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Friday, 30 December 2011

Don't count on us for more supply says OPEC

Lundin petroleum discover huge oil field

Lundin petroleum have apparently discovered one of the largest oil fields in the North Sea

Feldheim's renewable future

Feldheim, a village of just 145 people, is already putting into practice Germany’s vision of a future powered entirely by renewable energy.

FELDHEIM, Germany (AP) — This tiny village of 37 gray homes and farm buildings clustered along the main road in a wind-swept corner of rural eastern Germany seems an unlikely place for a revolution.

Yet environmentalists, experts and politicians from El Salvador to Japan to South Africa have flocked here in the past year to learn how Feldheim, a village of just 145 people, is already putting into practice Germany’s vision of a future powered entirely by renewable energy.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government passed legislation in June setting the country on course to generate a third of its power through renewable sources — such as wind, solar, geothermal and bioenergy — within a decade, reaching 80 percent by 2050, while creating jobs, increasing energy security and reducing harmful emissions.

The goals are among the world’s most ambitious, and expensive, and other industrialized nations from the U.S. to Japan are watching to see whether transforming into a nation powered by renewable energy sources can really work.

“Germany can’t afford to fail, because the whole world is looking at the German model and asking, can Germany move us to new business models, new infrastructure?,” said Jeremy Rifkin, a U.S. economist who has advised the European Union and Merkel.

In June, the nation passed the 20 percent mark for drawing electric power from a mix of wind, solar and other renewables. That compares with about 9 percent in the United States or Japan — both of which rely heavily on hydroelectric power, an energy source that has long been used.

Expanding renewables depends on the right mix of resources, as well as government subsidies and investment incentive — and a willingness by taxpayers to shoulder their share of the burden. Germans currently pay a 3.5 euro cent per kilowatt-hour tax, roughly euro157 ($205) per year for a typical family of four, to support research and investment in and subsidize the production and consumption of energy from renewable sources.

That allows for homeowners who install solar panels on their rooftops, or communities like Feldheim that build their own biogas plants, to be paid above-market prices for selling back to the grid, to ensure that their investment at least breaks even.

Critics, like the Institute for Energy Research, based in Washington, D.C., maintain such tariffs put an unfair burden of expanding renewables squarely on the taxpayer. At the same time, to make renewable energy work on the larger scale, Germany will have to pour billions into infrastructure, including updating its grid.

Key to success of the transformation will be getting the nation’s powerful industries on board, to drive innovation in technology and create jobs. According to the Environment Ministry, overall investment in renewable energy production equipment more than doubled to euro29.4 billion ($38.44 billion) in 2011. Solid growth in the sector is projected through the next decade.

Some 370,000 people in Germany now have jobs in the renewable sector, more than double the number in 2004, a point used as proof that tax payers’ investment is paying off.

Feldheim has zero unemployment — despite its tiny size — compared with roughly 30 percent in other villages in the economically depressed state of Brandenburg, which views investments in renewables as a ticket for a brighter future. Most residents work in the plant that produces biogas — fuel made by the breakdown of organic material such as plants or food waste — or maintain the wind and solar parks that provide the village’s electricity.

“The energy revolution is already taking place right here,” says Werner Frohwitter, spokesman for the Energiequelle company that helped set up and run Feldheim’s energy concept.

But it’s not only in the country. Earlier this month in Berlin, officials unveiled a prototype of a self-sustaining, energy-efficient home, built from recycled materials and complete with electric vehicles that can be charged in its garage.

The aim of the prototype home is to produce twice as much energy as is used by a family of four — chosen from a willing pool of volunteers who will be selected to live in the home for 15 months — through a combination of solar photovoltaics and energy management technology, in order to show the technology already exists to allow people to be energy self-sufficient.

“We want to show people that already today it is possible to live completely from renewable energy,” said German Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer as the project, dubbed “Efficiency House Plus,” was unveiled. The house is part of a wider euro1.2 million ($1.57 million) project investing in energy-efficient buildings.

“The Efficiency House Plus will set standards that can be adopted by the majority in the short term,” Ramsauer told The Associated Press. “The basic principle is that the house produces more energy than needed to live. The extra energy is then used to charge electric-powered cars and bicycles or sold back to the public grid.”

Germany’s four leading car makers are also participating in the project with BMW AG, Daimler AG, Volkswagen AG and Opel, which is part of Buick’s parent company, General Motors Co., each making an E-car for use by in the home.

Such strong cooperation between Germany’s industrial sector coupled with a political landscape that emphasizes stability and a heightened public ecological sensibility makes Germany fertile ground to lead the way in the transformation from a post-carbon economy to one run on renewable energy.

“Germany has the most robust industrial economy per capita. When you talk about industrial revolution, that’s Germany. It’s German technology, it’s German IT, it’s German commutation,” said Rifkin, who outlines what he calls the “The Third Industrial Revolution,” in a newly released book of the same title that explains how the economies in the future could swap fossil fuels for renewable energies and still maintain growth.

