Tuesday, 28 August 2012

New Self Charging Battery That Generates And Stores Energy

Renewable energy technologies generally consist of two distinct processes: energy generation (using sources such as coal, solar, wind, etc.) and energy storage (such as batteries). These two processes are always accomplished through two separate units, with the first process converting the original form of energy to electricity, and the second process converting electricity to chemical energy. Now for the first time, engineers have demonstrated that energy can be generated and stored in a single device that converts mechanical energy directly to chemical energy, bypassing the intermediate step of electricity generation. The device basically acts as a hybrid generator-battery unit, or in other words, a self-charging power cell.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-08-self-charging-battery-energy.html#jCp

Friday, 24 August 2012

The New Era Of Energy Efficient Technology

Energy Efficient Technology on the rise as sustainable growth picks up momentum

Spending all my days on the net writing about energy efficiency and renewable technologies, I am constantly amazed at the amount of passion and energy that is put into this industry. New technologies are emerging daily and governments are creating more and more legislation to make sure that sustainable growth is here to stay.

While our own government is in internal conflict with the Treasury and George Osborne, about expenditure into renewable technologies, it has not stopped the rest of the industry from soldiering on in the face of adversity. We are now in a time when sustainability is paramount, as the old ways of generating energy are becoming redundant, as research has shown time and time again, that they are no longer ecologically or economically viable.

Our resources are running lower by the day and no matter what the politicians would have you believe, we are in the midst of not just an economic crisis but an ecological one of giant proportions. Climate change is not going to go away and the best we can hope to do is to try and slow it down. Renewable technologies are the way forward and while there are many people who dispute this, the facts speak for themselves.

In the UK, energy efficiency has really taken off and with news that we are number one in the global energy efficiency league table, we should give ourselves a well deserved pat on the back. However, this does not mean that we can afford to be complacent, as there is still a tremendous amount of work to do before we can even think of slowing down the pace.

Renewable technologies are advancing every day and new and innovative designs and systems are appearing on the market at a rapid rate. Only the other day there was an article in the press that covered new solar thin-film technology, that can be stuck to windows and doors and is 70% transparent to the human eye. The technology utilises infra red rays that humans cannot see, to create electricity and it has a higher output than traditional solar panels. This technology will revolutionise the solar market and while solar panels will still continue to be used, thin film solar cells will undoubtedly become the norm as the price drops and more people see the benefits.

As the technology is changing at such a rapid rate, it begs the question as to whether anything will stay on the market long enough before it is overtaken by something more advanced, compact, powerful, faster, sleeker and stronger.

A great invention to be released next month from Ireland is the latest energy efficient Iameco laptop tablet that is 80% recyclable and has an extremely low carbon footprint. My favourite part of the tablet is the fact that it has a wooden casing that is made from sustainably sourced off-cuts from factories. Wood you believe it?! (groan)

Vertical axis wind turbines are another little known advancement on wind technology, that destroy the usual complaints associated with normal turbines. The latest version of the McCamley MT101 MK2 turbine makes very little noise, is clearly visible to animals so they do not get caught in them, can be erected in urban areas owing to it's size and it is self starting, requiring very little maintenance, a huge cost for normal turbines. Furthermore, It has no cut-out speed and can continue to operate in storm winds. It will allow residential blocks and urbanised areas access to clean energy. This should put the 'wind' up George Osborne as he battles to install gas plants and nuclear stations all over our country. Who is he really working for I wonder?

Developments for commercial energy efficiency are always cropping up on the market and with the Commercial EPC ( Energy Performance Certificate ) now being a compulsory standard in the commercial property sector, energy efficient building design and practice have become paramount. The UK's building stock accounts for almost half of our total carbon emissions, so energy efficient re-fits are now essential to help commercial properties reach carbon neutral emissions targets.

