Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Wildlife and marine energy

Hey everybody. Sorry for the prolonged absence, but I am currently at a UN convention on endangered species (CITES), fighting battles on tigers, elephants, rhinos and a whole bunch of other stuff. Suffice to say that it is exhausting and there is not much time for writing blogs and communicating with the outside world!

I don;t want to talk about CITES just yet, as it is all ongoing, and I don't want to interfere with the outcomes, but there is a lot of stuff in the press. Just google CITES DOHA followed by tuna, ivory or tigers and you will see some of the main issues.

In other news, the Crown Estate in the UK just issued leases for seabed sites which could eventually see up to 1.2 GW of marine and tidal power developed in Scotland. This is by far the largest marine energy programme now underway in the world, and while it is still in its early stages, it gives the UK a chance to build on its world leading position in marine renewable energy. There is a press release from RenewablesUK here.

There is an interesting link though between wildlife and renewable energy. As pressure on our seas and coastlines grows for essential renewable energy deployment, we must be ever more rigorous and sensitive about protecting the creatures of the sea. Sadly, these programmes will inevitably lead to a loss of habitat, so I would like to see these developments go hand in hand with a systematic network of marine reserves and no-take zones, covering up to 20% of the UK's waters. This would benefit wildlife and people – both by providing beauty and wildlife, and by enhancing fish stocks and regeneration of biodiversity.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Pathetic UKIP party broadcast

Just saw a UKIP party political broadcast on Channel 4. Okay, I actually only saw half of it, as I got bored and turned off, but I got the idea. Suffice to say it was pretty pathetic. It centered around wind farms, and how bad they are. I guess that the point is to try and win disaffected Tory voters in rural seats.

They trotted out a lot of the old nonsense about wind farms, clumsily relayed through a bunch of old men talking to camera. 'It's the inefficiency that gets me', said one man, without qualification. Inefficiency of what? What does that even mean in an energy system where the fuel is free? Does he seriously resent the wind energy that gets away? Or does he mean capacity factor (the amount of time it runs at full power), which in the UK is usually around 25%? In any case, since the generators only get paid for the electricity they produce, it is not exactly inefficiency.

Then there were about three people who said they thought wind turbines were ugly. Well, that is a matter of choice. Personally I quite like them. I don't want them on every piece of land, but that is really not on the cards. I travel all over this country, and to be honest you rarely see wind farms. In the future most turbines in the UK will be offshore in any case.

The next problem was the cost. Okay, I agree that we need to make wind power cheaper, and there are innovations happening in this department all the time. Already costs have fallen around 40% in the last 15 years, and they will likely fall further in the next. I did find it ironic though that UKIP is so outraged by the public subsidies paid to wind farms. I haven't heard a peep from them about the bank bailout which was several orders of magnitude higher. Also let us not forget that the fossil industry is also heavily subsidised, both now ($250 billion a year worldwide according to the UN) and in the past (coal, oil and nuclear were all developed as strategic state-run industries, with the costs grand-fathered in).

Also, perhaps UKIP should look at the Danish example. The Danish government spent $1.2 billion building up its wind industry in the 1990s... now it is one of the world leaders and its wind industry generates $2.7 billion a year!!!!! The UK's offshore wind and wave power industries are in a similar position to Danish wind 10-15 years ago.... let's hope UKIP don't get to pull the purse strings....

And let's not forget that it was Godfrey Bloom from UKIP who only a few weeks ago described the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior II as one of the most truly fascist ships since WWII, and congratulated the French for blowing up the original boat in 1989, killing a man. I'm not sure what relation Greenpeace bears to the National Socialists, but I guess somewhere in Godfrey's brain there is one. Glorification of terrorism aside it was a stupid thing to say... but then that's UKIP for you – inefficient, expensive, poorly thought out and ugly.

Monday, 1 March 2010

The revolution starts here!

Solar panels have arrived! Yes yes yes. The future starts here. This is the single greatest step in the revolution - ever!

Okay, so that is not really true, but that is a little bit how it feels. I am now the proud owner of a beautiful new photovoltaic array on the roof of my house. It is a small system, but it should produce around 900 kWh a year, enough for about 65% of our electricity. The panels were assembled locally, so green jobs for everyone... and they will earn me about £420 a year. Not only that, but I am filled with a warm and wholly inaccurate sense of self sufficiency. That is worth £3900 any day.

Here are a couple of photos taken from the scaffolding leading up to the roof. Actually, I am thinking of keeping the scaffolding as the view from the top is amazing. We were up having a beer, and London is looking particularly beautiful at the moment.

So far the only downside is the cat, who has been most affronted by all the builders and electricians. Still I explained that this would probably offset her carbon emissions for the next couple of years and she is coming round.

Anyway, the final commissioning should take place in the next few days, and then I can reclaim my grants from the council and government. Thanks Camden. Once the electricity starts flowing I will be sure to report on the performance of the Sharp Solar system.