Ikea’s Village Vision of the Future

IKEA

Ikea has released a new idea for a futuristic looking village which could help homes in the future to make the most of renewable energy. The prototype shows a village made from wood using a microgrid system to join the houses together to enable the sharing of excess power. The theory is that all the houses in the village will be connected to each other to enable them to sell any excess energy they produce to others within the village.  

The village has been given the name SolarVille and gives us an insight into eco villages of the future. The main principle of the village is to lower energy consumption and generate power via solar panels, and the blockchain technology enables the village to have a system of buying and selling the excess. 

Ikea has its own climate change goals, reducing its carbon footprint in all its stores, its aim being to reduce emissions from its stores by 80% by 2030. Along with planning to only use recycled materials and use only renewables, Ikea’s climate positive goals are just part of their future plans for a greener future. 

Blockchain has been said to be a ‘digital leader’ in future renewable technology, it still needs some work to ensure its reliability. The main purpose of blockchain is to create an audit trail for transactions. It uses online currency such as bitcoin to keep a record of transactions made in digital information. Ikea and other businesses plan to, or already use this technology. Blockchain, in the case of Ikea’s Solar Ville will make the selling of excess power between homes quick and easy and will keep a digital record of every transaction.  

Anders Nottveit said:

 “Our design approach was to turn a very complicated, technical project into something familiar, approachable and playful,”  

The wooden model is a working model that shows how the wooden houses would work in harmony with each other, producing and sharing the electricity made. The model has small led lights installed to signify the power being traded within the community as it would be using blockchain. The main way of power production would be from solar panels but the whole village’s philosophy would be to lower and decarbonise energy consumption. 

“SolarVille shows that when working in tandem, technologies such as solar panels, micro-grids and blockchain open new opportunities: off-grid systems allowing people to leapfrog traditional grid electricity”

Said Space10 (Ikea’s research lab).

Trump takes an Axe to US Renewable Energy Support

Whitehouse

Donald Trump is famous for his controversial attitude and decisions, and this one is no different. He recently announced he would slash the budget for renewables by a huge 70%. The US Energy Department, which usually has a budget of $2.3 billion for their research, will now have $700m in Trump’s new fiscal 2020 budget request.

This isn’t the first time Trump has tried to halt these kinds of projects responsible for new technologies in renewables. He has, however, been stopped in his tracks before, with congress shunning his proposed cuts. Trump seems to favour the research and development of nuclear and fossil technology instead! You could be forgiven for thinking he is not behind tackling climate change at all! 

Thankfully Trump doesn’t get the final say and it is unlikely congress will agree with the cuts to funding and other incentives for renewables. However, the constant attack on the development of renewables from Trump is worrying; 

The budget proposal as currently written “is not good for renewable energy and other programs that target climate change,” said Raj Prabhu

Unfortunately, Trump’s loyalties lie with coal and other fossil fuels, believing these polluting power sources can make a comeback, along with the jobs they create. However, most of America would disagree with him, throwing in the towel on fossil fuels in favour of solar and wind in a lot of states. Ironically, renewables employ more Americans than coal by around 3 times as much, so Trump’s idea that coal supplies more work is highly untrue. 

It does seem extremely strange that Trump is trying to pull the rug from under renewables in the U.S. The industry provides many jobs for the country, it seems he must have his own agenda for trying to destroy the future of renewables! 

The Chinese Solar Space Race!

earth from space

China has announced its ambitious future plans to send solar to outer space. This would be the first time that anything like this has been attempted. The country is hoping to put its plans into action by 2050.  

Space is the perfect environment to harness the full potential of the sun’s power. As the sun is always shining in space, it is the most reliable place for solar. This will be an expensive mission for china to complete as just getting the technology into space is no mean feat and could be expensive to develop. 

This kind of plan has been explored before. In the 1970’s it was thought that using space for power could be a reliable renewable energy source but unfortunately the technology was not advanced enough to pass the research stage. Recently solar technology has moved forward and significant advancements have been made in both power transmissions and the PV cells themselves.  

Space based solar could be the future for countries that don’t have the benefit of regular sunshine, and with the need for renewables ever growing along with the population and demand for power in general, this could be the answer to the growing demand for clean power. 

It is not clear how China plan to carry out their future plans, but one theory is that they could launch a few solar satellites that could then join up in space to create one large cone shaped satellite covered in solar panels. The solar panels will collect the energy from the sun and via microwaves, send it back to the ground to be used. The receivers on the ground will be in the form of giant nets that could be placed in remote places such as lakes and farmland. The estimated amount of power from these space solar farms would be around 2,000gw, which is phenomenally more power than that of the largest solar farm. 