The same can be said for the domestic property market, as landlords have been taking advantage of government grants to re-fit their properties. As with commercial properties, the Landlord EPC is now also compulsory in order to market a property for sale or rent and the attached sheet of recommendations, drawn up by the energy assessor, on how to raise the energy efficiency rating of a property, has provided invaluable information. Cavity-wall and loft insulation, upgraded central heating systems, Solar PV installations and underground heat pumps are just some of the upgrades that landlords are implementing in their re-fits and tenants have reported greater comfort and significant reductions in their fuel bills, as a result.

So the tide of energy efficiency, backed up by innovations in renewable technology and government legislation continues to grow as we move into a new, sustainable future. The moves we make now are crucial to our survival as a race, yet there are those out there who would still hang on to outdated ideas and selfish ambitions, in their attempts to control the world's energy resources for their own, hollow ends. With that in mind it is important to keep raising awareness through any means available, about the benefits of renewable technology and sustainable growth and warn against the dangers of staying as we were and destroying the fabric of our environment.

Article written for Just EPC by Paul Patane

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Solar Powered Windows And Doors With New Transparent Thin Film Solar Cells.

Researchers from the UCLA have developed a new transparent thin film solar cell that is a move towards enabling windows in homes and other properties to generate electricity while people can still see outside.

The UCLA team describe a new type of polymer solar cell (PSC) that can produce energy by absorbing mainly infra red light, making cells almost 70% transparent to the human eye. The device has been designed using a photoactive plastic that actually converts the infrared light into an electric current. Imagine this being applied to a huge skyscraper. The electricity generated would be considerable!

I remember writing about this new technology last year when it was in it's infancy and it is great to see it becoming a reality.

Check out the full story at ScienceBlog

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Giant European Super-Grid To Be Built Under North Sea

A giant super-grid designed to address the ever changing nature of renewable power generation, is to undergo construction under the North Sea.
Nine European countries have agreed to participate in the construction of this gigantic power grid of high-voltage cables, in a move towards reaching the European Union’s goal of attaining a 20% share of energy from renewable resources by 2020. 
The project’s main aim is to reduce waste, lower energy prices, secure energy supply, increase energy efficiency and ultimately this will all contribute towards boosting the economies of the nations involved, including Britain, France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Luxembourg. 
Approximately 100 GW of offshore wind power is planned by EU power organisations. The UK has already launched a £100 billion programme to energise our own offshore wind farms which we can proudly boast as the world’s largest at approximately 1 GW which is predicted to grow to an encouraging 40 GW by 2020. 
Estimated to have had a financial expenditure of around £30 billion the project is set to be up and running by 2023. These super-grids will significantly enhance the energy performance of wind generated power and ensure any surplus energy is stored and used to maximise energy efficiency. The idea behind them is to transport large amounts of energy to balance any electricity inefficiency between regions in Europe and furthermore, be used to transport electricity not just from wind farms but also solar large solar arrays. 
This is a very interesting project as it will essentially end power shortages and blackouts in the EU. If one country goes down, power is transported form elsewhere to bridge the gap. This will hopefully pave the way to a new era of community energy and sustainable growth. It will make the use of wind and solar more energy efficient with a means of energy storage and transportation that we have needed for some time. 
Post by Paul Patane for Just EPC

Friday, 17 August 2012

Irish Invent Wooden Computer To Be Launched Next Month In Europe!

MicroPlus announce the launch of the new Iameco Ecolabel certified tablet PC. 

In September, the Iameco tablet PC, pronounced "I am eco", will be launched onto the European market. It is the first touch screen computer to gain the European Union's Ecolabel certificate. 

Created by Irish MicroPro, who will also be unveiling a laptop version of the Green PC, the new Iameco has the following list of impressive energy efficient design specifications:-

  • A carbon footprint 70 per cent smaller than a conventional desktop computer and monitor
  • 20 per cent of it's materials can easily be re-used in other computers
  • 78 per cent of it's components can be recycled
  • The PC casing is made from wood!
Ecolabel criteria dictates that a product cannot contain 30 grams of one polymer, so the Micro Plus buys offcuts of timber that are sustainably sourced from European furniture makers, which are then transported back to the factory in Galway, Ireland, to build the computer casing with. How cool is that?

