A lunar solution to our global energy problem.

A solar power plant on the moon! That’s what The Shimizu Corporation, a Japanese company is proposing. The idea is to construct an array of solar cells around the Moon’s equator to harvest solar energy and beam it back to Earth. The ‘Luna ring’, as it has been named, would consist of materials derived from the lunar soil along its 6800 mile equator. The initial construction would only stretch a couple of miles but this could be expanded as fast as necessary. Sounds like science fiction, but the plans have been drawn up with every intention of accomplishing the project.

Luna Ring Credit: Shimizu Corporation
Luna Ring Credit: Shimizu Corporation

Eventually, with enough solar cells the array could generate a continuous stream of power from the moon, which receives an uninterrupted, constant exposure to the Sun’s radiation on its lunar hemisphere. It’s certainly an ambitious plan; the construction of such a project would pose a vast financial and material resource expense. The logistics of getting all the materials and equipment to the moon in the first place, manufacturing tele-operated robots to do the actual construction on the Moon’s surface, and maintaining such a structure in space, is probably the biggest technological challenge and the boldest human architectural design yet!

The 30 year multi-phase project envisions creating construction materials using a combination of strategies. Water, which will be imperative in the construction process and in maintenance and cooling, could be produced by reducing lunar soil with hydrogen imported from Earth. Concrete can be produced by extracting cementing material. By utilising solar-heat treatment processes, it’s proposed that they can create bricks, ceramics and glass fibres.

The energy would be ‘beamed’ to Earth through our atmosphere, which is virtually transparent to microwaves and lazars, especially in areas with little cloud cover. The microwaves, guided by radio beacons would be collected by transmission antennas about 20m in diameter. This microwave energy could then be converted directly into DC electricity.

Countries all over the world and their receiving stations would pick up these transmissions and relay them into their respective national grids. It has been suggested that international consortiums of nations and/or companies could buy stakes or shares in the Luna Ring to aid its construction. Each partner would then have rights to construct receiving stations at the geographical location of their choice. This green energy resource could provide a great deal of the Earth’s power needs one day, and its slow development would work brilliantly, weaning us off polluting sources of power.

Shimizu is proposing to start work sometime in 2035 so we won’t be receiving Luna Ring energy for quite some time; in fact Shimizu are relying on several technological developments to be achieved in that time, in order for the project to be realised. They also hope that by the time they come to the point of construction, we will have a more developed in-space infrastructure.

Does all this sound a bit far-fetched to you? Well this project is only in the idea development stage at the moment, but Shimizu’s proposal could become a reality in time. To some, it seems like a very logical and realistic step in humanity’s technological development, to reach out to the moon as our closest celestial body, for any resources it may hold that can benefit and protect our ever increasing expansion and development here on earth.

Major changes announced for renewable energy subsidies

UK Government & renewable energy subsidies
UK Government & renewable energy subsidies

The government has recently announced that it is going to make a raft of significant changes to the way subsidies are given out to the renewable energy industry. The ministers have made a public announcement that the support for onshore wind and solar energy will be significantly reduced, while more backing will be provided to offshore wind power. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, has announced that the changes which are being made to the subsidy are more of a balancing act, and are not going to bring about a radical change in the overall spending. However, the Labour Party was quick to state that the ‘changing and chopping’ pricing system was not a very viable way to do business.

As per the changes, the prices which have been promised to producers of onshore solar energy and wind power will be reduced from the start of 2015, while the total payment made for offshore wind power will see a significant jump. This shift towards wind energy generally comes as a result of the Autumn Statement which will be delivered by Chancellor George Osborn to the MPs on Thursday. There were several other changes that were announced before the statement as well, as mentioned below:

– The details of the National Infrastructure Plan were made available, with dedicated plans that require an investment of 375bn GBP in numerous different projects related to the energy, communications, water and transport industries.