Robert Pottmann, an asset manager with Munich Re, one of the world’s biggest reinsurers, says the company seeks to invest about euro2.5 billion ($3.27 billion) in the next few years in renewable energy assets such as “wind farms, solar projects or maybe new electricity grids.”

Alan Simpson, an independent energy and climate adviser from Britain who visited Feldheim as part of a wider tour of Germany last month to see what the renewable revolution looks like up close said it was inspiring to view what is being accomplished on the ground.

“It’s great to think about Germany delivering on everything that we are being told in Great Britain is impossible,” Simpson said.

Amid the excitement, there is also an awareness of the real need for the German experiment to succeed.

“If Germany can’t pull this off,” said Rifkin. “We don’t have a plan B.”

SF Gate

Biofuels the biggest driver of land grabbing

Satellite studies reveal groundwater depletion around the world

Olivier Rech predicts oil decline shortly after 2015

Original source: Le Monde

Olivier Rech is a top Energy Fund Advisor and oil and gas analyst at the International Energy Advisor. In a recent interview he predicted a sharp decline in oil production somewhere between now and 2015. He is just one of numerous oil industry experts who have forecast an imminent decline in the global extraction of crude oil. He says that outside of OPEC we face an annual decline of 1 to 2 million barrels per day (bpd). This is close to the 5% annual decline predicted by Royal Dutch Shell.

The situation with OPEC is less easy to discern, but both Barclays and Goldmann Sachs believe that OPEC's figures for spare production capacity are a lot lower than they claim.

Since 2005 oil production has been on a plateau of 82m bpd. Rech believes that an increase in this figure will be next to impossible and as a result the first real oil tensions will begin to appear somewhere between 2013 and 2015. After that, there will be a decline in all forms of liquid fuel between 2015 and 2020.

German solar power surges by 60% in 2011

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Bolt From The Blue: Electric car sets new speed record

Who says electric cars can't perform? The students at Brigham Young University have just proved you wrong:

The South Bristol Link Road

The South Bristol Link Road is a project that takes us back to the bad old days of the last, Thatcherite, Tory government according to George Monbiot. Personally I agree with him, and so do many in those areas which will be affected by it.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Effect of earlier springs on species

Will earlier springs throw nature out of step?

9 February 2010

The recent trend towards earlier UK springs and summers has been accelerating, according to a study published today in the scientific journal Global Change Biology.

The collaborative study, involving scientists from 12 UK research institutions, universities and conservation organisations, is the most comprehensive and rigorous assessment so far of long-term changes in the seasonal timing (phenology) of biological events across marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments in the UK.

Led by Dr Stephen Thackeray and Professor Sarah Wanless of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the research gathers together more than 25,000 long-term phenology trends for 726 species of plants and animals. More than 80% of trends between 1976 and 2005 indicate earlier seasonal events. The study considers a diverse array of organisms including plankton, plants, insects, amphibians, fish, birds and mammals. On average, the seasonal timing of reproduction and population growth has become earlier by more than 11 days over the whole period, but change has accelerated in recent decades.

The research shows that there are large differences between species in the rate at which seasonal events have shifted. Changes have been most rapid for many organisms at the bottom of food chains, such as plants and the animals that feed upon them. Predators have shown slower overall changes in the seasonal timing of their life cycle events. However, the seasonal timing of reproduction is often matched to the time of year when food supply increases, so that offspring receive enough food to survive. A key question is whether animals higher up the food chain will react to the faster rates of change in the plants and animals they feed upon, or whether they will fail to do so and become less successful at rearing their offspring.

Dr Thackeray said, “This is the first time that data have been analysed with enough consistency to allow a meaningful comparison of patterns of changing seasonal timing in the UK among such a diverse range of plants and animals.”

Professor Wanless said, “It is important to realise that this analysis doesn't identify which predator-prey relationships are most at risk of disruption due to changes in timing. What it does do is highlight that the recorded changes need urgent investigation, particularly for species with high economic or conservation importance.”

Co-author Richard Smithers of the Woodland Trust said, “Phenology is ‘the canary in the cage’. The results of this new study make real our changing climate and its potential to have profound consequences for the complex web of life.”

The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and carried out by staff from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Woodland Trust, Butterfly Conservation, University of Cambridge, Rothamsted Research, Marine Scotland, Royal Holloway University of London, Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Sciences, Freshwater Biological Association, People’s Trust for Endangered Species, British Trust for Ornithology, and the National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit University of Worcester. Two of the research team, originally based at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, have since moved to Poznan University of Life Sciences in Poland and the Natural Environmental Research Institute in Denmark.

