need to prioritise public health over economic growth.

This guide will explore some of the key environmental lessons we can take forward from the pandemic and how they can be applied on an individual, national, and global scale.

We Are All Responsible

Although the outbreak of COVID-19 and climate change are separate issues, the pandemic has proven that the actions of one person or community has the potential to affect the entire world, sometimes with devastating consequences. This is a stark reminder that all of us – as individuals, nations and as a global population – are responsible for limiting the impact of our actions on the environment, both at home and around the world. World governments have increasingly prioritised conversations about how to tackle climate change since the pandemic began. Green trends for businesses and households, such as using recyclable materials for products and packaging, as well as switching to renewable energy solutions like solar and wind power, have all continued to grow in popularity in the last year. With energy costs predicted to double in the next ten years, more businesses are adopting renewable energy solutions as a cheaper alternative.

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Greener Transportation is Sustainable

During the first UK lockdown, the stay-at-home message from the government meant that the number of people travelling to work, school and other destinations by car fell dramatically. With many people continuing to work from home throughout the course of the year, this trend – to an extent – has endured. Fewer cars on the roads means less harmful emissions being released into the atmosphere on a daily basis. In addition, many who would usually travel by public transport have instead opted to walk or cycle to limit the spread of the virus in enclosed spaces. The pandemic has taught us that it is possible to sustain these habits by considering whether journeys that you would usually make in your car are essential and opting to use greener alternatives to public transport for the sake of the environment, as well as public health. 

Plant-based Eating Can Make a Difference

Pending further investigation, it is widely accepted that the first recorded cases of COVID-19 were linked to a meat market in Wuhan, China. Whether you think a plant-based diet is right for you or not, most researchers agree that the way in which we rely on animals for food and profit greatly increases the risk of pandemics. Plant-based diets are also beneficial to the environment, with the meat industry a big contributor to annual global emissions. Many of us have taken steps to reduce our meat consumption in the last few years, something that will no doubt intensify due to the nature of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Public Health Comes First

With the government providing some financial backing for companies amid tiered restrictions on how businesses can continue to operate, it is clear that public health has taken priority ahead of the economy throughout the pandemic. Public health and the environment go hand-in-hand, with the quality of the air that we breath, our diets, and the physical conditions in which we live all linked to the world around us. We can learn from the fact that we have put our immediate health before the economy during the pandemic, by applying the same sentiment to the impact that climate change will have on public health in the long term.

It’s Important to Act Now

Everything that we know about COVID-19 has been learnt in a short space of time and the development and roll-out of several vaccines in less than a year has been nothing short of remarkable. Countries such as New Zealand have been praised for their fast response to the outbreak of COVID-19 which has limited its impact there. The way the world has rallied behind the cause of eradicating the virus can teach us that we are capable of responding to large-scale crises in a swift manner. And with climate change becoming an increasing threat with each passing year, a more urgent response, compared to the action taken over the issue thus far, will likely be required in the years to come.

Global Cooperation is Essential

As well as taking stock of what we, as individuals, can do to protect the environment at home and in the community, the pandemic has proven that we are capable of instigating a globalised response to an issue that affects us all. Restrictions such as social distancing, testing, travel restrictions and the wearing of face masks in indoor public spaces have come into effect in some form in most countries around the world. Using a globalised approach is crucial in attempting to tackle another global threat in climate change, and world governments and organisations need to pull together to formulate a shared response to the issue.

Keep Learning and Innovating

Throughout the course of the pandemic, world governments have been guided by both internal advisers and the World Health Organisation to inform their decision-making on issues such as social restrictions and vaccinations. Applying the same level of research and science-based innovation in our response to tackling climate change will increase our chances of getting on top of the issue in both the short and long term, and the pandemic has proved that we, as a global population, are adept at taking such action.

Sources

‘Commercial Solar Panels – Is your business energy efficient?’, Mypower, https://www.mypoweruk.com/commercial/

‘Ten lessons learned from the pandemic crisis to be applied in combating climate change’, Balkan Green Energy News, https://balkangreenenergynews.com/ten-lessons-learned-from-the-pandemic-crisis-to-be-applied-in-combating-climate-change/

 ‘Animal Agriculture Increases the Risk of Pandemics’, PETA, https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/animals-used-food-factsheets/animal-agriculture-and-pandemics/

5 Renewable Energy Trends Forecasted for 2021

2020 was supposed to be a big year for renewable energy. As the COVID-19 pandemic tightened budgets and restricted construction, it tempered those expectations but didn’t quite end them. The renewable energy trends that looked like they’d shape 2020 may come back to play a role in 2021.

The renewable energy market may have slowed in 2020, but it’s still performing comparatively well. Wind and hydropower accounted for 90% of energy capacity increases globally, and renewables were some of the only power sources that grew. New green energy projects haven’t met pre-COVID expectations, but they’re still on the rise.

2020 has disrupted the world’s priorities, which will affect the sustainable power market, both for good and ill. Here are some of the leading renewable energy trends that will emerge or continue in 2021.

