Why it’s a Good Time to invest in an Air Source Heat Pump

Air Source Heat Pump

One of the biggest challenges we face in the UK if we are to reach our target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, is the decarbonisation of our heating systems.

The fossil fuels used in our homes for heating, hot water, and cooking make up more than a fifth of the UK’s carbon emissions. Currently 85% of homes are still using natural gas boilers so replacing them with a less carbon greedy way to heat our homes has become crucial.

As the dangers of climate change become more prevalent people are becoming more aware of their carbon footprint and are looking at alternatives to fossil fuels for heating their homes.

In November 2020, Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister embarked on a plan to begin to address the decarbonisation of our heating systems. A wide-ranging ten-point plan was published to help the UK go carbon Net Zero by 2050. The plan included a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.

Prior to this the government had already confirmed that from 2025 natural gas boilers and other forms of fossil fuel heating will not be permitted in domestic new builds as part of the Future Homes Standard.

Heat pumps are a key low carbon heating system that can play a crucial part in helping to decarbonise heat in our homes over the next decade. Big carbon savings can be made if we change to low carbon renewable forms of heating, but the pace and scale of installations needs to be increased if we are going to meet the UK’s Net Zero targets.

Air Source heat pumps (ASHPs) are an excellent option to consider when looking to upgrade or replace your current heating system.

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What is an Air source Heat Pump?

The most widely used type of air source heat pump (ASHP) in the UK is the air-to-water heat pump which absorbs heat from the outside air, compresses it to reach a higher temperature and feeds it into your wet central heating system. ASHPs work efficiently at a lower temperature which makes them more suitable for underfloor heating systems or larger radiators as they give out heat at lower temperatures over longer periods of time. They can still extract heat when air temperatures are as low as -15°Celcius! Another type of ASHP is the Air-to-air heat pump which transfers heat from the outside air to air inside your home, increasing the temperature of the air in each room. This warm air enters your home through a series of fan coil units, or ‘blowers’. 

Reasons to Install an Air Source heat Pump in 2022

  1. Lower operational Costs: Traditional heating systems are often inefficient and poorly controlled. An Air Source Heat pump system that is professionally designed, well-installed and well-operated will save you money in the long term due to its greater energy efficiency. Even though ASHPs run on electricity they should use less electrical energy than the heat they produce. The efficiency of a heat pump is measured by their Coefficient of Performance (COP). The COP is the ratio of heat produced per unit of electricity consumed when pumping the heat. A COP value of 3 means that you get 3kWh of heat output for every 1kWh of electricity used to run the pump. This means that ASHPs are usually at least 300% more efficient than gas boilers. Of course, the amount you save will depend on the type of fuel you currently use to heat your home with bigger savings to be made if you are using direct electric, LPG, or oil rather than gas. However, the costs associated with using gas have risen and are likely to be much higher in the future as we switch over to renewable energy sources. The price of wholesale gas has gone up by 335% over the past 12 months and it’s expected to keep rising. According to the independent Climate Change Committee the average price of gas will be 50% higher in 2030 and the National Infrastructure Commission predicts that the cost of electricity could drop by 58% from the current level if heat pumps become particularly popular.
  • Eligibility for Government Grants: The UK government’sBoiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) was launched on the 1st of April 2022. The BUS replaces The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which closed at the end of March 2022. If you managed to secure access to the RHI before the scheme closed, the government will send you quarterly payments for seven years based on the amount of electricity your air source heat pump is estimated to produce. The last RHI tariff was 10.92 per kWh which is better than the top Smart Export Guarantee rate of 7.5p per kWh. The BUS provides an upfront capital grant of £5,000 for Air Source heat pumps to support their installation. For more information about the BUS Scheme visit the Ofgem website. An ASHP can cost you between £8,000 and £14.000 depending on the heating setup of your home so the BUS offers an attractive subsidy. There are also a few grants that are available to low-income families across the UK.
  • Lowers Carbon emissions: An Air Source Heat pumpwill reduce your carbon emissions over time as they have an efficient conversion rate of energy to heat. An air source heat pump can operate at 300-400% efficiency in terms of its use of electricity. With this efficiency level there will be significantly less carbon dioxide emissions than for a gas boiler heating system. If the electricity is provided by renewable energy, then carbon emissions can be reduced to zero. According to the Energy saving Trust, you’ll be able to remove 2.6 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from your yearly total by replacing your gas boiler with a heat pump. You could cut your annual carbon footprint by 44% which is a remarkable reduction. If you currently have an oil boiler, you’ll save at least 4 tonnes of CO2 per year and even if you have electric storage heaters getting an ASHP will save you more than 2 tonnes. As a renewable technology, heat pumps can also help you obtain planning permission for your self-build home.
  • Maintains a comfortable environment: ASHPs work best when holding a steady temperature. However, you can control which parts of your house are being heated by using a zoning system with smart controls.This allows you to have greater control over your Home Heating with a tablet or smartphone. Some heat pumps are fitted with weather compensation control systems to assist the heat source and help it to work at its optimum operation which can also help lower running costs for home heating.
  • Air Source Heat pumps can be paired with solar panels: Air source heat pumps are powered by electricity, so you can minimise your heating costs by running them off free solar energy generated from your solar panels. This will reduce your reliance on the grid supply of electricity and gas which will both save you money and reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Air Source Heat pumps are safer: ASHPs do not need to burn fuel to generate heat as unlike combustion-based heating systems they rely on electricity which makes them safer to own and operate.
  • Better Durability: Air Source Heat Pumpscan have a lifespan of up to 20 years if properly maintained. A heat pump, typically, has a lifespan twice that of a traditional boiler. They are extremely reliable and a steady source of heat.
  • Flexibility for heat distribution options: Space heating can be delivered through any mixture of underfloor heating and low temperature radiators.
  • Provides cooling: Some air source heat pumps can be used for both heating and cooling. The process used by some heat pumps for heating can be reversed effectively making them an air conditioner.