– The National Infrastructure Plan also states that the government’s stake of 40% in the Eurostar rail service should be sold off and the proceeds should then be used to double the target which the country currently has for the sale of financial and corporate assets, between the years 2014 to 2020. It states that the current target, which is 10bn GBP, should be expanded to 20bn GBP.

– It also states that an additional 50 million GBP should be made available for the redevelopment of the railway station that is situated at Gatwick Airport, while additional fiscal support should be provided in order to develop a new nuclear power station which would be located at Wylfa, North Wales.

– Confirmation has also been given to a guarantee by the United Kingdom to an agreement of up to 1bn GBP for the extension of the Northern Line all the way to Battersea in London.

– Improvements have also been announced to the A50 near Uttoxeter in Staffordshire, while improvements have also been announced for the A14 which is near the port of Felixstowe in Suffolk, as part of the road projects in the National Infrastructure Plan.

– According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, it is expected that business rate rises are also going to be capped at 2% in Wales and England, rather than be linked to the rate of inflation, as per the plans of Mr. Osborne.

Internal sources from both the coalition parties have stated that due to the level of investment input in the projects relating to the onshore wind and solar energy, the industry no longer is reliant on support from the State. On the other hand, however, they were quick to state that offshore wind sources were still in some serious need of government subsidies in order to receive investment in the long term.

There were some suggestions being made that this move was primarily a response to the unhappiness of the Conservative MP at numerous wind farms being opened in his constituencies, which were vehemently denied by Mr. Alexander. Sources from both the Liberal Democrat parties as well as the Conservative party stated that the decision was firm from a political point of view, and made a lot of sense, as it countered a direct threat which was posed by the UK Independence Party, which is completely against the concept of wind farms and renewable sources of energy.

In order to encourage firms to invest in this sector, the government has set significantly high strike prices. Strike prices are basically the prices which the government promises to pay for every unit of electricity which is consumed, and at present, they are set at a significantly high level when compared with the current value of energy. A source from the Conservative Party stated that in the year 2015 and forward, he was expecting a very significant cut in the prices for onshore wind. Another source also stated that this was the beginning of the end for all mature renewables. Another source stated that the position of renewable energy was jolly good. If onshore energy wasn’t curtailed slightly, the problem would no longer be a financial one but would enter political territory. He stated that the same could be applied to the solar energy industry. He continued by stating that as a result of this, it made good sense in terms of the value for money provided, to constrain onshore and solar energy, as it lets them move faster than the forces in the market, and also allows them to ensure that the primary renewable technology in the United Kingdom, offshore wind energy, which can hit its full heights in the 2020s, can receive the early support that it requires in order to mature and develop significantly over the next few years.

Michael Fallon, the Minister for Energy has stated that a much fairer distribution of costs need to be set in place. A formal denial was also made by Downing Street to the rumors that the cuts were primarily announced as a response to the public’s outcry that the excessive wind farms were causing a concern for the countryside. The official spokesman for the Prime Minister stated that the decision to curtail onshore wind energy was solely based upon the falling cost of onshore wind farms. It remains to be seen whether these changes will bring about positive economic growth or not.

Atlantic Array offshore wind farm shut off

A number of different changes are taking place in the renewable energy industry within the UK as the government has begun to strengthen its aims in order to provide a greater amount of support, while also bringing about a different balance within the industry. These changes have begun to show already, as one of the top players in the renewable energy market has shelved plans to develop an offshore wind farm. RWE Innogy, which is renowned for being one of the top developers of wind farms across the UK and Germany, has just announced that it is shelving the plans for the Atlantic Array project, which would have consisted of 240 turbines. The news was confirmed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and was relayed to, and publicly announced by the BBC.

It should be known, however, that the Atlantic Array project had not yet received the green light, as a lot of criticism had been levied upon the project; numerous environmentalists were worried that the effect it might have on the marine wildlife of the Bristol Channel might be much more damaging than initially expected. It was expected that the 220m tall turbines which were to be placed as a part of the project would have been able to produce enough electricity to power around 900,000 homes. This information was revealed by RWE Innogy after announcing its plans to shut off the project.