Individual components can also be easily upgraded, giving the tablet an estimated lifespan of 10 years, a considerable increase on the three to five year lifespan of most modern computers. Furthermore, the machine's standard components i.e. memory cards and processors etc., are mostly halogen-free containing no lead, mercury, PVC, plastic or flame retardants.

Already on sale in Ireland, the Iameco will be launched throughout Europe during the ELECTRONICS Goes Green conference in Berlin this September. Priced from €850 plus VAT, with an additional software cost of €100, it may take some time before it becomes affordable to the average consumer but will undoubtedly become less expensive over time, if demand increases significantly enough.

A business that replaced all it's old PC's with these new Green PC's would ultimately improve it's overall energy efficiency and lower it's carbon footprint. I think consumers who can afford the Iameco will want to buy it purely because, with it's buffed and shiny wooden casing, it looks so cool! A hybrid PC that is at once organic and synthetic. If PC's were given EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) ratings then this one would definitely be awarded an 'A' + for it's compact, energy efficient design and overall low carbon impact. Let's face it, only the Irish could invent a wooden computer!

Post By Paul Patane for Just EPC

Monday, 13 August 2012

Landlords Make The Switch To Energy Efficiency

More Landlords are warming to energy efficiency as the wheels of sustainability continue to turn.

European Building directives now state that by 2016 all properties new or old must be carbon neutral in order to be sold, rented or put up for market. While the Energy Performance Certificate has been around since 2007, many Landlords have not really taken on board the necessity for a low carbon property and hitherto, seen it as more of an inconvenience and costly exercise to have an energy efficient re-fit of a property.

However, times are changing rapidly and now landlords, like many homeowners, are seeing the benefits of sustainable energy practices and energy efficient design in their properties. New research indicates that more and more landlords are now carrying out green home improvements.

The National Landlords Association (NLA) found that 51% of property owners in the buy to let market have undertaken energy efficient upgrades to two of their properties, with a further 12% making changes to five or more.

Landlords are very sensibly taking advantage of government grants such as Warm Front, the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) and Community energy Saving Programme (CERP) before they are stopped on 31 st December this year. Warm Front offers heating and insulation measures for people who own their own home or are private renters on income support or disability allowance.

CERT offers free or minimal cost energy efficiency upgrades such as loft or cavity wall insulation from some of Britain’s largest energy companies. All properties can potentially be helped under this scheme, although priority is given to the elderly or those on low incomes.

The Green Deal, set to launch on the residential market in October, will be the new initiative that replaces these schemes, offering energy efficiency improvements to homeowners by way of a loan that is repayable via their energy bills.

All rented properties must now have an accompanying Landlord EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) that details exactly how energy efficient a property is, after a survey carried out by a registered energy assessor. An EPC rating between 'A' to 'G' is then given in accordance with the findings. A sheet of attached recommendations accompanies the certificate and details ways in which money and energy can be saved, via the implementation of energy efficient equipment such as as LED light bulbs, an upgraded boiler, loft insulation and solar pv technology, to name but a few.

It makes sense for landlords to really make the effort in improving their properties on the basis of these results, as it will ultimately make their tenants happier owing to increased comfort and reduced energy bills as well as improving the market value of the property. More and more renters today are looking to move somewhere that is energy efficient and cost effective so a property with a higher EPC grade will be ultimately more attractive, than it's counterpart with an unhealthily low grade.

Post For Just EPC by Paul Patane

Friday, 10 August 2012

No More CO2 'Leeks' As New Welsh Homes Set To Go Green

John Griffiths, the Environment Minister, has just launched a consultation on tougher building regulations, aimed at improving the energy efficiency levels of new homes in Wales.

The projections for the impact the regulations will have, show a 40% reduction on 2010 levels of carbon emissions in new homes from January 2015 or a 25% reduction from 2014.

In the UK, new build homes are significantly more energy efficient in comparison to older properties. As new homes feature energy efficiency measures like better insulation, lower voltage lighting, A-rated appliances and renewable technologies such as solar and underground heat pumps, they are in effect more environmentally sustainable and economic to maintain and run.