It’s a great time to invest in an air source heat pump. It will not only save you money, but you can be confident that you are reducing your carbon footprint and helping the UK reach its net zero target of carbon emissions by 2050. It really is possible to cut your costs by going green. This is down to a combination of rising gas prices, the government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme, the gas boiler ban, the increasing efficiency of heat pumps and the need to replace a boiler after 10 years unlike heat pumps which generally last 20 years. Gas boilers are due to be banned in new builds by 2025 and completely by 2035. With the total ban coming in 2035 it’s worth seriously considering taking advantage of the government’s scheme now to ease your transition to a greener, cheaper heating system.

It is important, however, to do all the necessary research before buying a heat pump to make sure that you get the best one for you and your home or office and the best installer to fit it. When you are choosing an installer remember to ask them for evidence of their MCS (Microgeneration Certification Schemecertification. This will ensure that they’ve been fully trained to install your heat pump correctly and to give you the best possible advice. You should also bear in mind that you might need to change your radiators or install underfloor heating which could add to your expenses.

Rising Energy Costs in the UK Pushing Consumers Toward Solar

solar power rain

With energy costs skyrocketing lately, more consumers are considering solar energy to lower their utility bills. There are many benefits to converting to solar energy, but they often come with a hefty price tag.

For those who can’t afford to switch to solar panels, the rising energy cost is more burdensome. Customers switching to solar energy have drastically reduced their bills and carbon footprint, thus contributing to a more sustainable environment.

Rising Energy Costs

There are a few contributors to the rising energy cost on a global scale. The wholesale market price has rapidly increased, causing the prices to trickle down to consumers. Only a portion of utility costs pertain to energy consumption, and the rest goes toward expenses and the companies that manage the infrastructure. When energy costs increase, companies must compensate for that loss somehow.

Russia is the leading exporter of natural gas and one of the top exporters of oil. When Russia invaded Ukraine, many countries started restricting imports from Russia. This put a strain on prices that were already high due to supply and demand affected by abnormal weather conditions in Asia and Europe.

Embracing Solar Energy

Solar energy provides benefits that reduce utility bills and are better for the planet. Fossil fuels that are traditionally used as sources of energy have had negative impacts on the environment. Burning fossil fuels for energy releases nitrogen into the air and contributes to climate change, smog, and the draining of non-renewable resources.

Switching to solar power has helped businesses like Amazon and Apple make the most of the sun’s natural energy. Solar energy reduces utility bills, saving companies up to 75% on their electricity costs.

Solar energy also provides reassurance to companies worried about the day non-renewable resources are no longer readily available. Solar power’s clean energy leads to better reputations for businesses and is worth the investment.

Opposing Solar Energy

Although there are numerous benefits of solar energy, people always resist change. There are many misconceptions about solar power that could potentially pause its expanse. Some believe the sun’s energy could be limited for plants if it’s used too much for solar panels. This is entirely untrue.

The sun’s renewable energy is vast enough for everything that can use it to its advantage. A group of Native Americans believes solar panels can desecrate sacred land and hurt the environment. The more knowledgeable people become about the benefits of solar power, the more it can assist in reducing costs and contribute to a greener environment.

Future Predictions

The high energy costs are predicted to last at least through the next two winters. Companies should make emergency preparations for the upcoming winter regarding energy consumption and consumer well-being. For people who cannot afford to switch to solar energy, their only options are to shop around and make necessary changes within their homes to become more energy efficient. They should follow recommendations and guidelines to make the most of their energy supply.

Heavy appliances like washers, dryers, and dishwashers use less energy during the morning and evening hours. LED lights are cost-effective alternatives to traditional lightbulbs. Adjusting the thermostats when you leave home can reduce costs and energy consumption. Utilizing these energy-saving tips will lower your utility bills as you apply them.

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Solar Consumers

There are enough benefits of solar energy that many people across the globe have already made the switch. If solar energy were more affordable, there would be many more. Educating consumers about energy-efficient tactics they can employ when solar energy isn’t attainable is vital with the rising energy costs. Utilizing the sun’s natural energy is a luxury right now but could eventually become necessary with the depletion of non-renewable resources.

Author bio:

Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of

Environment.co.

Heat Your Water with Solar PV

Solar Panels

Today, more and more homeowners are having solar PV installed to not only benefit from greener electricity but also to help reduce their energy bills. The challenge with renewable energy, and particularly solar PV, is using all the power generated. Solar panels on a south facing roof will generate peak power at midday when it is most likely people will be out and about. Most homeowners tend to use a lot more electricity in the evening and so won’t use all the solar energy generated by their solar PV system. This leaves an excess amount being exported back to the grid.

The good news is that by installing an Immersion Power Diverter you will be able to maximise your Solar energy usage, and benefit from free hot water. As storage via batteries is still relatively expensive it is a more cost-effective solution to store your excess energy in water. The immersion power diverter has the ability to divert your surplus solar energy into heating your hot water tank.

Immersion diverters are also often referred to as Solar PV Optimisers, Power Diverters, Energy Diverters, and Immersion Optimisers.

How Do Immersion Diverters Work?