Solar Power Will Rebound

In 2020, new solar power installations declined. Although solar panels are getting cheaper all the time, they’re still initially expensive. As business slowed during lockdowns, companies and residential users alike didn’t always have the funds to spend on new solar projects.

As the world recovers, both economically and in health, solar power will rebound to pre-pandemic growth levels. This recovery won’t be fast, but it will happen. Solar panel manufacturers and installers will see steady growth, but it will take most of the year before they’re back to normal.

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Sustainable Data Centres

Digital transformation accelerated in 2020. Companies have realised they can save up to 80% by scaling with containerisation, pushing many towards cloud adoption. As businesses rush to the cloud for these savings, it creates more demand for data centres, which are becoming increasingly green.

Several data centre companies have committed to 100% sustainable energy as climate issues become more prominent. Since these projects are growing so quickly, this will be one of renewable energy’s biggest use cases in 2021.

Renewed Focus on Transportation

One of the most significant renewable energy trends in the U.K. this year will be a new focus on transportation. In late 2020, Boris Johnson announced a ban on petrol car sales from 2030. This shortened timeline will drive a new emphasis on producing sustainable vehicles.

New renewable energy installations for buildings may slow down by comparison. Government-backed projects, in particular, will favour transportation over other use cases for renewable power.

Price Hikes for Some Renewables

China produces many of the crucial components for solar panels, which brings some challenges for solar power in 2021. Factory shutdowns in the country threaten to raise the price of these materials, which could affect overall solar panel prices as well.

International supply chains, in general, have seen remarkable disruptions this past year. As a result, renewables that rely on them could see a temporary price hike. This trend could slow adoption in the short term, especially for residential users.

Vaccine Rollout Will Lead to New Off-Grid Renewable Projects

The U.K. hopes to vaccinate every adult by autumn this year. At least two of the available COVID-19 vaccines require ultra-cold storage, demanding flexible, off-grid energy solutions. Renewables are the ideal answer to this problem, as they’re often more flexible than traditional power.

As the nation ramps up vaccine distribution, it could drive the development of novel renewable energy technologies. If these prove effective, it could help encourage renewable adoption in the future. The technologies that emerge from this area could also be helpful in other cases, too.

Renewable Energy Faces Ups and Downs in 2021

Much like last year, renewable energy trends in 2021 will vary in positivity. In some cases, the year will drive growth in some sustainable power projects. In others, new challenges will hinder renewable adoption.

Overall, 2021 will likely be better for renewables than 2020 was. Growth will start to reach pre-pandemic levels, and new use cases will emerge. The road ahead isn’t easy, but it is promising.

Business Strategies for Reducing Their Carbon Footprint

Small businesses have a lot to keep in mind these days. From economic stress to employee health, startups and small companies face a considerable number of challenges. Amid all of this, businesses can’t forget the importance of reducing their carbon footprint, either.

2020 marked the end of the hottest decade on record, emphasising the need for climate action. Knowing where to start with green projects isn’t always straightforward, though. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of ways in which businesses can reduce their carbon footprint.

Here’s a look at some business strategies that can make companies greener.

Data-Centric Goal setting and Measuring

Data is a crucial element in driving eco-friendly initiatives. Businesses can’t expect to improve their sustainability if they don’t know where they stand now. By gathering and analysing data about factors like energy consumption, they can see which areas to address.

Once they have this data, companies can set clearly defined sustainability goals. They can then continue using data to measure their success. This process is a standard business strategy for efficiency, but it can apply to going green, too.

Sustainable Supply Chains

One of the most common mistakes businesses make in reducing their carbon footprint is only focusing on central operations. Supply chains often go overlooked, but they generate 5.5 times the greenhouse gas emissions as the rest of a company’s processes. Creating a sustainable supply chain can dramatically reduce a business’s emissions.

Switching to a fleet of electric vehicles is one of the most effective ways to make supply chains more sustainable. Other possible solutions include reducing packaging waste, using data to find more efficient routes, and outsourcing as little as possible.

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Green Heating

Some sustainability solutions are obvious, like using renewables to power lights and machines. Others may not be as immediately clear, like eliminating fossil fuels from HVAC systems. While green heating is a less obvious strategy for sustainability, it’s an effective and profitable one.

In the U.K., businesses can benefit from the Non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive, which helps cover the cost of green heating technologies. If company projects are eligible, reducing heat-related emissions can be remarkably cost-effective. The money businesses save in this area can go toward funding other sustainability initiatives.

Reducing Water Usage

Most people may not think of water when they think of reducing their carbon footprint. Despite this, water usage contributes a significant amount to energy consumption. The water sector consumes almost 1,000 terawatt-hours of electricity a year, and that figure doesn’t include heating.

If businesses can use less water and heat it less, they can see considerable improvements in their carbon footprint. Possible solutions include using more efficient pipe systems, repairing leaks faster, monitoring water usage, and using aerated faucets. These changes also reduce the burden of water bills, so they save both money and the environment.