Of course, it is not as simple as just sending the panels off to space. Many things need to be tested and researched including the problem of the weight of the solar panels whilst maintaining their efficiency. They have recently tested new photovoltaic cells that are much lighter than average, and while they have proved to be effective in collecting and transmitting the solar power, they still need to reduce the weight if they are to be used in space. 

It is unknown how much the project will cost over all. John Mankins a physicist said he expects the figure to be around $150million. Mankins supports the space project saying: 

“Ground-based solar is a wonderful thing, and we’ll always have ground-based solar,” he said. “For a lot of locations, rooftop solar is fabulous, but a lot of the world is not like Arizona. Millions of people live where large, ground-based solar arrays are not economical.” 

Renewable Energy to Supply The World by 2040

floating solar PV

The renewables industry is growing year on year and at a rate that has never been seen before. It has now been said that by 2040, renewables will be the main supply of power to the world!

It has been estimated that up to 30% of power will come from clean sources such as wind, solar, and hydro along with other sources. Currently, the 10% supplied by renewables, is set to dramatically rise. The speed at which the industry has grown far exceeds that of any other historical changes. This growth is thanks to the need for cleaner power due to government and environmental targets. The costs of wind and solar have also fallen thanks to new technologies and are now much more affordable to produce than they once were.

One of the main renewables used is wind; offshore and onshore wind is used all over the world. In the UK, offshore wind farms are extremely effective, and the use of offshore wind is set to increase by 2030. Currently offshore wind provides around 7% of UK power which is expected to rise to up to 30% in the coming years.

Although the use of renewables is set to rise, so is the demand for energy. As demand rises so will the demand for oil and gas. While the ultimate plan is to retie the use of fossil fuels for good, that doesn’t look likely any time soon. BP say they expect the demand to rise by 2040 from 100million barrels a day to 130million barrels a day and carbon emissions are expected to grow as well – as much as 10%!

There is positive change happening too, however.  Coal will be phased out in favour of renewables by 2040, taking over as the leader for energy production. It is hoped that the introduction of more electric vehicles will lower emissions in the transport sector which is where a lot of the worlds emissions come from.

The government has backed a new deal which will boost the development of renewables, pledging subsidies to new projects such as offshore wind, floating solar and bigger wind turbines. Renewables will continue to drive forward and replace fossil fuels, but it will be no easy task. Energy minister, Claire Perry, is positive about the future of renewables. She said:

“This new sector deal will drive a surge in the clean, green offshore wind revolution that is powering homes and businesses across the UK, bringing investment into coastal communities and ensuring we maintain our position as global leaders in this growing sector,”

There are many other ways the world could cut the use of gas and oil. No longer using single use plastics could cut the demand for oil and gas significantly, as could the use of electric cars. It is estimated that the use of electric cars alone could cut oil consumption by 3.5million barrels a day. The switch to EVS is a slow process and technology still has a long way to go with price and battery life still being in need of work.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK said:

“Renewable power now presents the best opportunity for cheaper, cleaner and faster decarbonisation. Wind and solar must be tripled between now and 2030, with offshore wind the future backbone of the UK’s energy system.”

More Green Jobs and Offshore Wind Deals for the UK

Offshore Wind

The offshore wind industry in the UK is a leader globally in the renewables industry. The government has recently backed a new deal that will ensure that offshore wind in the UK stays the front runner in the market. Due to our geography and large amount of coastline, our island currently has the largest offshore wind capacity in Europe.

£250million has been promised to companies in the UK that are producing new technologies, such as floating wind turbines and robotics. The deal is important for the industry to remain in the lead when it comes to wind power. It will also allow advancements in technology and cut the costs of mass producing them.

The deal will allow the sector to grow and surpass the electricity produced from fossil fuels for the first time in the UK. Not only will technology grow but also job opportunities within the industry with job numbers potentially tripling by 2030, especially in coastal areas. These jobs are attractive to the younger generation with many young people becoming increasingly interested in playing a part in the future of green power and the rapid increase in the numbers of apprenticeship roles. Both the construction and the renewable energy sectors are hoping to encourage more women into these green job roles to create more diversity.

Claire Perry said:

“Ambitious plans to increase the proportion of women working in the offshore wind sector and triple the number of highly skilled jobs are set to be announced”

The future of nuclear and coal is under threat with coal plants shutting down and plans for new nuclear plants not going ahead due to construction budget issues and exorbitantly high running costs. There will be a growing gap in the market for more energy that is primed for renewables. It is hoped that wind power can be tripled but 30gw by 2030 will not be enough to meet the energy need gap. Wind power will need to be vastly increased to meet the energy needs left by the lack of nuclear power and storage may well play a growing part in this.

The funding for wind projects and the use of British parts and labour will ensure that as more countries invest in similar projects, the UK is still the leader when it comes to wind power.