As revealed by the company, it stated that this was simply not the ‘right time’ to go ahead with the Atlantic Array project. The area where the project was planned to be constructed would be around 200 square km., and was located at a distance of around 16.5 km from the coast of northern Devon, 13.5 km from the nature reserve on Lundy Island and around 22.5 km from the coast of South Wales. RWE Innogy stated that the 240 turbines would have been capable of producing up to 1,200 MW of electricity.

In a public statement, the company revealed that it didn’t consider further development to be a viable prospect in the Bristol Channel Zone. Paul Cowling, who is also the Director of Offshore Wind for the RWE, stated that the decision wasn’t taken without careful thought and deep research into its impacts. The company had to take into account the technological research which is available as well as the conditions of the market, and when both of these were considered, the company realised that going ahead with the project would have worked against its long term interests.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change provided further information to the BBC, stating that the decision was primarily taken by the developer without factoring any external influences, and it was taken purely on the basis of the technical intricacies involved. The Department also stated that this showed the number of different complicated factors that had to be considered before the construction of offshore wind farms could begin with full flow.

However, Martyn Oates, a political editor of the South West division of the BBC, stated that the primary reason for which the project had been scrapped was basically due to a lack of funding. He continued, that only in the past week, Regen SW, a group that advocates clean energy, had stated that the announcement by the government to reduce the green subsidies in order to back renewable energy, was putting thousands of jobs on the line. It was also bringing about a halt in the overall investment within the region, and the project, had it continued, although resulting in the creation of thousands of jobs, would also have required a huge amount of investment as well.

Andrew Pendleton, the head of campaign at Friends of The Earth, stated that the ‘green bashing’ which the government had begun to pursue was now costing people their jobs, and the future security of the energy sector was also being threatened as a result of this. He stated that the United Kingdom could take advantage as it had some of the best options available when it comes to offshore wind energy, and now that harnessing this energy was becoming much more financially viable, the country should definitely go for it. He also said, however, that the ideology of not going for greener resources, an ideology which has been present at the heart of this coalition government, was causing the development of green energy to be seriously hindered in the long run.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change was singing a different tune, however, and in a statement to the BBC, stated that the United Kingdom was on course to meet its targets pertaining to the amount of renewable energy produced by the year 2020 and it was also going to deploy a decent amount of offshore wind energy by the year 2020. The manager of Lundy Island, Derek Green, couldn’t hide his happiness at the decision, however, stating that he was well and truly delighted at this news; this was going to be very positive for the tourism industry as well as the wildlife that exists in the Bristol Channel, especially the area in and around Lundy. The Landmark Trust, which owns Lundy, stated that the Trust had spent the last 40 years making sure that a special way of life was preserved within the area.

The Trust stated that even though it didn’t mind turbines near the properties owned by the Landmark Trust, offshore wind turbines should be built primarily offshore, whereas this project was destined to be built right in the center of the Bristol Channel. The Trust also stated that it understood the decision to go ahead with the project in the first place, as ‘we all need electricity’; however, there were much more appropriate places to build offshore wind farms.

Offshore Wind Farm
Offshore Wind Farm

To insulate or not to insulate, that is the question.

Today we will talk about the benefits and pitfalls of cavity wall insulation.

There are many contradicting arguments for and against the use of cavity wall insulation floating around on the internet, so it is always hard to find a straight answer to the question “will it make my home warmer?” Well the answer is… maybe!

The problem with cavity wall insulation is that there are too many variables in the properties it is proposed to be installed in, these range from ‘snots’ or rouge mortar drops, connecting the external skin to the internal skin causing permeated damp spots, to existing damp either from the ties or at the base of the wall rising up. If not inspected properly and thoroughly (usually with a probe camera) the insulation could end up costing you far more to remove or fix than any savings that could have been achieved via energy bill reduction.