Related links

» Lawes Agricultural Trust - Rothamsted Insect Survey
» Trophic level asynchrony in rates of phenological change for marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments Global Change Biology (10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02165.x)
» Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
» Marine Scotland
» Butterfly Conservation
» Royal Holloway
» University of Cambridge
» Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Sciences
» Freshwater Biological Association
» People’s Trust for Endangered Species
» British Trust for Ornithology
» National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit
» Woodland Trust


» James Bell and Richard Harrington

Notes to Editors

Author affiliations:
Thackeray, Burthe, Botham, Carvalho, Dawson, I. Jones, Roy, Scott, Winfield and Wanless - Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. Sparks and Frederiksen were working at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at the start of this project and are now based at Poznan University of Life Sciences, Poland and the Natural Environmental Research Institute, Denmark respectively. Bacon - Marine Scotland, Aberdeen. Bell and Harrington – Rothamsted Research. Brereton – Butterfly Conservation. Bright – Royal Holloway, University of London. Clutton-Brock – University of Cambridge. Edwards and Johns – Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Sciences. Elliott – Freshwater Biological Association. J. Jones – People’s Trust for Endangered Species. Leech – British Trust for Ornithology. Smith – National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit, University of Worcester. Smithers – Woodland Trust.

The analysis was funded through a Natural Environment Research Council Centre for Ecology and Hydrology Environmental Change Integrating Fund project SPACE (Shifting Phenology: Attributing Change across Ecosystems).
The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) is the UK's Centre of Excellence for integrated research in the land and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere. CEH is part of the Natural Environment Research Council, employs more than 450 people at five major sites in England, Scotland and Wales, hosts over 150 PhD students, and has an overall budget of about £35m. CEH tackles complex environmental challenges to deliver practicable solutions so that future generations can benefit from a rich and healthy environment.

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funds world-class science, in universities and its own research centres, that increases knowledge and understanding of the natural world. It is tackling major environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity and natural hazards. NERC receives around £400m a year from the UK government's science budget, which is used to provide independent research and training in the environmental sciences.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Interconnected European Offshore Wind Grid Will Save Billions of Euros

Offshore grids, connecting North and Baltic Sea wind farms to electricity consumers, will be substantially cheaper to build than expected, says a new report from the European Wind Energy Association:[tt_news]=1914&tx_ttnews[backPid]=259&cHash=829f8ee3f90677341d4e086fc2e926e0

Monday, 26 September 2011

Renewable Futures Event, Bath, 9th November

There's a really impressive looking renewables sector event and trade fair happening in Bath, not far away from me, in November. You can access the website here:

Thursday, 15 September 2011

EcoVelocity: The UK's First Green Motor Show

So far I've been a bit sceptical of the green motoring scene, but I was pleasantly surprised when I went along to EcoVelocity. Read all about it here:

Thursday, 1 September 2011

British Academics Hope To Mimic Volcanic Cooling Effect on Climate

This sounds really bizarre, I'd like to think it will work, but I bet it doesn't...

Solyndra goes into administration

I was writing an article about this company not so long, now, sadly, it's gone bankrupt. Almost certainly due to the recession and the flood of cheap foreign imports...

DuPont wins new metalization paste customers in Europe

Enphase Micro-inverters outperform expectations

Some interesting information about Enphase microinverters courtesy of Renewable Energy Focus:

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Flying is a climate crime. Blunt, but true.

It was a harsh decision to make, but when I first read about the damage that airlines do the atmosphere in terms of climate change, I decided not to fly again if I could help it. That was in 1990, and I still stand by that decision. Read my article on, and you'll know more about why I made it.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Some Top Eco-Stories

Leaders promise to reduce carbon emissions while ensuring that a new giant oil pipeline called Keystone XL is built to serve expansion of the Alberta tar oil sands, the most carbon laden oil in the world -

RBS funding the most destructive process on earth: tar sands exploitation in Canada

China expands its nuclear power programme, unfazed by Fukushima

Food prices reach record highs in drought-stricken Africa

Nigerian drinking water stricken with benzene at 900 times above the safety limit

The Mediterranean Sea is very, very sick

Porritt versus Monbiot on Nuclear Power

Friday, 5 August 2011

Plastic solar panels?

Solar PV - its not just about silicon! There are plastic solar panels too and nanotechnology has also enabled to PV cells to be printed on to paper.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Is Jatropha the way forward for biodiesel?

Jatropha, an otherwise worthless weed growing on waste ground in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world, has been hailed as the new problem-free biodiesel crop. However, it's not quite so simple as all that...

Friday, 8 July 2011

What are CIGS solar pv panels?

Basically CIGS is a kind of thin film solar PV panel. At first they weren't that popular compared to ordinary monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels, but a Germany company has recently improved the efficiency to around 20 percent and now they are starting to take off, especially considering that an American company has improved the design so that they are now taking the form of tubular based PV that can be mounted on any roof regardless of orientation.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The government's green record so far

Sorry? Was that someone else who wrote the title of this post? What 'green record'? A year after the coalition government came to power promising to be the 'greenest government ever' they have, in retrospect, done lamentably badly. I will be commenting further on this matter shortly in an article for, but for the moment why not consider what Jonathan Porritt has to say on the subject? It makes for grim reading:

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Cuts in Feed In Tariff's

There is considerable irritation within the UK renewables sector at the moment concerning cuts in government support for the Feed-in Tariff's Scheme (FiTS) following a review by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The cuts will entail a large reduction in the FiTS rates for systems over 50 kilowatts (kW) with those over 250 kW receiving a mere 8.5 pence per kilowatt hour (kWH). These cuts constitute a 70 percent reduction in the rates of return from FiTS and have been received as representing a significant threat to the industry with much of the medium to large scale solar industry facing an uncertain future.

