Posted by DavidM in Solar | 2 May 2012
Like many others we took advantage of the attractive Feed In Tariff (FIT) rates last year and had a 4 kilowatt solar system installed. Fortunately we signed up just before the government's 'illegal' announcement to cut the tariffs early, so we missed the panic up to early December.
With the system installed in early November we've made the most of the UK's winter drought. Although the days were cold it was clear and bright days, meaning the system ran 15% above expectations for the worst quarter of the year.
By late April we had generated our first megawatt! When you talk about the system being 4 kilowatts that doesn't sound much. But when I realised we'd generated a megawatt that sounded huge - that's the unit they talk about for power stations!
It's our first big milestone and we need only 30 more to pay off the system. With the government payment, the value of energy send back to the grid and the savings on our energy bill, we make about 50p per kilowatt. So on the first megawatt we made about £500. This will increase as the government payment rises in line with inflation - it's recently risen by 2.8%.
It's disappointing that the government has cut the payments for new installations. However, while the Feed-in-Tariff payments are lower, there are signs the systems are falling in price. Ours cost £15,500. This wasn't the cheapest we were quoted but we knew and trusted the provider and they gave the best guarantees.
Our neighbour has just been quoted for the same system from the same company and it's now £12,500. The reason given was that the manufacturers were lowering their prices.
So it's still worth looking into solar power. The payments might be lower but you can negotiate a good deal and still have a payback period lower than 10 years. Plus of course you're doing your bit to reduce carbon emissions and our reliance on fossil fuels.
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Posted by DavidM in Driving | 25 May 2011
It is an exciting time for people with a vested interest in the environmental car market. On 30th November 2010, Nissan won the won the prestigious car of the year award with their all electric Leaf model. The annual competition voted on by 58 of Europes most influential motoring journalists placed the Leaf ahead of sports cars such as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and family SUVs such as the Ford C-Max and Vauxhall Meriva. This was a turning point for the electric car industry as it was the first electric car to take the prize, with environmental motors having been heavily criticised by motoring journalists in the past.
Then, a day later on the 1st December, Chevrolet announced that it was planning on tripling the production of its hybrid Volt model due to popular demands. The American manufacturer claimed that the only stumbling block it was facing was that its suppliers couldnt produce the lithium ion batteries quickly enough.
So what has happened in recent years to change the minds of motoring journalists and why are electric cars suddenly so popular with the public?
As every motorist knows, the price of fuel is continuing to escalate. This trend is unlikely to stop with scientists warning of decreasing fossil fuel supplies and the ever increasing tax placed on fuel by governments in an attempt to curb demand. It is estimated that the average driver (doing 12,000 miles annually) with a petrol Ford Fiesta will pay over £1,500 every year on fuel alone as a result of this. However, it has been estimated by Auto Express that the Nissan Leaf will cost just 2 pence per mile in electricity charges, and therefore the same driver in a Nissan Leaf would reduce their fuel bill to just over £200 per year. This equates to a saving of approximately £1,300 every single year.
However, the savings dont stop there. Money Super Market has stated that the majority of major car insurance firms will offer a 5% discount to drivers of environmental vehicles. This means an additional saving of about £40 per year for most motorists. Then there are tax savings, with the Nissan Leaf and other zero emission vehicles being made exempt from road tax as part of the governments attempts to make electric cars more attractive. Most drivers are now paying at least £150 per year on the purchase of a small paper tax disc, and this is therefore another good incentive.
Appearance and price
The combination of all these things results in a potential saving of at least £1490 per year. However, in the past the initial cost of buying environmental vehicles priced many people out of the market. Nissan recognised this problem when it was planning the Leaf model, and it therefore priced the vehicle aggressively. The Japanese manufacturer was still unable to get the price any lower than £29,000 which is almost double the price of a brand new Ford Focus. However, the government has offered a tax reduction as a further incentive to encourage people to adopt environmental vehicles. This means that consumers can buy the Nissan Leaf for just £23,990. However this is still almost £9,000 more than the Focus, which means it would take over six years to recover the extra costs through the cost reductions involved in the running of the Leaf.