So there is always a risk when installing this kind of insulation no matter what the type of material used to insulate, from fiberglass to Warmfill bead and everything in-between.

Many people who have undertaken cavity wall insulation in the UK have not noticed an increase in warmth after their investment, nor enjoyed a reduction in heating costs, so what does this say?

What must be noted, however, is that there are many routes homeowners can take to make their homes more energy efficient and noticeably warmer that offer much less cost and risk, such as removing the letterbox, sealing the old chimney (which will suck out a comparable amount of heat from a room as an open door) if it is no longer used, and plugging/sealing any gaps in floorboards and anywhere else there may be a draught. Other options include plugging some of the holes in the air bricks (not all however) to slow down the air flow, insulating suspended floors and of course, increasing the loft insulation thickness (if necessary).

Be careful of what a cavity wall insulation installer may say to get the sale, and ensure they do a thorough and detailed inspection of the cavity they are aiming to fill before you commission them for the job. If in any doubt, the options to use external (more expensive still) or internal wall insulation are always available.

Our recommendation is that you should exhaust all other methods to keep your home warm before you invest in this solution, as the cost and risk is high if undertaken incorrectly. However, in a right property, under the right conditions, this method can be a fantastic means of reducing your energy bills and attaining a warmer, greener home – just be aware of the risks associated with it.

If you want any advice or are looking for a local professional please visit the main site here.

Cavety_Wall_Insulation_Installer

How far does the branch of the Apple Inc. tree really go?

In a patent filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, Apple Inc, the electronics giant synonymous with electrical devices we all know well, has submitted a patent for a revolutionary twist to the current horizontal axis wind turbine.

This patent details the concept of collecting energy in the form of heat rather than directly generating the electricity via mechanical means.

Apple Wind Turbine Patent
Apple Wind Turbine Patent

What is proposed is that the mechanical action of the turbine transfers the kinetic energy of the wind through various shafts to raise the temperature of a “low-heat capacity fluid” stored under the turbine itself. This low level heat then acts as an energy store, much like a battery, that another connected system using a ‘Working Fluid’ then slowly converts via other methods to electricity.

This allows the turbine system to generate electricity whatever the weather day and night, storing energy when operational and generating electricity at times when the grid requires it most.

The raw concept works by attaching a heat pump to a wind turbine. In theory the process could be used to heat homes and businesses / communities as well. But in this instance the high level heat generated via the heat exchange system, is used to vaporise the working fluid which drives a turbine that is connected to the generator. It is this final stage of the wind turbine system that is the actual source of the electricity.

The Inventor, Jean L. Lee from San Jose in the United States, has filed many fascinating patents in the field of Renewable Energy over the last few years, from Fuel Cell systems that power portable devices (such as the iPod’s and laptops) to flame proof materials.

Apple is constantly striving to reduce the amount of toxic substances in its products, lowering the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during production and increasing the efficiency of its products.

To this end expanding into the renewable energy market and looking at ways to offset the carbon and energy costs of their products is a logical and innovative step, one that is welcomed here at The Renewable Energy Hub.

apple logo
apple

Anticipation for the ‘Ground-breaking fuel cell Cogeneration Systems’ has been met with a 2014 release date.

Stirling engine micro combined heat and power boilers (mCHP) have been around for over 24 months now, but the manufacturers have not enjoyed the sales numbers that were initially forecast. This was due in the large part to the high initial purchase cost and the hotly debated time scales associated with the initial investment payback period – when applied to real-world installations.

New mCHP technologies, mainly Fuel Cell boilers, have been a highly anticipated commodity for many years now. Release dates have come and gone but now it seems that realistic proposals have been made for their main-stream production. BlueGen and Viessmann / Panasonic are set to release their Fuel Cell boilers in 2014.