Ben Warren, head of renewable energy at Ernst & Young, has been quoted as saying that: "Revisiting the feed-in tariff at such an early stage of its existence has undermined investor confidence not only in the UK solar industry, but potentially in the wider UK renewables market."

However, the Solar Trade Association in association with Ernst & Young have recently released a report claiming that a slight increase in the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) rate for installations larger than 50kW could bring about a return on investment sufficient to attract financial support and that therefore these cuts could have been avoided. The UK Solar PV Industry Outlook Report also calculates that if silicon prices continue to decline to around 17 percent, it is possible that the UK solar sector could see grid-parity with fossil fuels by 2017.

The STA is calling for informed decision making based on a thorough and accurate analysis of the potential and role for solar in the UK. The STA argues that Government policy must be based on up-to-date cost inputs, full assessment of benefits, and full consideration of strategic and practical arguments.


Low Carbon Economy

Solar Power Portal

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Bristol's Green Capital Plans

Last week I went to a Green Leadership conference organised, in part, by my good friend David Saunders who is right in the drivers seat with regards to green issues and renewable energy in the city. It was certainly an inspiring event I can tell you.

But of course, David wasn't the only inspiring personage to appear at this event. The beauty of these things is that such events draw lots of people together, each with a whole set of very good ideas and eager to join in and help build a green future.

For those who don't live in Bristol, I can tell you that this city is vibrant and exciting, particularly with regard to the renewable energy and sustainability sectors which are rapidly becoming major growth industries in the region. Furthermore, in 2008 Bristol was the only UK city to be shortlisted for the European Green Capital Award, a scheme which recognises and rewards those cities making efforts to improve their local environment, economy and quality of life for urban populations. We narrowly missed winning the award for Green Capital City 2013, but we're having another go this year, hoping to win the 2014 prize. And that means there's lots of exciting things going on in the city, as usual.

The Green Leadership conference is essentially a successor to last year's Zero Carbon Bristol event and I personally found the conference to be very productive and truly inspirational in terms of the commitment and breadth of ideas and imagination displayed by those who attended.

In the forefront of this, as to be expected, is Bristol City Council. The first speaker therefore was council leader Barbara Janke who explained to the audience what the council is doing for sustainainability in the city. Her talk included lots of interesting references to smart meters, smart grids, wind turbines, a neighbourhood governance scheme intended to try and motivate Bristol's populace into making their lives greener and so on. It seems that the council is involved in some £23 million worth of sustainability projects, so that's not too bad really is it?.

Furthermore, David revealed later on in the day that the council is also planning 30 percent tree cover in the city and a level of 40 percent of Bristol's energy to be drawn from renewable energy sources. Another speaker from Bristol City Council, Marika, told the audience that two more wind turbines are planned and that the council are about to modernise the city's entire street lighting. I've read about this elsewhere and it appears that this particular project involves reverting back to white, as opposed to orange, lighting, as its more sustainable.

Bristol University are getting in on the act too. At least two departments are working towards a 50 percent sourcing of energy supplies from solar PV.

The Bristol Power Co-operative are working towards a solar allotment idea based on shared roofs. This would be great for those who are least available to afford solar power and would be a real solution to those who routinely suffer from energy poverty, particularly the elderly. The co-operative wants to run this programme through community centres so that entire streets can be switched over to solar PV at a stretch. Furthermore, it seems that some local companies are already interested, including AS Solar and Triodos Bank.

Clean Slate is an organisation that works with low-skilled people including ex-offenders, one idea being that they could be re-trained to become solar power installers. I certainly think there is going to be a demand for this as the green revolution speeds up and its also a great way of helping the local economy and assisting those who, for various reasons, haven't been able to help themselves.

There are many more organisations in Bristol actively helping the city to become a greener city. Low Carbon South West for example are actively involved and Transition Bristol are looking at ways in which Bristol's food supplies can become more localised, thereby helping to guard against climate change and the effects of oil depletion on transportation.

But there are many more smaller and less obvious groups within and around the city too. So when it comes to environmental matters, Bristol is certainly helping to lead the way.

Solar Power for Social Housing

I've recently had the good fortune to start working with a company called ePV helping to write their marketing materials.

ePV is a company that operates as a funder, developer and EPC. That stands for 'Engineering, Procurement and Construction' by the way. They work within the solar PV sector specifically in partnership with UK social housing, funding and delivering large scale solar PV programmes across housing association and local authority social housing stocks. This works by way of the government's Feed-in Tariff scheme (FiTS) which was launched by the government in 2010 as a means of encouraging investment in domestic renewable energy, primarily solar power.