Benj Sykes of Danish company Orstead commented:

 “The cost reduction over the last few years has been eye-watering but it’s absolutely not over. We will continue to see bigger turbines, smarter electrical systems, more reliable equipment. The fact that the Government is saying that it wants to build out to 30GW gives investors confidence to build their capabilities in the UK,”

SunPower Breaks the 400w Barrier

SunPower_PV

A new generation solar panel has officially been launched, the panel made by SunPower is called A-series. The solar panel is available in the united states and is capable of 400-415 watts. In Europe the maxeon 3 is available at 400watts.

Image courtesy of SunPower

It is claimed by sun-power to be the first solar panel to offer such a high wattage and can deliver 60 percent more energy than other panels. Less of these panels are needed to produce the same amount of energy as other solar panels, meaning they are more efficient, and less roof space is used.

SunPower as well as claiming they are the first to offer 400 watts also say their panels are hard wearing and stand up to the elements well, meaning less damage to the panels which usually result in maintenance or new panels being required.

Maxeon solar cells have been painstakingly perfected and tested to create these super cells that offer more power and more reliability. Savings from using these new cells will far exceed those of the average solar panel, most only offer 300watt at best. Another feature of the new systems is the new micro inverter, they claim this is 60 percent lighter than their previous inverters

We have been seeing the future of solar evolving over the last few years and this is another step forward for the technology. New materials have been used to create these highly efficient solar cells and offers a more advanced technology that absorbs more sunlight than ever before. And with the weather ever changing and becoming more extreme their durability is important.

SunPower are understandable proud of their creation saying:

“SunPower is introducing the world’s first 400-watt residential solar panels as most in the industry are just crossing the 300-watt threshold for home solar”  –
Jeff Waters, CEO of the SunPower Technologies

UK Government Considers Future Gas Ban

Gas Hob

It has recently been advised that all new homes in the UK should move away from gas boilers and hobs in favour of heat pumps and induction hobs. The report issued from government advisors suggests that new houses could be heated by a network of hot water heated from industries’ waste heat. The other alternative would be heat pumps which use warmth from the ground, air or sea.

Making the changes in new housing is a much more affordable way to make the changes. The cost for a new house would be around £4,800 for low carbon heating compared to that of the cost in an existing house of £26,300. The high insulation in a new house is also a factor as the systems need high levels of insulation to be effective.

The government needs to find new ways to reduce the levels of emissions if it is to meet the climate change targets. Gas boilers and hobs use fossil fuels and produce harmful emissions, the levels of which have risen according to figures last year. It is estimated that around 14% of greenhouse gases come from our households. Currently not enough is being done to ensure this figure is reduced.

To meet future targets the government is now proposing that all new housing will have to find ways to produce almost no emissions at all. £6bn have been allowed by the government to commit to improving the efficiency of low- income households.

There are also plans to tackle the problem with existing homes. This, however, is a much more expensive problem but long-term could save much money and cut emissions. The report has warned that existing housing will need updating to deal with extreme heatwaves of the future and plans to upgrade efficiency, improve air quality and reduce flood risk.

Gas hobs have also come under fire. They, of course, produce greenhouse gases and add to the problem. Induction hobs have been recommended to reduce the amount of gas used. You don’t need to panic about your gas hob being banned just yet though as the government wants to see a ban on all new houses being connected to the gas grid within 6 years, which is 2025. These plans would include no gas hobs being installed within these homes. For existing homes, the plan is to decarbonise heating systems by 2050.

Other countries have already stopped new building from connecting to the grid. Newly built Dutch homes no longer connect to the grid and they plan on all homes, old and new, to be completely free of gas by 2050.

Heat pumps are one effective way homes could get heating and hot water. Heat pumps don’t rely on fossil fuels, but they do require some electricity which could be generated from solar panels in the future to make them eco-friendlier. Heat pumps are very effective and are increasingly being used. There are 160,00 heat pumps in the UK alone, but this is significantly less than other countries and the UK could utilize them much more in the future of housing.

Renewable Energy Kites

renewable-energy-kite-kite-surfer

Many new ways to utilize wind power are being tested by scientists. One new revolutionary way scientist believe they can utilize wind power is by using kites and drones. The large kites are made from aerofoil and large drones could also be used.

One university in Madrid has started testing the use of large kites like those used in kitesurfing. They have small wind turbines tethered to them to generate on board energy. The turbine creates the energy and sends it back via a cable which also keeps it in place.

This solution to wind power means low costs, both for installation and materials. It also has a low aesthetic impact as they can be used over 500 meters high, which also makes them more reliable as the winds over 500 meters are more consistent. These systems are described as AWES or airborne wind energy systems.

