The December 2008 Energy Update

  • Comments posted to this topic are about the item The December 2008 Energy Update

  • The whole question of microgeneration in Britain is surrounded by Poppycock and balderdash, with generous lashings of baloney. I have been trying for years to harness the 45KW of energy that thunders through my old disused watermill. Politicians of all parts of the spectrum commission papers, discussions and conferences on the subject. The EU is full of pious cant on the subject of schemes like this, but provide no help whatsoever to those who live in sites that have the potential to generate electricity.

    The practicalities of generation using a commercial turbine are ridiculous. Even at current energy prices, payback is something like 40 years. You can get a grant, but the conditions are so ridiculous as to be beyond satire. I would have to nominate a 'community' of users to use my electricity taken from a representative sample of the community (all racial types and sexual diversity). I'd also have to conform with a vast stack of regulations and health 'n Safety edicts. Even then, there is no guarantee that the Environment Agency, a pseudo-government quango responsible for the rivers, will not take away my right to exploit my own headrace, or demand that I maintain it myself. (i.e. maintain a canal three miles long, built before AD1000)

    The powers that be, from European level down to local council, are all sending each other papers and emails on the subject of microgeneration, and smugly asserting that they are 'working' hard on the problem of generating electricity in a sustainable way, but nobody has thought to turn political drivel into practical action.

    I have a plan. I reckon that the roman design of horizontal waterwheel represents the cheapest way of turning water flow into rotating motion at a reasonable speed. If one couples this to a commercial generator designed for the three-point linkage of a tractor, then you have a cheap and viable means of generation. I could then use commercial batteries designed for wind generators. I'm reluctant to try, given my experience of the numbing weight of office-bound officialdom that tries to put a stop to any unfettered initiative that would show up their pathetic inaction.

    Best wishes,
    Phil Factor

  • It's always important to read BETWEEN the lines. Here's the most important line of that article:

    And in Germany, passive houses cost only about 5 to 7 percent more to build than conventional houses.

    While I don't believe we should be reckless about the environment and should most certainly use so called "green" technologies when it is actually cheaper, well over 60% of these so called "green" technologies are woefully inefficient and cannot exist without government intervention. The fact that it is supposedly cheaper is probably due in some small part to lower material cost, but I would wage a week's pay that it is because of gov't subsidies and tax credits. I inferred from Steve's post that even he wouldn't consider it without the tax credit.

    If the idea can help the environment and work in the marketplace, great. However, my hard earned money(in the form of taxes) should not be wasted on concepts and products that do not work as promised or at all.

  • Thanks for reminding me that I really need to finish insulating my basement. I'm putting 6" of insulation (R22) where I can down there and 4" everywhere else. The energy auditor said it should help considerably. I'd put more in the attic, but I have vermiculite up there and would rather leave that alone.

    I'm hoping with the high efficiency furnace from last year and the new high efficiency windows this year my gas bill will be a bit lower. I have some insulation installed in the basement already, but it's less than half done.

    I was surprised in that superinsulating piece that the insulation guidelines in MA are higher than here in northern Ontario. With the wind, -40 tends to be as cold as it gets but we have plenty of-20 C days up here.

  • three words "Straw bale houses"

    Not quite like the Three Little Pigs

    and belive it or not but asbestos is one of the best insulators

  • Steve,

    Interesting editorial, if a bit off topic from SQL. I'll admit upfront to only a passing familiarity with wind power.

    However, having been a building contractor in a previous career, I know that building super-insulated homes also have some drawbacks. Energy usage is only one attribute of a building's design. Since virtually all buildings are ultimately used for some sort of occupancy by humans (automated factories aside), their design should serve the people who will use them.

    Super-insulation means extremely limited airflow in and out of the house. This lack of fresh air is actually a bad thing. Building in fresh air supplies that incorporate heat exchangers that allow an exchange of air with the outside without also allowing an exchange of energy is quite complex and costly.

    Modern building materials exude toxic gases, and with more and more of the material in the house being manufactured this is just increasing. Cabinets, carpet and waferboard are all made with formaldehyde-based glues that will outgas for years.

    For myself, I prefer to use a little more energy and insure that I get fresh, healthful air. but then, I live in a very temperate climate in Southern California.

    I am looking at solar, though.

  • The article states that airflow is an issue, and you definitely need to control it and ensure fresh air is coming in. The heat exchanger, which passes outside and inside air, is one of the more expensive parts, but supposedly it works with 90% efficiency. Not sure how that's measured, but I've seen multiple articles since that first one where people are working on this.

    I do think that passive solar, better insulation, some smarter techniques can work, but they need to be tested, deployed, and then regulated. That last part is the only way to reduce global energy. Individuals tend to do what's best for them, not the group.

    I hear the complaint about taxes, but part of the tax credit purpose is to spur changes and innovations, not subsidize for everyone forever. This does get abused at times, but government can help move some of these technologies forward with a boost, and then remove the subsidies. That last part can be a problem, look at how many oil and gas still get.

    Still I like the idea.

    More and more as I research things, I'm not sure homeowner generation makes sense for wind. I'm not sure, but if you are trying to run a normal house, it seems to have a payback that's too high. However neighborhoods, or commercial properties might make more sense.

  • The big Issue with Green Energy is that the wind is not always blowing and the sun always shining,

    It how to store the Energy when the wind is blow for when it's not. Sure it's nice to have a green house, but I can only bake on windy or Sunny days.

    Sure we can just use batteries and store it, We full the Den with Car Battery or $Li-ion$.

    The way I would go is store the Energy as Hydorgen useing Hydorstar

    Run Hot Water, Heating, Cooking off Hydorgen.

    And when no wind or sun, Hydorgen micro turbine.