As many will know by now, FiTS operates on the 'rent-a-roof' principle. The householder essentially gets paid for supplying energy to the national grid. The solar PV panels generate electricity, some or most of which provides energy for lights, appliances etc, but excess electricity is then exported to the national grid.

Recently some large installers have started to take advantage of this by using the scheme as a means of providing solar PV to those who are least able to afford it. This means that the panels are provided and installed at low cost or free of charge. The householder enjoys reduced electricity bills but the FiTS payment is paid to the installer as a payment for the installation of the panels. The model is ideally suited to PV provision in social housing, which is where companies such as PV comes in.

I'll be putting a link to the ePV website when it's up and running, which should be very shortly as I've just submitted some of the content for it.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Solar energy articles

I've just completed a series of three articles for, a really good website which has masses of information on solar energy and solar panels, to which I've just contributed I might add. The first article (links above) explores the subject of whether you should accept the various offers of free and low-cost solar panels offered by some solar panel installers or whether you should buy your own. The more favourable option seems to be that of buying your own as there is much more money to be made through the government's Feed-In Tariff's scheme.

The second article is more general, looking at the pro's and con's of installing solar panels. It's a very good idea, especially considering the savings to be made in the long term, but there are some things to be aware of.

Finally, a much more useful general article covering the do's and don't's of installing panels, as well as a short guide to how solar panels work and some useful links.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Batteries that run on sea water

It's true! A team from Stanford University is attempting to develop batteries that run on sea water, or more specifically entropic energy which can be extracted from the difference in salinity between fresh water and sea water. The process uses ions of sodium and chlorine, of which there are more in sea water. They use fresh water to start off with. The fresh water is charged and then subsequently drained and replaced by sea water. The charge is held inside one of the two electrodes which is made of manganese dioxide (the other electrode being made of silver). There is no need for a membrane as in other new types of battery. I've written an article on this for AskTheExperts which you can find here:

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Renewable energy courses website

Here's some more details for those interested in training and courses in renewable energy, on the Oil & Gas Soft Skills website:

Do you know that…

  • Investment in new renewable power capacity in both 2008 and 2009 represented over half of total global investment in new power generation?
  • Renewables comprised fully one quarter of global power capacity from all sources and delivered 18% of global electricity supply in 2009?
  • More money is being invested in new renewable energy capacity than in new fossil fuel capacity?
  • More than half of the existing renewable power capacity is now in developing countries?
Come and be part of the fastest growing energy business in the world today. The demand for renewable energy is drawing global attention and the industry's future is bright. Renewable energy represents a tremendous opportunity for professionals looking to start or grow their business.

In partnership with RENAC AG of Germany the Renewable Energy Academy of West Africa is committed to building the required capacity for a sustainable industry by offering quality training programs across West Africa.

Overview of Renewable Energy (RE) and Energy Efficiency (EE) Technologies
  • Global market trends, market share and segments
  • System sizes, specifications and regulations
  • Funding schemes for Renewable energies
  • Case studies in funding schemes
Photovoltaics (PV) Systems
  • Basics of PV systems
  • Terms and definitions, peak power, cell types and efficiency, temperature sensitivity
  • Different technologies and components
  • Application of off-grid and grid-connected PV systems
  • Operations and maintenance issues for insurance and risk management
  • Developments in the global PV market
Introduction to Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
  • Background – Concept of CDM
  • Allowable projects
  • Project cycle
  • CDM gold standard
Renewable Energy Project Financing
  • Financial Analysis steps
  • Risk/Return Profile
  • Project Finance
  • Project due diligence
Wind Energy
  • The wind resource
  • Wind energy principles
  • Basics of wind energy power systems
  • Types of wind turbines – large/small; grid-tied/stand alone
  • Project assessment and yield calculation
  • Wind project planning and financing
  • Software overview
  • Wind energy global market development
Bioenergy & Biogas Plants
  • Basics of bioenergy
  • Biogas technology
  • Grid-connected plants
  • Small scale applications
  • Different production processes
  • Market development
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Software overview
  • Sources – eg rapeseed, jatropha
  • Production process
  • Applications and costs
  • Market development
  • Second generation biofuels
Lights and Appliances, Charge Controllers and Batteries
  • lights – efficacy and efficiency
  • DC and AC appliances
  • Charge controllers – functions and wiring
  • Battery – principles, types, wiring, sizing and safety
Project Economics Hybrid Systems
  • PVGIS Demonstration
  • Introduction to HOMER Software
  • Optimization of hybrid RE Systems
Off-grid Systems Practical Workshop & Site Visit
  • DC circuits
  • Measuring PV modules
  • System assembly and wiring
  • Comparison of power consumption and lighting options
  • Wind measurements – assessment of wind force and output of wind turbines

Start Date :Tue 12th Apr, 2011 Course Fee :$2150.00
Seating Capacity :30 Duration :4 Day(s)
Venue :
City :Accra

Further details at:

Courses in Renewable Energy

The following courses are now scheduled

Introduction to Renewable Energy Technologies, Berlin, Germany

Run by the Renewables Academy in Berlin, this course is aimed at those in the business, non-profit, public and academic sectors who wish to get a comprehensive introduction to renewable energy technologies, as well as those wishing to installing renewable energy systems in both urban or rural settings. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss their own projects. Ideal for newcomers to the industry. The course is aimed at an international audience and will be in English.