A Fuel cell boiler is a boiler that takes energy from fuel (natural gas or LPG) at a chemical level instead of during a combustion process. A simplistic view of a fuel cell is a cross between a battery (chemical to electrical generator) and a heat engine (chemical to heat to generator via oxidation). It’s said that this method can not only be much more carbon efficient but also improve the efficiency of the whole heat and power generation process. The technology extracts more energy from the fuel than its predecessor’s combustion method. Hailed by many as ‘the future of domestic carbon depletion’, this co-generation technology* may well be available to UK households by early next year.

The Viessmann Group and Panasonic Corporation are set to release the first fuel cell co-generation system or polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PECF) for domestic use in Germany in April 2014. The units will be available on the UK market as soon as practicable after this date. The fuel cell unit has been developed by Panasonic, and the peak load boiler and hot water tank by Viessmann, who will also handle the unit’s assembly. The unit is expected to cut carbon emissions when compared to a standard gas condenser boiler by up to 50% and have outstanding energy efficiency and reliability. By 2020 Panasonic and Viessmann expect to have achieved a five-figure installation in European properties; however this figure could be vastly higher.

For further information on the Panasonic/Viessmann microCHP unit click here.

The new BlueGen boiler also uses ceramic fuel cells to electrochemically convert gas into heat and electricity. The unit is about the size of a standard washing machine and is said to save the average household up to 14.5 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide a year, create 200 liters of ‘free’ hot water per day and produce up to 36 kWh of electricity per day. It is currently only available to showcase sites, green buildings, local councils and other commercial consumers. They are however planned for release to the UK domestic market imminently, but we have no exact date as of yet. The price has yet to be announced and may well play a big part in the commercial success of this unit.

Read more about the BluGen unit here.

It’s worth noting that although fuel cell microCHP units are very carbon efficient, cutting out the ‘dirty’ process of combustion, they are not carbon neutral. This sheds an element of doubt over the longevity of the technology, as it will not adhere to the government’s plans for all new UK homes to be Carbon neutral by 2016. This said the Government’s feed-in tariff scheme has guaranteed the payment period on microCHP for ten years. The BlueGen Carbon savings calculator can be found here (http://bluegen.info/calc/)

Energy prices have more than doubled over the past ten years, and it is highly unlikely that they will fall in the future. Quite the contrary, as resources become more and more scarce it is expected that energy costs will continue to rise at an alarming rate. Technology that increases the useable energy harnessed from fuel, in regards to the power and heat generation process, and reduces a property’s overall carbon footprint, will enable your home to become more independent of the rising energy prices whilst helping protect our children’s futures.

*co-generation is a term defined by ‘a single device that generates both electrical power and usable heat in a single process’.

Fuel Cell mCHP Units
Panasonic/Viessmann Fuel Cell mCHP unit & BlueGen mCHP unit

A buyer’s guide to wind turbines

For over 3000 years civilisations have used wind power to their advantage. Although we no longer use wind power like the ancient Babylonians, the same principle is used in today’s technology. The power of the wind turns a turbine blade connected to a shaft that can be used to our advantage. Contemporary technology connects the shaft to a generator to make electricity. That electricity can be used to provide power for a home / outbuilding, or can be fed back into the local grid, helping to power your home and the homes around you.

We here in the UK, have the best wind resources in Europe. We lead the world in offshore wind farm installations and we have the biggest wind projects in Europe currently under construction. At this very moment 2.5% of all power consumed in the United Kingdom is generated by wind energy. Obviously this electricity is produced on a commercial scale, on wind farms constituting of over 700 large turbines of various sizes and power. On a smaller domestic scale, wind turbines can be used for your residential power needs. Domestic wind turbines can help power your home day and night when there is wind present. Any electricity that you generate you get paid for and also you get a fee for the electricity that isn’t used and is fed back into the national grid, earning you the government’s feed-in tariff for wind energy, that has been guaranteed for 20 years and is index linked. They also lower your households overall carbon emissions.