  • In your calculation of payback, you should also consider what it is worth to be able to generate your own electricity while the rest of the area has to do without when there are interruptions to your normal provider (I.e. storm damage, downed lines, etc.) This may not be the deciding factor, but for some people may have a significant value.

  • Thanks for the update, Steve.

    One random thought: You've all no doubt noticed that oil prices are way down. In northern New Jersey where I live, we actually have a station selling gas for $1.39 a gallon. Who would have thought that was possible only 6 months ago? One of the reasons given in the press is that there is less consumption owing to the bad economy. So oddly, this has had a devastating effect on the price at the pump. I'm not a big fan of subsidized energy sources either, but this is a factor I hadn't previously considered. Cutting consumption of oil is driving the prices down (supposedly). If the government is hell-bent on giving us a stimulus, investing in things like windmills would create jobs and leave behind permanant improvements to infrastructure while moving us toward energy independence.

    Incidentally, let's not forget the biggest "alternate" source that is known to work well: nuclear. I know it's controversial (sadly) but it's a known entity. During the presidential debates, one of the questions was "do we need a 'Manhattan project' for alternate energy?" My answer - absolutely not! We have something that works very well right now in nuclear. If we spend the kind of money people are suggesting for other alternatives on building nuclear and increasing the efficiency of spent fuel recycling we would have all the energy we need for the next century. And the extra electricity from nuclear could be used to make hydrogen for our cars.

    Oh, well, 'nuff said. Have a great new year, everyone!

    โ€œPoliticians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason.โ€

  • Steve Jones - Editor (12/30/2008)

    More and more as I research things, I'm not sure homeowner generation makes sense for wind. I'm not sure, but if you are trying to run a normal house, it seems to have a payback that's too high. However neighborhoods, or commercial properties might make more sense.

    Just curious here... when you say "normal house", do you mean the average person off the street's house or the average geek's joint? Or, let's say, a total nutjob's house with 6+ computers running in it at any given time 24/7 that are sure to be using whatever electrons they're getting out of the alternative source (not that I know anyone like that or anything *ahem* ๐Ÿ˜› )?

    Explained a bit better--do your calculations assume best-case scenario of 100% usage of whatever the turbine/panels generate or only some certain percentage?

    I'm curious about this, because we're working on relocating a couple states over and are planning on putting up some sort of alternative power source eventually. Cutting costs/being greener are high on our list of reasons, but to me, what gone2mt said about still having (some) juice when the utility is down is a big part of it for me.

    I'd rather have some "free" power when the utility's down, rather than dumping huge amounts of $$$ on a permanent Cummins-Onan genset out back. (I dislike not having power, what can I say? ๐Ÿ™‚ )

  • We investigated the potential of putting up a WindSpire personal turbine in our front yard. Two actually... one on each side of the driveway. We have the minimal amount of space... so i did my data logging. This is where it brings this discussion back to SQL.

    I installed a personal weather station and started to record all information. Turns out that although i live in what i feel is an amazingly windy area our average wind speed is less than 5MPH. This is not enough to provide us an adequate payback. I believe they do hteir ratings on either 8 or 12 MPH (it has been a while since i have given up on my quest.)

    Instead we are investigating Solar for our large southfacing roof. There are some startups whcih are doing a lease program of sorts. You lease the panels for your current energy costs and they will replace that amount of energy with solar. It is more of a thinking green than a owning green. We will not realize the savings until energy costs go up (which it will.) We are also looking at geothermal as we can hit the water table in our area by going 8 feet below the basement floor.

    We will be doing steal roofing, replacing windows with some High efficiency and some not. We want the heat of the sun in the winters on the south side. In the summers the trees combined with shades will block it just fine. Adding wall insulation and attic insulation should bring us right around.

    Oh how i miss the dreams of my own wind turbines.

    As for the personal hydro plant... there are lots of do it yourself potentials there that you could do with some basic wood working and electronics work. YOu can power your own small scale inverter and thus feed your own stuff. I know in the US the Electric companies must buy back your excess power generated so just install a solar panel too so they think that is what it is for. Then you can feed your water works into it as well. The water would also make an amazing summer heat sink but i assume that cooling isn't an issue just with the water and stone construction.

  • Just curious here... when you say "normal house", do you mean the average person off the street's house or the average geek's joint? Or, let's say, a total nutjob's house with 6+ computers running in it at any given time 24/7 that are sure to be using whatever electrons they're getting out of the alternative source (not that I know anyone like that or anything *ahem* ๐Ÿ˜› )?

    that is a wonderous multipurpose device... it is a super powerful server, air exchanger, emergency furnace, and entertainment system. What more can you ask for...

    I love when those people complain about their electric bill and then say that their 5 800W powersupplies can't take that much power.

  • One of the new products I've read about is insulating paint. You can get it for both interior and exterior finishes. It contains small ceramic pieces which increase insulation by up to 30%. The cost is an additional $11-12 over regular paint.

  • A few responses. I was thinking the average house is 4 people, 2 computers these days, TV, fridge, etc. I think my house is a little large, but these days with all the electronics, I think a superinsulated house makes more sense. For wind, not sure you can economically generate enough power. 2kw turbines won't do it.

    On the power loss, one thing you need to be aware of is that when you grid connect alternative power (wind/solar/etc), if power goes down, your generation has to stop. You cannot energize the lines of the power company, so you can't produce power for your home. I suppose you could get a switch that functions like the one on my generator and cuts the house from the street, but most of the wind setups I've looked at don't have this. Also, the power isn't clean or stable, so you'd really need to spend for batteries to protect the electronics.

    I need a better weather station to start measuring things around here at a few places and log to my computer. I have one that I check periodically, but I don't have a good way to measure averages.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 16 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic. Login to reply