Dates: 18-20 May 2011

PDF giving course content and registrations details can be downloaded here

Solar Electricity Installation Course - Off-grid Applications, Berlin, Germany

This five-day intensive course on the design and installation stand-alone / off-grid solar electric systems (not grid-connected) is run by RENAC, the Renewables Academy in Berlin. The course is ideal for anyone who wants to install their own solar electric system, start a solar business or seek employment in the solar industry. The course will include numerous practical sessions. Participants will have the opportunity to develop their own projects. The course is aimed at an international audience and will be in English.

Dates: 2-6 May 2011

PDF giving course content and registrations details can be downloaded here

Earthscan is now launching the Earthscan Expert Series, a major new book series providing clear, practical information for people who want to work with environmentally friendly low-carbon technologies. From specific handbooks to more general guides, each highly illustrated title is essential reading for professionals keen to expand their skills base and take advantage of the low carbon revolution. More information at

Green Dragon Energy

tel: + 49 (0) 30 486 249 98 (Office/Berlin)



Earthscan Publishing

The Earthscan Expert series – a new series of books on renewable energy

Earthscan has launched the Earthscan Expert Series, a major new book series providing clear, practical information for people who want to work with environmentally friendly low-carbon technologies. From specific handbooks to more general guides, each highly illustrated title is essential reading for professionals keen to expand their skills base and take advantage of the low carbon revolution.

A 20% discount is available

To receive the 20% discount on all purchases type or paste the discount code GDE20 into the voucher code box in your Earthscan shopping cart when ordering.

You can see the contents, layout and samples pages of most of the books using the Google Preview facility.

SOLAR DOMESTIC WATER HEATING - a new publication in the Earthscan Expert series. An excellent introduction to the technology. Covers how it works, different types of systems, types of collectors - both flat plate und evacuated tubes, types of storage tanks and other accessories, system layouts, system design and economic aspects, fully illustrated, published 2010, 192 pages, £34.95.

Available at:

STAND-ALONE SOLAR ELECTRIC SYSTEMS - a new publication in the Earthscan Expert series. The book for the designer and installer of off-grid solar systems. Covers most aspects of off-grid solar systems, including solar energy fundamentals, components (modules, controllers, inverters, batteries), design and sizing, as well as water pumping. Provides knowledge needed to design and install a range of off-grid systems, fully illustrated, published 2010, 224 pages, £34.95.

Available at:

WOOD PELLET HEATING SYSTEMS - a new publication in the Earthscan Expert series. Covers how wood pellet heating works, different types of systems - from small living room stove systems to larger central heating systems for institutions, installation guidelines, system design and wood pellet manufacture, fully illustrated, published 2010, 176 pages, £34.95.

Available at

SUSTAINABLE HOME REFURBISHMENT - a new publication in the Earthscan Expert series. Renewable energy requires efficient energy use. This fully packed book covers most aspects of retrofitting homes for efficiency, fully illustrated, published 2010, 256 pages, £34.95.

Available at

Other books are also available on the website

Earthscan is now launching the Earthscan Expert Series, a major new book series providing clear, practical information for people who want to work with environmentally friendly low-carbon technologies. From specific handbooks to more general guides, each highly illustrated title is essential reading for professionals keen to expand their skills base and take advantage of the low carbon revolution. More information at

Green Dragon Energy

tel: + 49 (0) 30 486 249 98 (Office/Berlin)



Friday, 1 April 2011

Vestas ready to build 7MW offshore wind turbine

Reusing spent nuclear fuel could cut costs of new power stations says King

Recycling spent fuel could cut costs of building new power stations and also prove to be less expensive that safely disposing of it and using new fuel, says UK former Chief Science Adviser Sir David King.

David McKay's estimate of onshore wind energy

This is an extract from McKay's book Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air

Potential energy from onshore wind in the UK can be calculated by multiplying the average power per unit of land area covered by a wind farm by the area per person (population density) thus arriving at the power available per person from wind.

Assuming the wind speed is 6 metres per second (13 miles per hour or 22 km/h), the power per unit area of a wind farm is 2W per square metre. In reality the figure of 6 metres per second is probably an over estimate for many locations in Britain, Cambridge only recorded such a figure on about 30 occasions during the course of 2006.

The population density is about 250 people per square kilometre which is 4000 square meters per person. Therefore wind could generate (assuming the 6 metres per second figure for wind speed) 8000 W per person.

This is assuming that wind turbines stretched across the entire country.

If you convert that figure to the commonly used unit for power (kilowatt-hour which is termed one unit on electricity bills and costs about 10 pence) that is 200 kilowatt hours per day per person.

If we imagine only 10% of the country being covered by wind turbines, that reduces the figure to 20 kWh/d per person. This is half the power used to drive an average fossil-fuel car for 50km per day.