  1. Immersion diverters constantly monitor the amount of electricity your solar PV system is generating and how much your home is demanding. This is monitored via a sensor, attached between your main meter and consumer unit.
  2. If your home isn’t demanding any energy, and if your solar batteries are full (if you have them of course!), you will begin to export your excess solar energy back to the National Grid. This is when the immersion diverter comes in to its own and it will detect via its sensor that your Solar PV System is exporting energy to the Grid. The device will then divert this flow of energy to power your hot water tank instead.
  3. When your immersion diverter is working it effectively means that your water cylinder is being heated for free with energy from the sun. This reduces the fuel required by your boiler, thereby cutting fuel costs.
  4. If an electrical appliance, such as a hoover, is turned on in your home the device will reduce the power diverted to the immersion. Electricity usage throughout your home is always given priority use of the energy generated by your solar panel array.
  5. The device ensures that you make the most of the energy your solar PV array generates even when you are not at home. As long as your hot water tank has enough capacity which you can achieve by setting the normal hot water heating to come on after the sun has gone down, you may be able to use 100% of the electricity generated by your PV system.
  6. It makes sense to want to use your own solar energy rather than export it back to the grid with the average import cost of electricity being 28.34p per kWh and the average Smart Export Guarantee payment only being 5.5p per kWh.

Is Your Home Suitable for an Immersion Diverter?

If you wish to install an immersion diverter in your home, you must meet the following criteria:

  1. Your own way of generating energy at home such as the installation of a solar PV array or wind turbine.
  2. A conventional boiler and hot water cylinder system.
  3. Your energy usage must not exceed the amount of energy you are generating as there must be a source of surplus energy for an immersion diverter to work.
  4. The distance between your water tank and utility meter must be less than 30m.

What are the Advantages of Heating Your Water Through Solar PV?

  1. Immersion Diverters are add-on smart devices that don’t have to be installed at the same time as your solar panel system. This makes them a great additional investment at any time.
  2. An immersion diverter means you can heat your water using free green energy which reduces your carbon footprint and energy bills.
  3. Installing a Solar Power Diverter only takes 30 minutes.
  4. Immersion diverters work seamlessly. As soon as you have fitted your immersion diverter and connected it to your solar PV system it will start diverting your excess energy.
  5. Installing an immersion diverter allows you to use 100% of your solar generation, meaning you will have no green energy waste.
  6. There’s a quick return on investment as immersion diverters usually pay for themselves in just two years.
  7. Immersion diverters reduce the use of your boiler, meaning that it can last longer.
  8. If you benefit from the feed-in tariff, installing an immersion diverter will not affect your payments (closed to new applicants in 2019). This is because the Feed-In-Tariff will pay for 50% of the energy you generate, not knowing how much energy you are precisely exporting. So, no matter how much you are sending back to the Grid or to heating your hot water, you will still earn the same.
  9. Finally, Solar PV paired with an immersion diverter is a cheaper, more maintenance free alternative to Solar Thermal. With no moving parts, and with an immersion diverter being an affordable add on, using your Solar PV System to heat your water is a reliable option.

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How is a Solar Diverter Fitted?

A small electronic box is fitted, usually close to your hot water cylinder, and wired in line with the immersion element power supply. Then two Current Transformer CT clamps are fitted, one around your solar PV AC cable and the other around your main incoming mains supply.

Examples of Solar Diverters

  • Solic 200 is a no-frills immersion diverter which can be installed if it can be placed close to your incoming supply. It comes with a 10- year ‘return to base’ warranty and can be Installed for £496 + VAT*.
  • iBoost+ comes with a 2-year warranty but does not cover labour costs so you’ll have to pay for the work required to get the faulty unit swapped out. It can be Installed for £592 + VAT*.
  • Eddi comes with a 3-year warranty that also covers the labour to swap the unit. Eddi can also be linked to other My Energi products like the Zappi EV charger. Both can be monitored and controlled through the My Energi app and is also available on IOS.  It can be Installed for £775 + VAT*.
  • SolarEdge Smart Energy Hot Water is part of the Smart Energy range of products that can divert excess electric. It diverts electricity to an immersion heater and comes with a 5-year warranty that covers labour for the swap out too. It can be installed for £725 + VAT* (you will need to have SolarEdge full consumption monitoring installed already).

*VAT varies, Immersion diverters on the same Order as a Solar PV system attract 0% VAT, Immersion Diverters bought alone attract 20% VAT.

Immersion Diverters vs Batteries

Some solar power diverters like the eddi and iboost are compatible with solar batteries. Your solar PV system will prioritise charging your battery first. If there is any left-over energy after charging your battery this will be diverted to heat your water. Generally, it’s not worth having both an immersion diverter and solar battery installed unless your solar generation far surpasses your usage. In most households a battery should have sufficient capacity to absorb excess solar leaving little for the immersion diverter.

Where Does this Leave Solar Thermal?

A solar thermal system is another way of heating water with solar energy but is a separate technology and process to that of solar PV panels. It also requires a solar compatible hot water tank. Find out more about solar thermal.

New 50MW Solar Energy Park Planned for East of Sheffield

Solar Farm Sheffield

Plans are soon to be revealed for an innovative renewable energy generation and storage project to the East of Sheffield.

Independent renewable energy firm Banks Renewables is currently developing the planning application for a large new solar park which would sit on 116-hectare of agricultural land to the west of the Todwick Road Industrial Estate in Dinnington, around three miles east of Banks’ Penny Hill wind farm.

Banks Renewables are expected to submit a planning application to Rotherham Council for the new scheme in the coming months, with a view to it being settled before the end of 2022.