Another consideration which has severely handicapped the adoption of environmental motors in the past has been their appearance. Many of them have looked very obviously different from conventional vehicles and had lacked room due either to attempts to save weight or to the requirement to fit in the large batteries. This is perfectly exemplified by the hideous G-Wiz model which was released at the end of the 1990s. However, major strides have been made in this area with both the Leaf and the Volt being capable of holding five people and neither of them look any different from a conventional motor.
Electric cars havent won over everyone; with Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson claiming that electric cars are no more environmental than conventional cars because they rely on power stations which use fossil fuels. These claims were denied by a Nissan spokesman who says that by utilising the electricity produced by power stations, the Leaf would only be responsible for 30% of the C02 emissions a conventional vehicle is responsible for. However, Clarkson is not alone in his criticism with one of the Car of the Year judges John Simister claiming that the Nissan Leaf only won the award because no of the other vehicles were consistently liked enough. This is on top of criticisms of the range of the vehicles, with the Leaf capable of going 100 miles between charges while the Volt is capable of just 50 miles before switching over to its fossil fuel guzzling motor.
Many motoring journalists have commented that this simply isnt enough, especially when recharging points are far and few between around the country. The fact that it would take six years to recover the extra costs involved in purchasing a Leaf through the savings it generates also makes it questionable whether the average motorist will be at all enticed by the benefits. It could be that it will take a number of fuel price increases and a much improved recharging network for electric cars to become the mainstream.
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Posted by DavidM in Buying green, Driving, Oil, Transport | 3 May 2011
It shows how things are changing when you can buy a luxury marque with better environmental performance than a range specifically designed for low-cost, low-emissions city driving.
Lexus, the pioneers of luxury hybrid motoring and part of the Toyota family, have launched the Lexus CT hybrid compact hatchback.
Prices start at £23,485 and it comes with the quality of build, equipment list and interior comfort you'd expect of a luxury brand, yet it is the lowest emissions hybrid they have produced to date.
At 94 g/km it has lower emissions than a Smart fortwo (97/98 g/km) and almost exactly the same fuel consumption (68.9mpg combined). This is partly reflected in lower speed performance figures than it's main rivals but with a 0-60mph time of 10.3 seconds and a top speed of 112mph it's no slouch. Plus of course, those interested in the frugality of this car are unlikely to be keen to burn away from the lights.
Lexus now have four models with hybrid technology, ranging from the compact CT up to the LS luxury saloon and RX 4x4. While the larger vehicles in the range may not be as clean as other smaller vehicles, you're better off buying a Lexus than the other luxury marques.
For example, the Lexus RX hybrid will do 44.8mpg compared to the BMW X5's dreadful 22.6mpg. The BMW's emissions of 292 g/km are over twice the Lexus' 145 g/km. Yet the Lexus will still do 0-60mph in 7.8secs and hit 124 mph - slower than the BMW's 5.5 secs and 149mph, but still more than enough to lose your licence on British roads.
It's good to see one car manufacturer leading the way, we just need the others to follow suit.
Posted by DavidM in Rainforest Foundation | 25 February 2011
The Rainforest Foundation continues to do fantastic work on rainforest conservation and deforestation. they work with indigenous populations to give the legal and practucal control over the lands they live and work on, simultaneously protecting the environment and reducing poverty.
As part of their work to raise awareness of the disasters governments inflict upon native people, they have organised a speaker event about hydroelectric dams for Tuesday 1st March at 6.30pm at the Main auditorium, The Human Rights Action Centre, Amnesty International, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London, EC2A 3EA.
As the next stage of construction starts on large hydroelectric dams in the Amazon Basin, three impassioned indigenous leaders are coming from their homelands to London to talk about their first-hand struggle to protect their rights, lands and environment from the threat of mega-dams.
This event will interest anyone concerned with human and indigenous peoples' rights, rainforest protection, international development, the environmental impacts of energy production, and climate change.