Therefore energy generated by onshore wind is much less than our current consumption of energy.

Compared to other countries, the wind turbines needed to generate 20 kWh/d per person would be fifty times the current wind energy hardware of Denmark and seven times that of Germany. Essentially, double the entire fleet of wind turbines in the world.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Low Carbon South West

Low Carbon South West is a very worthwhile organisation to join if you live in the South West and you're into renewable energy. To give you an idea here's some blurb from their website:

Low Carbon South West is a trade association and sector partnership between businesses, academia, investors, local authorities, regional and national agencies promoting the growth of the environmental technologies and services sector in the South West.

Our Mission & Objectives:

  • Support and promote the development of environmental technologies and services in Bristol, Bath and South West England
  • Encourage the adoption of these technologies and services by commercial, industrial and institutional end-users seeking to reduce their carbon footprint
  • Promote Bristol, Bath and South West England as a centre of excellence for sustainability to wider UK and international audiences
  • Facilitate effective networking, knowledge exchange and practical business collaborations between LCSW members and between LCSW as a group and wider networks, for mutual advantage
  • Encourage links between business and academia within the environmental technology sector, including knowledge transfer, support of training course and recruitment opportunities
You can visit the website either by clicking here (and there's also a link in the box below):

Britain's Coastline in Danger

Ask the people of the Outer Hebrides whether they believe in Climate Change, they're experiencing it and it's already been a matter of life and death, and will continue to be so if nothing's done. Want to know more about this? Read my article on

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Environmental Guardian

Some really interesting stories in The Guardian recently, some of which I've already posted below. However, while my partner is engrossed in the television drama Silk I find myself with the perfect opportunity to hop onto her Macbook and examine the news.

First up, no real surprise to read that the Japanese may very well have lost the race to save the Fukushima nuclear plant. Apparently, the radioactive core in one of the reactors may have already melted down through the bottom of its containment vessel. A meltdown in other words. This information follows readings taken from outside Reactor 2 and analysed by a US nuclear expert. Richard Lahey, who was head of safety research for boiling water reactors when General Electric installed the units at Fukushima commented that "At least part of the molten core, which includes melted fuel rods and zirconium alloy cladding, seem to have sunk through the steel lower head of the pressure vessel around Reactor 2". The major concern is that the melted fuel reacts with the concrete at the bottom of the vessel, but at Fukushima this was flooded with seawater, cooling the fuel and this may reduce the amount of radioactive gas that is released. This is still bad news for the environment, but it seems, luckily, that comparisons with Chernobyl are likely to be far from realistic.

Meanwhile, Sir David King writes that nuclear is still the safest form of energy despite what has happened at Fukushima. That may or may not be so, however, I still am not convinced, primarily because, so I have read so far, it takes about ten to fifteen years to build a nuclear plant, such plants are usually built near to the coast and also because currently nuclear only supplies about 3.6% of the UK's electricity demand. I read somewhere in the scientific literature that some scientists consider that we may only have ten to fifteen years left before climate change becomes irreversible, which means that relying on nuclear to save us from such a fate is clearly unrealistic, and thats without the dangers from rising sea levels. I'm also sure that any passing would-be terrorists would consider nuclear plants as a number one target, especially with all those spent fuel rods stored outside.

Google is currently investing in CoolPlanetBiofuels attempts to produce biofuels from grass and woodchips in non food producing areas. Normally I find myself opposed to biofuels because of the competition for space with agricultural land. This however looks quite inviting, so a note to myself to check this out in greater details over the next few days.

According to Andrew Simms, Shell has recently confessed that 'We're entering a zone of uncertainty over oil supplies'. In other words, Simms says, they haven't a clue whats going to happen. Start praying everyone....

Source: The Guardian environment pages, March 2011

Real Climate

Real Climate is one of my favourite sites on the internet, and for one very good reason - it's a climate science site written by real climate scientists. It doesn't get involved in political arguments, but as a source of real, authentic scientific information, its invaluable. If therefore you sometimes feel confused about what the real issues are and what the science is really saying, this is one website you should visit.

Cameron's promises of a green economy ring hollow, unsurprisingly....

I knew I could trust David Cameron's rhetoric about a green economy about as far as I can throw a steam roller. Sure enough, The Guardian has revealed that the UK's level of investment in green technology has slipped to 13th place behind Brazil (6th), India (10th) and China (1st). Unsurprisingly, part of the problem seems to be the continuing rift between the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Treasury. As if it was ever going to be any different. You would think, with rising oil prices, that the government would want to stand by its green promises, especially with the opportunities that a green economy would bring in terms of sustainable growth and jobs. Those jobs however are going elsewhere and the UK will be all the poorer for it.