The project would include up to 50MW of solar and a 50MW battery energy storage system, which would be linked directly into the Thurcroft electricity substation, around three kilometres north of the site. The project called the Common Farm solar project would have enough capacity to meet the annual energy requirements of up to 18,800 family homes and would displace over 11,470 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the electricity supply network each year. The project would help to support the long-term security of energy supplies to UK consumers.

The company is ensuring that the local community are aware of their plans for the site. They plan to deliver a leaflet containing comprehensive information on the project to around 11,000 local homes in the coming days. A dedicated project website has also been set up to ensure information on the scheme is easily available.

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Jill Askew, solar and flex project manager at Banks Renewables said:

“As more sources of renewable energy are connected to the system, more innovative ways of storing the electricity they produce will be required. The battery energy storage system at Common Farm would help to ensure reliable, stable and balanced electricity grid operation at times of peak demand and would support the UK’s continuing drive towards its net zero ambitions.”

Banks Renewables has a policy of delivering real benefits to the places in which its operations are based. At least £50,000 of the income generated by the Common Farm project would be made available every year as part of a package to support local good causes. This would come to more than £2,000,000 over the lifetime of the project.

The company is currently developing a detailed ecology and biodiversity strategy to ensure that the site delivers a net benefit in biodiversity to the local community.

Lewis Stokes, senior community relations manager at The Banks Group, said:

“Maximising the production of renewable energy from domestic sources is a crucial part of the UK’s ongoing journey towards its net zero targets, especially within the current energy security climate, and the Common Farm solar scheme will further extend the contribution that we’re able to make locally towards reaching these goals. The project is located in an area that we know very well, and having conducted a detailed search, we identified this site as providing the best opportunity to create a solar park that links directly into the Thurcroft substation.”

As one of the leading owner/operators in the UK’s onshore wind sector Banks Renewables already owns and operates 11 onshore wind projects in England and Scotland, including 4 in Yorkshire such as the Penny Hill site.

The Penny Hill wind farm, the Hook Moor wind farm to the east of Leeds, the Marr wind farm to the west of Doncaster and the Hazlehead wind farm near Barnsley generated almost 89,000 MWh of electricity between them over the 12 months to the end of September 2021, as well as over £50,000 for their respective community benefits funds.

The Penny Hill wind farm’s community fund has supported a broad range of community projects, with over £202,000 being directed into it so far since the wind farm began generating electricity in 2013. So far grants totalling more than £140,000 have been awarded to local organisations.

The company is also currently developing the 40MW Barnsdale solar energy park to the south-east of Leeds, which was recommended for approval by Leeds City Council’s planning officers in June 2021. This commercial solar site will be able to produce enough electricity to meet the annual requirements of up to 12,000 family homes.

Lewis Stoke said that his company is really looking forward to meeting and working closely with residents, stakeholders and other community representatives to ensure that they develop an extensive and detailed planning application for the Common Farm solar project. He said they also want to hear their views on what might be delivered in a package of local benefits that will form a key part of the project. The company are excited about what can be achieved with this important project and hope that Rotherham Council’s planning committee will support the vision they’re now developing.

Banks Renewables’ extensive work on projects that are helping to secure the UK’s energy security is in line with the government’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution. The Prime Minister promised to create and support up to 250,000 British jobs through investment in green energy, technology and nature. He said that the government would invest £1bn to make homes, schools and hospitals greener, and install 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028. These actions will be crucial in meeting the government’s new carbon emissions target, which constitutes a 68% reduction from 1990 levels, by 2030.

Enormous Under-Sea Interconnectors Saved the UK 2 million Tonnes of Carbon Emissions in 2021

undersea cables

Interconnectors have an important role to play in how we produce and use energy. These huge undersea cables that allow surplus electricity to flow between different countries saved the UK 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions between January and September in 2021. According to the National Grid, this figure is equivalent to taking 933,100 cars off the road or planting 2 million trees.

It is estimated that between 2020 and 2030, interconnectors will help prevent 100 million tonnes of carbon emissions being produced which would be equivalent to taking 2 million cars off the road. Interconnectors will help the UK and other countries to reach net zero by moving zero-carbon energy from where it’s produced to where it’s needed most. This is crucial while we work towards replacing fossil fuels such as coal and gas which emit harmful greenhouse gases with renewable sources like offshore wind and solar which produce clean energy.  The hope is that by 2030, 90 per cent of electricity imported via National Grid will come from zero carbon sources.

Duncan Burt, chief sustainability officer at the National Grid said:

“Interconnectors have a huge impact as we transition to a renewable power system.”

As renewable energy is hard to store, these cables help to prevent excess power being wasted by allowing it to flow to another country.

Working together via these cables means that if the wind doesn’t blow in Scotland one day, the UK can power the grid with wind from Germany or solar from Spain instead of firing up the gas. In turn the UK can sell power to other countries in Europe on very windy days.

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In a lot of ways interconnectors are the perfect technology to integrate renewable energy and ensure reliable, affordable and decarbonised energy for homes and businesses. 

The world’s longest underwater electricity cable, the National Grid’s North Sea Link (NSL), was completed in 2021 allowing the UK and Norway to share renewable energy for the first time.

The NSL took six years to build. Laying of the undersea cables began in 2018 and more than four million working hours were spent on the project, including 5,880 days working at sea.

Enabling these two countries to trade in energy means that the electricity cable will help reduce the burning of fossil fuels in the UK and avoid 23 million tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030. In Norway, 98% of electricity already comes from renewable energy sources, mainly from hydropower connected to large reservoirs.