There will be an opportunity for questions and answers, and open discussion with the speakers. Simultaneous translation will be available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
While the event is invitation only, there are a limited number of tickets available to the general public. you can request one via email on email@example.com or by phoning the office on +44 207 485 0193.
Posted by DavidM in Climate change | 23 February 2011
We hear lots of bad news about the continued destruction of rainforests and other green areas around the world. The world's forests are estimated to be shrinking by 52,000km2 every year. That's a huge area that will take a long time - if ever - to be replaced.
Amongst all this bad news, I saw a positive story today. Catching up The Week I saw a short story about Asia's efforts at reforestation leading the world. China and India in partcular have boasted a small net gain in forest cover over the last decade, overtaking Europe as the biggest percentage increase.
According to the State of the World's Forests report by the UN's Food and Agriculture organisation, China increased it's forests by 30,000km2 as part of a tree-planting initiative started in the 1980s.
I haven't seen any details on the quality of the forest, and of course planting trees is only the start of a forest eco-system. Though this reforestation will take time to become the sustainable carbon-sinks we are losing elsewhere, it is at least movement in the right direction and an example to the rest of the world that two of the fastest developing natiions are also the best at reforestation.
Posted by DavidM in Pollution | 16 February 2011
In it's last report before being abolished, The Royal Commission on Environment Pollution has warned that the UK's increasing population, growth of elderly and single person households will put intense pressure on infrastructure and the environment in the most populated areas. The problem will be most acute in south-east England and other urban centres, with water supplies, air quality and waste management struggling with the growth in demand.
The population in Great Britain is expected to grow from 61.9m in 2009 to 71.6m in 2033. The Department of Work and Pensions expects nearly one in five of the people alive today to reach 100 and the number of households is forecast to grow from 21.5m to 27.8m by 2031.
Given the scale of the impact of the existing population and the difficulties the government is already having in reducing our emissions, these figures present a dire warning that we must change radically to not only avoid a worsening of damage to the environment but also reverse it.
"We don't think government is giving anything like enough attention to demographic change," Lawton said. "And critically if it doesn't, the problems which emerge will cost more in the long run."
The report urges the government to create jobs in less populated areas to encourage the population to spread away from the high-density areas.
Disappointingly, the Royal Commission didn't recommend compulsory water metering where water is in scarce supply. It's been shown that water meters reduce usage by 10-15% and it seems an obvious decision to make this compulsory throughout the country.
The Optimum Population Trust has claimed that our best hope of achieving environmental sustainability is to reduce the population by more than half to 30 million people. This was dismissed as "absolute nonsense" by the Royal Commission's chair, Sir John Lawton. Even if it was desirable, he says, there is little that could be done to reduce the size of the population over the next 40 years.
He is probably right that, barring a major war directly affecting the population, we may not be able to stop population growth let alone halve it. However, I think he misses the point. It's not whether reducing the population by half is desirable or easy. The key question is, are The Optimum Population Trust correct in their assessment that the population needs to be that low to be sustainable and, if true, that shows how big a problem we have.
Posted by DavidM in Green business, Save energy, Transport | 7 February 2011
Video conferencing not only saves money by eliminating travel costs; it also reduces the harmful emissions and fossil fuel use that are necessary for business conference travel. By using the power of the Internet for clear, sharp video and voice transmission, video conferencing allows people from across the country or even across the world to meet and conduct real-time, face-to-face discussions from the convenience of their own offices at a mutually agreed upon time. Often, that time is convenient for all participants in the discussion no matter their own time zones.
This means that thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars in travel and lodging costs are saved, as the price of a video conferencing session often amounts to less than that of even an automobile trip from a neighbouring American state. Moreover, video conferencing uses only small amounts of electricity, as relatively little power is needed to maintain an Internet connection and a computer during the video conference. This contrasts remarkably with the huge amount of fossil fuel that is expended when participants in a traditional conference have to travel to a central location by car, train or airplane.
In addition, Internet communications, including video conferencing, do not emit any significant levels of greenhouse gases or other pollutants into the air. Needless to say, this is not the case with any form of travel in any vehicle that is powered by fossil fuel. Therefore, relying upon video conferencing for business discussions, or even for family reunions, minimizes harm to the environment.