James Hansen predicts 2012 will be the hottest year on record

Glaxo Smithkline (GSK) releases 2010 corporate responsibility report

The pharmaceutical giant Glaxo Smithkline has released its Corporate Responsibility Report for 2010 which you can access here:

In the past GSK has been targeted by animal rights activists who claim it is linked to the controversial animal testing labs at Huntingdon Research Centre, now known as Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS). In 2005 activists from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) infiltrated the labs and filmed staff punching and kicking the animals in their care. The footage was subsequently screened on British television. The company has also faced criticism over its product Avandia which one website describes as a 'killer drug' ( It has also generated controversy over its activities in Puerto Rico (

Marine Current Turbines in line to construct a new tidal array for Wales

Marine Current Turbines (MCT) has submitted an application to install a 10MW array of tidal stream turbines off the coast of Anglesey in 2015. The array will consist of seven twin-rotor turbines stretched across an area of 0.56 sq km which the company estimates will generate enough power for 10,000 homes. The technology, known as 'Seagen' generates energy from tidal flow and operates a bit like an underwater windmill. It is a tried and tested form of renewable technology, the first such scheme having been installed off the coast of Northern Ireland in 2008. The Anglesey array will be the first such site in Wales and will cost approximately £70 million to develop. MCT's website states that local firms will be involved in its construction and operation as much as possible.

MCT is based in Bristol and was established in 2000. You can read more about the company's activities here:

Gregor Heating

Gregor Heating is a Bristol based renewable energy installation company specialising in all kinds of renewable energy. They pubish a regular newsletter which you can read here:

New series of books from Earthscan

The environmental publisher Earthscan has released a new series of books covering various renewable energy topics. Titles include:

  • Wood pellet heating systems
  • Sustainable home refurbishment
  • Stand alone solar electric systems
  • Solar domestic water heating
Each book is priced at £34.99 hardback. Contact Earthscan at

Monday, 14 March 2011

Business as usual isn't an option

The Jevons Paradox casts doubt on the idea that we can use renewable energy to bolster relentless economic growth. That idea, said Jevons, is just plain wrong.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Renewable energy companies in Bristol - an overview

Bristol apparently has a burgeoning renewable energy and technology economy, one of the strongest growth areas in the city so I'm told. So I thought I would take a look at some of the companies in the city and what they're up to. I hope to make this an ongoing feature of the blog in future.

Imagination Solar was founded in 2001 by Jon Walker, a renewable energy consultant with 20 years experience. Its sister company is 1World Solar Ltd, which I have heard about before. In 2008 Imagination Solar began to distribute the Shower Save heat recovery system which can apparently recover some 60% of the heat that is lost down the plughole every time you take a shower. The mechanism uses a heat exchanger which picks up the waste heat. Its claimed that this system will save between 300kg and 1000kg of carbon dioxide emissions per year and its apparently very popular in Holland.

Southern Solar are specialists in solar thermal and solar electrical systems. They were founded in 2002 and have offices all over the country.

Solarsense is a member of the Solar Trade Association and the Renewable Energy Association. They supply domestic solar PV, commercial solar PV and solar thermal systems. At the time of writing they are marketing Thermomax vacuum tube systems on their website. This system used a vacuum tube to assist insulation and works in cloudy conditions as well as in response to sunlight. Members of the company recently visited Ethiopia where they helped to set up a solar PV array in order to power a medical fridge-freezer unit.

Yourpower states on their website that their vision is to make solar PV accessible to all and thereby to help the UK tackle climate change. They state that they are a national leader in both the domestic and commercial solar power marketplace. At the moment they are holding 'drop-in' sessions for anyone interested in solar power where people can ask about solar energy and the new feed-in tariffs. The next session is being held at the Whiteladies Road farmers market on the 19th March between 9am and 2pm.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Bugs might be able to convert biodiesel waste into new fuel

Source: Feb 1st 2011

There is a growing problem with disposing of biodiesel waste right now, according to The issue is glycerol which is a major headache for the biodiesel industry as it isn't pure and therefore cannot be recycled into cosmetics or animal feed, while the process of purifying it costs three times as much as the stuff is actually worth.
However, US student Keerthi Venkataramanan, who attends University of Alabama Huntsville's Biotech Phd programme, thinks he might have discovered the answer. He is working with the Clostridium pasteurianum bacterium which eats glycerol and in so doing produces a number of useful byproducts. "The strain is found deep in the soil" he said "It was originally studied for its ability to fix nitrogen from the air."
The bacterium uses glycerol as a carbohydrate source and produces ethanol, butanol and propanediol as byproducts as well as acetic acid and butyric acid. Butanol can be used in cars and also as an industrial solvent according to Venkataramanan. He says that butanol is normally produced from oil, but this biological method of production is less polluting. At the moment, the bacterium converts 30 to 35 per cent of glycerol into butanol, but Venkataramanan is trying to find out whether that amount can be increased. He is also looking at the bacterium's genetic structure to see if it can be bioengineered for this purpose. He says that his research has several advantages over other similar studies in that Clostridium pasteurianum is not pathogenic in the way that other bacteria being studied are.
It seems that two major American biodiesel companies were forced to close their plants because they couldn't get rid of the glycerol. Hopefully Venkataramanan's research will solve this problem.

Energy & Environment Dates 2012