The annual home savings, according to the NHBC Foundation and Zero Carbon Hub, certainly mount up in a new build home, the average saving being around 55% on gas and electricity, which equates to over £1,300, with today’s current market prices.

Most new builds these days are built to at least Code Level 3 of the Code for Sustainable Homes. All builds are now required to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) before being able to go on the market, which allocates a rating on a scale of 'A' for the most efficient and cost-effective to 'G' the worst offending. This shows the new owner how energy efficient the property is and also has suggestions on ways to improve the rating via the implementation of various energy efficient strategies and technologies. This now applies to commercial as well as domestic property.

It looks like sustainability is the new watch word on the property market and green building design is now fast becoming the norm across the whole construction industry. With a recent European strategy announced last week to 'Green' the construction industry and make energy efficient practice a standard across the board, environmentally friendly buildings will soon become the norm across the UK and the rest of the European Union.

Post By Paul Patane for Just EPC

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Next Steps For Green Deal Revealed By DECC

A press notice released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) sets out the next stage of the Green Deal.

Four major steps were published today by the DECC outlining new measures to be put in place over the Green Deal, the governments long awaited initiative, to help bring Britain’s housing stock up to energy efficient specifications, via a series of loans, paid back by the consumer through their energy bills. 
  • £7m loan to The Green Deal Finance Company to help ensure it is ready to offer finance to Green Deal Providers in early 2013. 
  • HM Treasury announces that Green Deal will be an early candidate for the use of infrastructure guarantees.
  • Green Deal registration opens today allowing organisations to begin the Green Deal authorisation. process. 
  • The new Green Deal Quality Mark will show who is authorised and protect consumers. 
The £7m loan from the DECC to The Green Deal Finance Company (TGDFC) was agreed today and this will allow the TGDFC to continue developing its offer of low cost finance to be made available in early 2013. Green Deal Providers will be able to access finance through TGDFC, allowing them to offer low cost finance packages to consumers upgrading their homes under the Green Deal. 
Furthermore, from today, the register for Green Deal Providers, Assessors and Installers will also open. The register will give the seal of approval to businesses that successfully complete the Green Deal authorisation process. 
It is now necessary for all authorised Green Deal Providers, Assessors and Installers to display the new Green Deal Quality Mark, demonstrating their compliance with the required Green Deal standards. This is essential for protecting customers from any unscrupulous traders. This happened with fake Energy Performance Certificate(EPC) issues back in 2011 and now all EPC Assessors have to be registered and the EPC, whether commercial or domestic must have a valid code number to prevent this occurrence happening again. Therefore, only registered and authorised businesses will be able to use this new Green Deal Quality Mark. 
Greg Barker, the Energy and Climate Change Minister said: 
” I’m delighted to announce a number of important developments for the Green Deal today. The opening of the Green Deal register will enable businesses to start becoming Green Deal authorised and the Green Deal Quality Mark will show they have met our standards. Crucially, this will protect consumers, who will know that anyone displaying the Quality Mark has been through the required process to become authorised.” 
The loan we have agreed with The Green Deal Finance Company will help them to undertake essential development and be ready to offer finance to Green Deal Providers in early 2013.” 
For those businesses that want to become Green Deal Providers, it is possible now to apply directly online to become authorised. Furthermore, accredited certification bodies will be able to submit the details of Assessors and Installers to be authorised. 
There is new guidance now on the DECC website that explains the requirements for achieving a Green Deal Quality Mark in order to become an authorised Provider, complementing existing guidance on how to become an authorised Assessor or Installer. 
So there are plenty of measures in place to ensure that the right people will be doing the right job. While this is comforting, news from a recent report by You Gov for electrical company Rexel, that shows 81% of Brits who received energy bills are clueless as to how much money they are spending each year on energy, is less than encouraging. Without increased public awareness, it will not matter how safe the Green Deal is for consumers if they are still unaware that they are losing money as a result of bad energy practices and out of date, inefficient equipment.