Video conferencing also eliminates the need for arranging lodging for conference participants. The budget for lodging associated with a traditional conference can easily equal twenty or thirty times the cost of a video conference.
Since everything which is discussed in a video conference is saved and downloaded, there is no need for the huge amounts of paper that are often given out at traditional conferences. This saves printing costs and also is beneficial to the environment. Less paper means less waste in our landfills, and relying on video conferencing servers for saving the proceeding of the conference also eliminates the need for disks and other non-biodegradable materials that are often distributed at traditional conferences.
Relying on video conferencing to bring together groups of people for business or even personal meetings that allow face-to-face, real-time communication is the most cost-effective way of conducting large group discussions between people who would otherwise have to travel long distances to meet in person. Not only does video conferencing eliminate the cost of travel, lodging, and print materials, but it is also environmentally friendly as it eliminates all of the pollution and use of fossil fuels, as well as waste generation, that is necessary for arranging a traditional conference.
This is a guest article written by Rashed Khan of LifeSize.com video conferencing.
Posted by DavidM in Buying green, Driving, Electricity, Transport | 5 February 2011
The automotive industry is in crisis. Fuel prices are escalating at an apparently uncontrollable rate and insurance costs seem to be rising in sympathy. A recent survey by Money Supermarket revealed that 62% of motorists had been forced into reducing the amount of time they spend behind the wheel on the back of these price increases, with 5% of this survey sample admitting that they had been forced into giving up motoring altogether. This demonstrates that a solution is needed quickly, but is there anything that can be done?
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has predicted that fossil fuel supplies will begin to go into decline at some point in 2011. At this point fuel prices will rocket and result in even more motorists being forced to abandon driving. This will not only affect the way people live their lives but also potential put many companies out of business.
In the past green vehicles have not be a viable option for the majority of motorists due to their high costs and impractical nature, but all of this is about to change with Nissan set to introduce its new Leaf model in February. The Leaf will be the first mass produced all electric vehicle designed by a major manufacturer to hit the market and is expected to result in a significant leap in the number of environmental cars on the road. This is due to the increased practicality of the vehicle which is capable of a top speed of 92mph but can still do over 100 miles on one charge. The appearance and space available in the car are also unaffected by the requirement to carry lithium ion batteries, with the Leaf having enough room for five people and not looking too much different from any other hatchback.
Nissan has also been careful to address the cost issue, using an aggressive pricing strategy which has ensured a basic selling price of £28,350. Following government incentives this price will be reduced to just £23,350 for British customers, with similar incentive programmes being introduced by governments across Europe and America. It can be viewed that the £8,000 price difference between the Leaf and Fords very attractive new Focus model is unjustified. However, when it is considered that owning a Leaf would have shaved £1,200 off the average motorists fuel bill last year (before tax and insurance savings), the price difference doesnt seem so significant. This annual saving is inevitably going to escalate as fuel prices increase.
However, not everything is looking bright on the green car horizon. There can be no doubt that car manufacturers are making huge strides in improving the performance of their environmental vehicles while simultaneously reducing their base cost. However, it appears that governments have not been quite as proactive in anticipating the impending green car revolution. This has led to many countries, including the UK and America, being woefully unprepared for the mass adoption of electric vehicles. The 100 mile range of the Leaf with its 30 minute quick charge function is almost acceptable so long as there is somewhere to charge it up. However, this vision has not yet been realised which will undoubtedly harm adoption rates of green vehicles.
The British and American governments have both pledged a budget to aid in the building up of the electric car infrastructure with the aim being to have electric charging points in all populated areas by 2015. However, by this time Nissan will have introduced the second edition of the Leaf which is expected to have at least a 200 mile range. When it is consider how much the likely price of fuel will be by this time it would appear to be a no brainer when faced with a choice between the Leaf and petrol fuelled Ford Focus. Lets just hope that Nissan doesnt lose faith with the concept if the initial uptake of the first Leaf is hampered by government inadequacies.
Article source: Moneysupermarket.com