When wind generation is high and electricity demand low in Britain, NSL will mean renewable power can be exported from the UK, conserving water in the process. When demand is high in Britain and there is low wind generation, hydropower can be imported from Norway which makes it mutually beneficial for both nations.

The National Grid’s North Sea Link (NSL), the 450-mile cable which connects Blyth in Northumberland with the Norwegian village of Kvilldal will provide enough clean electricity to power 1.4 million homes, once at full capacity.

Currently the National Grid has 5 interconnectors which effectively plug the UK’s power grid into those in Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands, with 2 more in France. The “Viking Line” is set to link the UK with Denmark from 2023.

Mr. Burt said that the interconnector with Norway is “really important” because of its significant hydropower which is very flexible.

He said:

“Norway will basically act as Europe’s battery. When we’ve got high renewables, we’ll send it to Norway and they’ll use that power, or they’ll use it to pump water and store the energy in the hydro power stations. And then when we need power in the UK, the power will flow back from Norway to the UK.”

Roz Bulleid from green think tank Green Alliance said that though the UK has made great strides in cleaning up its power, “we still need to kick gas plants off the grid and increase the rate at which we switch our cars and heating from gas to electricity”.

By linking Britain to neighbouring countries, interconnectors can import cheaper clean energy when it’s needed, while exporting excess power so that both Britain and its neighbours have access to a broader and more flexible supply of electricity.

There are 3 massive benefits to interconnectors. They allow an energy supply that is sustainable, reliable and affordable.

How Renewable Energy and Smart Farming Could Transform Our Food Systems

plants

With populations on the rise across the globe and climate change an ever-growing issue, sustainability is now more critical than ever. Population growth means more resources are used, more waste is produced, and more carbon emissions get released into the atmosphere. And overall, this means more pollution.

Furthermore, something not as many people think about when it comes to rising populations, and climate change is the need for better agricultural systems. More people means more mouths to feed, but currently, a lot of farming and agricultural processes are unsustainable.

The amount of water, energy, and other resources used for farming and agriculture is a major concern. And if we keep using these things at our current rate, we will not be able to sustain our economies and support the billions of people living on the planet. The earth is not infinite and unlimited, and the things we are using up will eventually run out, and the environmental damage we are causing will eventually be irreversible.

Luckily, with advances in technology, there is a brighter and better future in sight for the agricultural industry. Things like smart farming and renewable energy could be the answer to some of the biggest issues facing our modern society and food supply concerns.

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What is Smart Farming?

Smart farming, like many things today that use the word “smart,” refers to the use of technology to digitize and optimize its processes. With smart farming specifically, it means using various software, tools, and other technologies to improve agricultural output and reduce the need for as many resources. It also minimizes how much human labor is required.

Agriculture and farming are physically demanding industries, and there is only so much a human person can do. Human labor is no longer enough with how much stress is being put on the farming industry to increase output to meet the demands of a growing population.

So, with smart farming, we can not only be more efficient with our use of resources, but we can also increase output by using technologies that allow us to do more than what human labor alone ever could.

There are six main areas or technologies that make up smart farming:

  1. Sensing technologies
  2. Software applications
  3. Communications systems
  4. Telematics and positioning technologies
  5. Robotics
  6. Data analytics

All of these various systems and technologies can be used to enhance and optimize the many processes and operations involved in farming and agriculture.

How Smart Farming Tech is Changing the Agriculture Industry

There are numerous applications of technology being used today in the agriculture industry. IoT, or the Internet of Things, for example, is one of the latest trends in technology that is benefiting farming and agriculture in a variety of ways.

If you are unfamiliar, IoT is essentially a term used to describe a network of physical objects or devices— “things”—that are all connected through the internet using things like embedded sensors and software. And smart farming is harnessing this tech by using a range of IoT technologies or devices to optimize agricultural operations.

With the right internet network, farmers and other agricultural professionals can harness the full power of IoT tech to benefit them in so many ways. Some of the many applications of IoT technologies in farming and agriculture include:

Precision Farming

Precision farming is somewhat of an all-encompassing term for the many applications of IoT that are being used to optimize farming processes. Already, various IoT technologies are being used to monitor soil and crop health, water usage, and equipment, to geolocate livestock and monitor their nutritional needs to prevent disease and enrich their health and collect data to make statistical predictions about crops and livestock.

Smart Greenhouses

IoT-driven smart greenhouses are also radically changing the agricultural industry. With traditional greenhouses, you rely on human or manual management and intervention to create a controlled and optimal growing environment—but humans aren’t perfect. Thus, traditional greenhouses often experience production and energy losses, and cost more to run due to human error.

With smart greenhouses, however, everything can be controlled digitally using various IoT technologies, which means everything runs more efficiently. Smart devices can use machine learning to intelligently monitor things like lighting, irrigation, temperature, humidity, and more to create optimal growing conditions. Devices are also used to store data, which can then be analyzed to make adjustments as needed to further optimize processes going forward.

Agricultural Drones

Drones driven by IoT tech are another invaluable agricultural tool. Farmers can use them to assess crop health, monitor irrigation and crop spraying, survey their land, and perform an overall analysis of their fields and crops. Drones also provide a vast array of metrics and data using thermal, visual, and multispectral imaging.

The Future of Farming and Our Food Systems

Existing tech and smart farming, such as IoT technologies, are already drastically changing the agricultural industry. But renewable energy and resource systems as well have been having a positive impact for years now.

Rainwater harvesting, for example, allows farmers to consume less from the local water supply by making use of water that is collected in storage tanks when it rains. And renewable energy production using wind, hydro, and solar power allows farmers to power their farms without consuming non-renewable resources, such as coal.