Wind turbines are characteristically organised into two main types, horizontal axis and vertical axis. Most domestic wind turbines are of the horizontal variety. This type conventionally has its rotor shaft and generator near the blades at the top of a tower. This head unit can then rotate to face the oncoming wind. If the wind is too strong they are designed to face away from the wind to protect the unit from damage along with pitch control that turns the blades profile, reducing the drag factor.

You may have seen building mounted wind turbines around. This turbine type is relatively new and has received some criticism due to the fact that they generally have a low output and can cause unwanted stress to your building. They do however avoid the costs of having a free standing tower and dedicated foundations. Due to this you should always seek specialist advice before installing a building mounted turbine.

The site for your wind turbine will need to be assessed. Wind turbines need very strong foundations as the turbine itself is very susceptible to turbulence, often supporting poles or guide wires are used to make them more secure. Usually a feasibility study will be carried out by yourself or your installer prior to installation. You can get yourself anemometer to test the wind levels, it’s best to keep the anemometer in place for 3months to a year in order to get an accurate reading. You will need to be measuring annual average wind speeds of over 11mps (meters per second) or your turbine may not yield profitable results. Generally the more consistent wind your turbine gets, the more electricity is produced. Consider what surrounding obstructions there might be such as buildings or trees. Planning permission may be needed, although your installer can advise you on these matters, it is often best to look into this yourself beforehand.

Stand-alone domestic wind turbine systems can be expected to have a battery to store excess power especially if it is not grid-tied, for use when there isn’t enough wind. Deep-cycle batteries are preferable because they can discharge and recharge many times. These batteries can last for 5-8 years and range in price from around £100 to £1000.

Unless you are planning on using battery power exclusively, a power inverter will need to be installed. The power inverter will be connected between your turbine and your homes existing power supply. The inverter converts low voltage DC to 120 volts AC, the same as from the national grid.

Your installer should liaise with your District Network Operator (DNO) to connect your wind turbine to the local grid. There may be a charge for this depending on the size of your turbine and location.

If the national grid fails for any reason, grid connected inverters automatically switch off to protect engineers working on the line. If grid related power cuts are common in your area, you might wish to consider some form of back-up storage. Consult with your installer for further details.

Make sure that your installer and system are MCS certified to be eligible for the ‘generation tariff’ and ‘Export tariff’. The feed-in tariff can only be gained by certain types of wind turbine and only for turbines installed by MCS certified installers. If your system is eligible you will receive an annual payment for all the electricity generated no matter how it is used, this is called the ‘Generation tariff’. You will also get a payment for any electricity you export, this is called the ‘Export tariff’.

The cost of a wind turbine system may vary considerably so make sure you get at least three quotes from reputable MCS accredited installers. Do as much research as possible! Wind turbines need regular maintenance but can be expected to operate for over 20 years. Ask your installer to provide you with written details of when and how often maintenance checks should be carried out and how much these are likely to cost. You can also check this with the manufacturer of your system. Always check the warranty before purchase and make sure you are covered for as long as possible.

All MCS approved installers should be able to provide a detailed breakdown of the specifications and costs of their proposed system. They should visit you in person to complete a technical survey before giving a quote and provide an estimate of how much electricity will be produced by the proposed system.

Suppliers/installers of wind turbines (both domestic and commercial) can be found by searching here.

Small Wind Turbine
Small Residential Wind Turbine

Top 10 Mono-Crystalline Solar Panel Cells available today!

Position

Manufacturer

Type of cell

Cell Efficiency

1 Sunpower Maxeon Cell Technology 22.5%
2 Sanyo Electric HIT Solar Cell Structure 20.2%
3 JA Solar JAC M6SL Secium 20.0%
4 Suntech Pluto Cell 19.7%
5 Suniva ARTisun Select 19.4%
6 Shinsung Solar Energy SH-1940S3 19.4%
7 E-Ton Mono Cell 3BB 19.3%
8 Motech XS156B3-200R X-Cells 19.2%
9 Neo Solar Power Perfect 19 19.2%
10 Solartech Energy SR-156-3 19.1%
Solar Panels
Solar Panels