AWES are currently being studied to see how they behave in order to build the optimum design for generating electricity. These new turbines could be used in difficult or remote areas to produce clean energy. They could also be used as back up after a natural disaster where there is no other power available. This would make them a valuable resource. Flight simulators are being used to test this new technology and the results will be analysed carefully to determine how successful the AWES could be at electrical generation.

Many large companies are behind the development of the AWES, from the European Commission to Google.  Gonzalo Sanchez Arriaga, a researcher said:

 “The main advantage of airborne energy systems is that they operate at higher altitudes than conventional aerogenerators where the winds tend to be stronger and less intermittent. Another advantage is they are usually more compact systems and they are transportable.”

“At high and very high altitude, the theoretical wind potential amounts to 18,000 TW per year. Exploiting only 1% of those winds would be sufficient to power the world’s growth energy demand.” –
Miles L. Loyd


While the process is not yet ready to be used widely, it gives great promise to the future of wind generation and could revolutionise the wind industry. It gives another option to those areas that cannot have conventional wind turbines. With governments and countries set with the task of lowering their emissions and switching to renewables, technology like this could help them on their way to reaching those climate change targets in the coming years.

Caroline Lucas – Our Climate Champion

Caroline Lucas

Caroline Lucas is a firm believer that climate change needs action! She is an MP for Brighton Pavilion and a member of the Green Party and is also their first MP. Caroline is a firm believer that climate change needs to be taken more seriously. Her focus is on rising energy prices and a system that relies on fossil fuels. She said:

“Even the experts, even the people who are in the forefront of the fracking ideology are saying it’s not going to lead to lower prices. So, if you want lower prices you need to go down the renewable route”

The current government have arguably made things hard for renewables, scrapping the Feed in Tariff and banning onshore wind, something Caroline believes they need to change if we are to see any change to our emissions and tackle climate change effectively. Controversial fracking is another thing she fiercely argues is a danger to our climate. She believes fracking will not reduce prices but cause major problems for our communities. Simply finding more oil and gas will not help to meet the climate change targets.

Caroline’s backing for renewables is exactly the kind of action needed. She proposes that it should be made easier for schools to install solar panels. She believes community energy generation projects should be backed and subsidies for fossil fuels should be quickly scrapped.

In an ideal world Caroline’s plans would be put into place. There is no doubt that renewables are the future, but it seems the government is dragging its feet when it comes to supporting the projects. Climate change is becoming increasingly more obvious from the crazy weather to the statistics. The public have begun to act in the form of strikes and peaceful protests and the younger generation, recently, have shown their support by leaving schools and joining the strikes. The support for change is there and it is felt that the changes are not happening quickly enough with endless resistance from MP’s who are being continually lobbied by the large oil and gas giants.

Caroline responded to the recent winter temperatures, simply saying: ‘this isn’t right’. She believes that we are facing a climate breakdown and we should treat it as an emergency. Caroline’s urgency is justified as we have slowly seen climate change creep up on us. It is now, more than ever, important that it is tackled head on for the sake of future generations.

Record Breaking Winter Temperatures – Our Climate Warning!

Winter Summer Sun Climate Change

Over the last week or so the UK has seen some unseasonably warm weather conditions. With temperatures rising to 20c in some areas, this has made Britain hotter than some holiday destinations and has been warmly welcomed by many and wildly feared by more.

Source: Met Office & BBC

One of the highest temperatures recorded was 20.8C in London. Some fires even broke out in East Sussex in the Ash Down Forest which would normally be linked with a hot dry summer not the middle of winter in February.

Dr Friedericke Otto, acting director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University has been quoted as saying:


“I am very confident to say that there’s an element of climate change in these warm temperatures,” she said.
“But climate change alone is not causing it. You have to have the right weather systems too.”


Whilst warmer weather sounds like a good thing, the sad truth is that the warmer temperatures are a sign that global warming is having a growing impact. Rising levels of greenhouse gases are causing our atmosphere to become increasingly warm, damaging our planet and causing problems for our wildlife. Hedgehogs, butterflies and birds all thought spring had arrived and came out of hibernation. Migrating birds arrived early and so have butterflies. This could spell disaster for their population if colder weather follows as thy simply cannot survive freezing temperatures.

Last year in Britain it was a very different story; we had hats and sledges out when ‘the beast from the east’ hit, bringing extremely low temperatures and deep snow to most if not all areas of the UK.

Outside of the UK, this weather was also apparent, with the extreme cold and snow happening in places such as Rome and the US saw a continued atmospheric phenomenon where temperatures plunged lower that of the north pole. These countries haven’t seen this kind of weather for many years but is becoming more and more likely as the cycles of our climate become more unpredictable.

All of this is becoming increasingly obvious that the huge swings in our climate’s cycles are a stark warning to us that climate change is happening right now.

We expect that far more extremes are to come soon with colder winters, hotter summers and more ferocious storms becoming the norm rather than the exception.

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