Solar farms have been incredibly useful in reducing the need for fossil fuels, which not only helps reduce the need for non-renewables, but it also reduces carbon emissions that traditionally get released into the atmosphere when fuel is burned.

And vertical farming, which is another smart farming technique that has been around for years, is also now helping to change the industry with the aid of newer technologies. With vertical farming, crops can be grown in larger amounts by making better use of space and growing vertically rather than in traditional, horizontal rows. 

All of these current technologies combined with smart, renewable energy systems are starting to make farming, and thus food production, easier and more efficient. There are also countless technologies and smart systems underway that have yet to hit the market—crop picking robots, the Internet of Food, Third Green Revolution—that will only continue to enhance the agricultural industry.

We are only just seeing the beginning of what is possible, which means the future of farming will likely have a significant impact on our economies and sustainability as a whole.

UK Faces Higher Energy Bills this Winter due to Limits on Renewables

higher energy costs

The current decision by the UK government to limit new renewable energy generation has disappointed the renewables industry. The industry sees this as a “missed opportunity” while the green campaign group, Greenpeace has berated government ministers for “outdated thinking”.

The government is restricting renewable installations by setting arbitrary limits on the amount of capacity that can be subsidised through the contracts for difference (CfD) scheme. This means that consumers will face higher energy bills than necessary this winter.  The limits are being supported despite the UK’s urgent campaign to stop importing Russian gas and to protect consumers from the full impact of soaring natural gas prices.

The way the system of “contracts for difference” works is by renewable energy generators bidding for contracts to produce power, but the government can set an overall limit on how much capacity it wants in the auctions as well as set limits on how much cash it is prepared to provide in the form of incentives.

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Ministers will authorise contracts for about 12GW of new renewable energy generation, to begin construction this year, with much of it likely to come on stream before the autumn of 2023. Although this is the biggest auction so far, the renewable energy industry has estimated that there are about 17.4GW of projects that have already been granted planning permission and are “shovel ready”. This includes 8.5GW of offshore wind, alongside 3.9GW of onshore wind and 5GW of solar. Greenpeace said that few of these projects will go ahead without the contracts that let generators lock in prices for their power.

This shortfall will result in consumers being deprived of the energy savings on bills that come from renewable energy. Renewable energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels which have risen to sky-high prices since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While onshore and offshore wind and solar power all now command about £40 per megawatt, gas fired power generation costs about £140 per megawatt hour. Increasing the amount of renewable capacity would help to ease energy prices and mean that households would feel less strain during the winter of 2023-2024 when bills are forecast to still be high. In fact, if the 12GW of new renewable energy generation the government is planning for this year had been available last winter, energy bills would have been about £100 lower for the average household.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has set out plans for the next CfD auction, to be held on 5th-6th July. During the auctions, generators will bid for contracts to produce green power at a guaranteed per-unit rate. This round will see the government award contracts to a combined 5GW of new onshore wind and solar installations with neither allowed to take more than 3.5GW in total.

It was expected that the government would set a cap of 7GW on new onshore wind capacity. However, the plan isn’t to set a cap but instead to limit the incentive pot to £200 million, which industry expects will amount to a de facto cap of 7GW.

Many groups, including unions, the CBI employers’ organisation, the National Farmers’ Union, and green and consumer groups, called for the government to increase the amount of renewable energy generation.

Doug Parr, a policy director for Greenpeace UK, said:

“We have a global climate emergency which requires low carbon power, we have a cost-of-living crisis which requires cheap power, and we have a war in Ukraine that requires domestic power. By an amazing stroke of luck, renewables are low-carbon, cheap, domestic and can be deployed faster than the alternatives. Capacity limits on cheap renewables are outdated thinking.”

Back in March this year, research from Carbon Brief’s Dr Simon Evans said that 649 onshore wind and solar projects with a total capacity of 10GW already have planning permission. If they went ahead, they’d save Britain more gas than it currently imports from Russia.

Total renewable capacity grew by 3.4% to 49.44GW in the year to December 2021, which is a significant drop compared with an average annual rise of about 18% over the previous 11 years.

However, a government spokesperson defended the UK government’s record in bringing renewable energy capacity online.

“The Covid pandemic and its aftermath understandably slowed infrastructure deployment across the country. That said, nearly 40% of our electricity now comes from renewable sources, and since 2010 we have delivered a 500% increase in the amount of renewable energy capacity connected to the grid. The contracts for difference scheme has been hugely successful in boosting UK energy supply and reducing our dependence on volatile fossil fuels, with competitive auctions reducing the price of offshore wind by around 65% since 2015.”

Sustainable Future for UK Hospitals with Solar Energy

hospital medical solar panels

Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham, East Yorkshire has become the first hospital in the UK to be completely powered by its own renewable energy in daylight hours. In September 2021, Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust started installing solar panels on land next to the hospital site. It took five months to install the £4.2m grant funded installation of more than 11,000 solar panels, which covers 7.7 hectares, around the size of 14 football pitches. The Trust received a grant from the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as part of its Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme which allowed them to embark on this ambitious project. The plan was to generate a third of the total energy requirements of the hospital.

The project which became known as the ‘Field of Dreams’ is part of the trust’s campaign to tackle the NHS’s impact on climate change by achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

The Trust’s investment in solar technology is now paying dividends. Hull University Teaching Hospitals Trust, which runs the hospital, said the scheme meant the trust was currently saving about £250,000 a month. With the arrival of the longer days of British Summer Time, the panels are generating enough electricity to meet the entire daytime power needs of the Castle Hill site. Currently, about 26MWh per day is generated, the equivalent to the average daily energy needs of 3,250 UK households. Output is expected to almost double during the peak summer months.