Post by Paul Patane for Just EPC

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Supermarket Giant Sainsbury's Boasts Largest Solar Array In Europe

Sainsbury's reveals total Solar installation figures for almost 170 of it's stores.

Over 69,500 solar panels have, to date been installed on the roofs of 169 Sainsbury's stores nationwide. The company now has 16MW of solar capacity across the 169 of its 572 UK supermarkets, collectively managing the largest solar array in Europe.

When combined, the solar panels would cover 24 football pitches, reducing the overall carbon emissions of the company by approximately 6.800 tonnes a year. How much they have actually spent on this, Sainsbury's would not say but according to Business Green, a spokeswoman from the company said that the solar roll-out is set to continue as the company looks to make good on its '20 by 20 Sustainability Plan', that contains the pledges to reduce operational carbon emissions by 30 per cent against 2050 levels by 2020.

Justin King, chief executive of Sainsbury's, said : "It makes sense for us - it's good for the environment and for our business and we are actively looking to install more panels." He went on to say that, "Supermarkets have the equivalent of football fields on their roofs, many of them underutilised (and now) is the perfect time to turn that space into something positive.

It is always good to learn of a large commercial operation like Sainsbury's investing in energy efficiency. The fact that they are continuing to re-invest in solar technology is great for the solar industry across the board, as it displays that the company must be seeing a return on their investment, large commercial enterprises being unlikely to continue such a project if no profit was forthcoming.

Furthermore, Sainsbury's have just announced a major programme to install ground source heat pump’s at roughly 100 of its stores, in an effort to curb emissions from heating and cooling. It would be interesting to see the results of a Commercial EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) for one of the supermarket buildings after solar and ground source heating were introduced.

At the moment, it looks like Sainsbury's are set for straight A's and hopefully their sterling efforts to tackle climate change and be a more sustainable and responsible corporate entity, will echo through the commercial sector. As their competition say "Every little helps!"

Post by Paul Patane for Just EPC

Friday, 3 August 2012

Europe Unveils Strategy And £120 Billion In Incentives To Turn Construction Industry Green

European Commission unveils new strategy to incorporate energy efficiency as a standard in all areas of construction industry.

Standard design and construction practices are to be put in place around Europe, to create a level playing field for construction companies to work in other member states around the EU. The emphasis will be on energy efficient building design and practice, with a a package of £120 billion in loans available from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Renovation and maintenance of buildings and the promotion of mutual recognition of sustainable construction systems and the improvement of resource efficiency will be paramount in the aims of the agenda. The strategy has been unveiled to take advantage of the potential of low energy buildings and to help restore sustainable growth.

The European Commissioner, Vice President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: "In the current severe economic and social crisis, low energy buildings are safe and viable investments for society and private investors. The construction sector should see this as an opportunity to innovate and attract new talent. New technologies offer major potential, not only for new houses, but also for renovating millions of existing buildings to make them highly energy efficient in line with the EU 2020 objectives. Let's not miss this opportunity. The construction sector can become a driver of sustainable growth.”

Efforts to improve energy efficiency and to integrate renewable energy technologies in the construction industry, have been progressing slowly in Europe, especially in renovating or retro-fitting old buildings and this will give a much needed boost to that area. British Commercial building stock is responsible for a significant amount of our total carbon emissions and retro-fitting these old buildings is an important step towards bringing us closer to our emission target goals. With demand for Commercial EPCs (Energy Performance Certificate) on the rise across the board, as a result of legislative strictures now in place to ensure energy efficient building standards and practices are enforced, the construction industry has already experienced operational and behavioural changes in the UK.

This new strategy is encouraging, as it sets out a clear statement of intent from Europe to make sustainable building design and energy efficient technologies a new standard for the construction industry. This will help significantly in the battle against climate change by the provision and maintenance of low to almost-zero carbon buildings and set up a European workforce of newly skilled labourers, trained in the field of energy efficient building design and renewable technologies.