Minimising Fossil Fuel Transportation

Transportation accounts for roughly one-fifth of global CO2 emissions, and more than 40% of that comes from freight and shipping. As a result, one of the best strategies to reduce company carbon footprints is to minimise fossil fuels in transport. That could include using electric or hybrid fleets, but it doesn’t stop there.

Employers can encourage their employees to work from home or carpool to work. That way, employee transportation-related emissions drop. Businesses could even establish reward programs for employees who use green modes of transportation.

There’s Always Room for Businesses to Improve

No matter how much a business has done to become sustainable, they can always do more. Sustainability initiatives don’t have to be dramatic and expensive, either. Companies can take little steps to improve their carbon footprint.

Some ways to become more sustainable aren’t immediately obvious. These five strategies are just a sampling of the methods businesses can use to go green.

How to generate your own electricity using solar panels

How to generate your own electricity using solar panels.

Once upon a time, the idea of generating your own electricity with an exclusively solar setup was a futuristic one. Panel capacity was simply too low to provide a viable alternative to mains power, and dirty, noisy diesel generators often had to bear the excess load.

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Nowadays, however, the game has changed. Improvements in solar technology have made it possible for individual properties to achieve full self-sufficiency, while power storage hardware gives homeowners and small businesses the chance to achieve a reliable flow of power all year round.

Energy management is the real gamechanger here. With the removal of the feed-in tariff, consumers can now enjoy complete control over energy usage levels and storage capacity. Modern solar photovoltaic systems allow users to:

  • Generate their own energy
  • Store this energy
  • Consume stored energy direct from the storage unit
  • Consume energy on demand, according to their own usage requirements

Improved panel efficiency and storage capability have also enabled users to recoup a return on their investment much more quickly, with panel installations resulting in full ROI within five years — or even significantly sooner in many cases.

But how do you actually go about generating your own electricity with a solar system?

1. Acquire your inverter

It is the inverter that serves as the crucial component in your solar power setup. This is the part of your system that converts the DC power generated by the panels themselves to the 230V AC power compatible with your home appliances. The inverter also features an MPPT DC/DC battery charger that is used to power up your lithium batteries for storage.

This means that your inverter serves two critical functions, but how does it decide how much power to devote to each? It’s the integrated energy management system that fulfils this smart role, gauging the energy demand of the property and delivering appropriate levels of converted AC power and stored DC electricity.

In the rare event of a power surge that exceeds the capacity of the inverter, additional energy can be sourced from the power grid.

Among the most common inverters are the Voltacon Hybrid 5.5kW-E solar inverter (H5I5000), G98/G99 and G100 compliant, and the Solis 5kW, both of which comply with the latest standards of safety and efficiency.

These single-phase inverters are compatible with lithium batteries, and they integrate directly with your existing system to provide 48V connection to the storage units. You’ll also be able to handle ancillary functions, manage electricity flow, and monitor your system — all via a WiFi connection.

2. Select your lithium-ion batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are the ideal choice for an application like this one, as they occupy far less space and are far more lightweight than other types of batteries. They are also relatively efficient, and you will be able to consume up to 80% of the full storage capacity daily if required.

The Pylontech US2000 is the ideal choice, providing 2.4kWh in an expandable solution. Users can scale their system according to their needs, starting with one battery and expanding to as many as eight pieces as required, controlled via the integrated inverter communication system.

Users can mount up to four of these batteries using a simple metallic mounting bracket. To mount up to eight units, Voltacon provides a convenient server cabinet, with a footprint of less than 1 sq m and a height of 90 cm.

We also offer the Silent Power Lithium (SPL) battery option, with 10kWh of capacity installed in parallel in a single cabinet.

3. Set up your solar panels

The latest solar panels feature 120 half-cut cells and provide many advantages of full cell versions. ET-Solar provides a 355W monocrystalline photovoltaic panel suitable for both domestic and solar farm applications. These panels are capable of 20% cell efficiency and achieve reduced resistance loss compared with full cell solutions.

Parallel strings of 60 cells connected in series mean that the panels are less affected by partial shadow, producing more energy than standard solar panels and accelerating return on investment.

4. Choose your energy meter and solar accessories

The inverters mentioned above come complete with a digital energy meter that helps users to manage energy production. These meters also achieve smart management by sensing the energy demand within the property.

Essential isolators for safe installation and operation are also included in the package. You will be able to switch the installation on and off and isolate the solution safely when required.

5. Put aluminium mounting structures in place

Mounting rails secure your solar panels, and they are approved for all weather conditions. We use only aluminium for our mounting rails, secured with stainless steel bolts and clamping components, and we can provide kits for ground- or roof-mounting your solar panels.

Easy-triangle structures make it easy to mount panels anywhere, including on both pitched and flat roofs, tiled surfaces, or directly on the ground. We developed our aluminium profiles with 3M, the chemical-product manufacturer and vendor, crafting a design that can be easily mounted with no need for drills and screw fixtures.

Reach out to Voltacon to find out more about generating your own electricity with solar

Our team can help you on your way to achieving self-sufficiency through solar power. Reach out today to discover more.