The trust, which also runs Hull Royal Infirmary, is also planning to replace 20,000 lights across both sites with LED bulbs, to insulate buildings and install heat pumps to cut heating costs.

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Alex Best, Head of Capital for the Trust said:

“Our aim has always been to generate enough electricity to make the hospital site self-sufficient in the summer months when the days are longer, and now that the clocks have gone forward, the panels are generating around 26MWh per day so far in May and are anticipated to rise to a peak summer load of 50 MWh per day.

Not only does this represent a significant contribution towards our plan to become carbon neutral by 2030, but the project is also saving us a significant amount of money on hospital energy bills; approximately £250,000 to 300,000 every month.”

Marc Beaumont, Head of Sustainability for the Trust also said:

“When you consider the size of the Castle Hill Hospital site and the amount of activity that goes on here, that’s a huge amount of power that’s required to keep it running.

Now if you stop to consider what the solar panel project is contributing, it’s incredible to think that the power used to deliver patients’ radiotherapy treatment sessions, to support many life-saving surgical procedures, and to keep our intensive care unit running right now is all completely self-generated, green electricity.”

Work has also begun on a 12-hectare solar farm which is being developed on a former landfill site adjacent to New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton. Proposals for this giant solar farm were approved in 2021 and the site will be cabled directly to the New Cross Hospital.

Hospital bosses believe the scheme will save the trust millions of pounds in energy bills in the coming years and plan to spend the money on frontline services instead.

Planning images showed solar panels stretching across the former landfill site, the size of 21 football pitches.

The original idea to turn a former tip into a solar farm came from the Wolverhampton council.

Councillor Steve Evans said:

“It’s toxic land, we can’t build on here, we’d never be able to do anything, and we had some issues with fly tipping”.

Another hospital, Milton Keynes University Hospital has utilised its flat roofing structure to install solar panels to generate significant energy on-site. £2.75m was invested in new roofing and the installation of solar PV.

The Trust took the opportunity afforded by the installation of solar panels to improve the roof insulation in order to optimise energy use, reduce costs and carbon emissions.

During the building works the Trust has also introduced LED lighting to further improve their energy efficiency.

The first phase of the work has been completed with more than 2,500 solar panels installed across the hospital, producing 853MWh which is equivalent to powering over 200 average homes for a year or around 8% of the Trust’s total electricity requirement. When the second stage of work is completed, there will be over 3,300 individual panels positioned on roofs around the site which will ultimately generate nearly a gigawatt of free electricity which equates to the same power that would be used by 344 average homes in the UK.

The cost and carbon savings are not the only benefits the hospital is experiencing. The new roofing has made for a more comfortable environment for both staff and patients.

A staff member said:

“Before the roofing upgrade and installation of solar panels, this area would fluctuate in temperature – at times too hot and others too cold. The new roofs have made an incredible difference to both staff and patients and it’s even better to know that we are helping the environment.”

The innovative and inspiring project at the Castle Hill Hospital has saved significant funds which can be reinvested back into treatment and care. The success of all the green achievements in the hospital sector provides an excellent example for other hospitals and the wider NHS to adopt sustainability at the heart of healthcare.

It’s possible to see that if these successes were reproduced on a national scale, it could save the NHS billions, allowing reinvestment in healthcare. The advancement of sustainability in healthcare provides a key precedent for a greener future for the NHS.

Are Thin-Film Solar Cells the Next Generation of Renewables?

thin film solar panels

Renewable-energy professionals make advances in new technologies daily, striving to meet the steadily increasing demand for renewables worldwide. When it comes to solar, one of the most exciting and promising innovations may be thin-film solar cells.

Learn more about thin-film solar cells and how they shape up as an alternative to current materials.

How Do Thin-Film Solar Panels Compare to Popular Options?

Traditionally, companies construct most solar panels with silicon photovoltaic cells. This material makes up around 95% of solar panels shipped and installed in the past few decades. The wide use of silicon PV cells is due to how quickly they can convert light into electricity as a semiconductor. Further, silicon solar cells are long-lasting and affordable.

Still, silicon cells are not the only available option for consumers. In recent years, thin-film solar cells have emerged as a potentially worthy alternative. These cells feature light-absorbing layers that are hundreds of times smaller than silicon cells. The design of thin-film solar cells makes them the most lightweight yet durable cell option for solar panels on the market.

Like many solar panel concepts — including fiber-optic solar panels that require the use of fiber-optic cables — thin-film solar cells are not yet as widely used as more popular options. However, it is worth learning more about them because of the benefits they can potentially provide.

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Materials That Can Make Up Thin-Film Solar Cells

Manufacturers can make these kinds of solar cells from one of four materials — copper indium gallium selenide, amorphous silicon, gallium arsenide or cadmium telluride. A-Si and CdTe are the most well-known of these technologies and are viable for general thin-film solar applications.

Amorphous silicon is the most similar thin-film technology to silicon and is more durable than some of its counterparts. These cells are also easier to manufacture than silicon cells and are more durable. However, a-Si cells are less efficient, making them difficult to scale.

Cadmium telluride is the most common type of thin-film solar cell. The main benefit of CdTe is companies can produce straightforwardly and affordably. However, CdTe contains cadmium, which is toxic in certain amounts.

The other two technologies — CIGS and GaAs — are expensive and difficult to scale.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Thin-Film Solar Cells?

When compared to silicon cells, thin-film cells come with a couple of advantages that have positioned them as a potential popular option for future solar panel installations:

  • Eco-friendliness: Because of the structure of thin-film cells, they are much less carbon-intensive than silicon cells. This way, thin-film cells are more sustainable than their more commonly used counterparts. That said, manufacturers must remember some types of thin-film cells contain toxins.
  • Labour Costs: A series of panels using thin-film solar cells are easier to install, making them more affordable. The thin, flexible structure of thin-film panels makes them simple for many experienced contractors.

At the same time, it is essential to understand the reasons why thin-film solar cells have had trouble experiencing the same level of popularity as silicon cells:

  • Efficiency: When you compare the two in terms of efficiency, silicon solar panels come out on top. They offer around 14-16% efficiency, sometimes increasing to 20%. Thin film’s newest recorded record for efficiency is just under 10%. As a result, it makes more sense from an investment standpoint to choose silicon solar panels.
  • Space: To maximise efficiency, it is necessary to install several thin-cell solar panels. Therefore, their installation requires more space, meaning only consumers with larger homes or businesses can use them.

Comparing the advantages and downfalls of thin-film solar panels can give you further insight into why they are not as widespread as traditional silicon solar panels yet.

With Adjustments, Thin-Film Solar Cells Are Promising

Ultimately, thin-film solar panels hold significant promise as part of the next generation of renewables — they are easy to install, sustainable and affordable.

However, thin-film solar panels will remain second to other alternatives unless experts can maximise their efficiency, limit their toxicity and minimise how much space they require for installation.

Still, thin-film solar cells are worth keeping an eye on as they continue to develop in the coming years.

Author bio:

Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of

Environment.co.

Does it Cost Much to Build an Eco-Friendly and Sustainable House?

Introduction

Constructing your house from the ground up is an exciting but scary concept. Each house construction requires meticulous budgeting and planning to save time, resources, and wellbeing. These aspects are more fundamental, especially if you’re looking to construct a green home, as the Materials Market and eco-housing industry are filled with continuous innovation.

Therefore, we’ve prepared information to let you know how much it can cost to construct a sustainable house. We’ll also provide some tips on how to build one. Read on to discover more.

What is a Sustainable House?

“Sustainable” is a term that often gets thrown around that it’s become a staple in the green-washing marketing campaigns of various brands. In this context, a sustainable house is constructed to decrease negative environmental impacts caused by construction and during the home’s lifespan.

Characteristics of a Sustainable House

A sustainable house is:

  • Environmentally sustainable. These buildings are designed to decrease their environmental footprint. They achieve that by saving water and energy, reducing waste, and minimizing greenhouse emissions.
  • Economically sustainable. It’s vital to concentrate on converting environmentally friendly housing into cost-efficient housing to continue thriving as a species. Therefore, ultra careful planning and budgeting are needed to reduce construction costs and future renovations.
  • Socially sustainable. For a house to be sustainable, it needs to accommodate people with limited mobility more. It’s designed and constructed to prevent injuries and enhance the occupants’ sense of security.

Essentially, a sustainable home should be constructed with materials that can’t harm the environment, durable, flexible, energy-efficient, and cost-efficient to run in the long run. When you achieve these objectives, you can enjoy many benefits such as reduced energy costs, minimal ecological footprint, and a house designed to meet your family’s ever-changing needs.

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How Much Does It Cost to Build an Eco-Friendly and Sustainable House?

Many often overestimate the overall cost of constructing a sustainable house, especially compared to standard housing. According to a report released by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, many people assumed that eco-friendly housing features increased the total construction costs by 17%. Yet, in reality, it adds less than 2%.

Here is what contributes to the overall construction cost:

  • Building costs – 61%
  • Finished lot costs – 18.5%
  • Builder profits – 9.1%
  • General and overhead expenses – 4.9%
  • Sales commission – 3.7%
  • Financing and marketing costs – 2.7%

Therefore, you need to calculate all the costs – construction costs, general & overhead expenses, and finished lot and builder costs = to determine the total cost of building your house, as they contribute 94% of the overall sale price.

A Breakdown of the Cost of Constructing a Sustainable House

The Rocky Mountain Institute released a report in 2019 showing that zero-energy housing is more feasible. It roughly costs around $240,000 to $260,000. A breakdown of these costs looks like this:

Interior finishes – 25.4%

The highest portion of your construction budget will be spent on setting up your house’s interior. This stage includes insulation, flooring, lighting, etc. It’s best to choose eco-friendly options like recycled insulation or air sealing technology, sustainably certified timber, energy-saving home appliances, and the like.

Framing – 17.4%

Framing includes sheathing, roof, and general steel and metal. Choose durable roofing options like metal roofs.

Major system rough-ins – 14.7%

Think of using solar panels, low-flow plumbing systems, rainwater harvesting systems, etc. These products will benefit you and your family in the long term.

Exterior finishes – 14.1%

Exterior finishes comprise roofing, doors, windows, et cetera. Consider installing sustainable roofing materials, insulated garage doors, and triple-pane windows.

Foundations – 11.8%

This stage entails excavation, foundation, retaining walls, concrete, and backfill. To get a more energy-efficient and durable option, it’ll help to use efficient building materials such as an insulating slab foundation with a steel mesh to reinforce the concrete slab foundation.

Conclusion

Are you looking to construct an eco-friendly house? If so, you can approach this project in multiple ways. When building such a house, it is fundamental to plan and budget for it carefully. The post illustrates that creating a sustainable home is less costly than many think. Follow these tips to construct your eco-friendly and sustainable house efficiently.

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