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Feed-in Tariffs subsidy to be cut by more than half

Category: News October 31st, 2011 by mbc

Looks like the out-break of PV panels scaling up the roofs of my neighbours houses may be facing a hurdle to further progress. As reported late last week in the Guardian ‘the [subsidy] rate will be reduced from 43.3p per kilowatt hour of solar electricity to just 21p’. This information was contained in a PDF file on the Energy Saving Trust website that seems to have been leaked published prematurely and was removed shortly after publication.

The current subsidy rates will last until at least the 8th of December – so if you’re thinking of getting panels installed, the time for dithering is over…

I’m in two minds about FITs – on one hand PV is a technology I admire, fully support and would like to be able to afford to implement, on the other hand the subsidy scheme and specifically the companies milking it are abhorrent to me. There must be a better way to encourage the take-up of PV? – Perhaps, a subsidy on the panels themselves paid to British manufacturers followed by fixed, fairly price installation?

UPDATE: It has been confirmed that from the 12th of December the rate will be cut to 21p. There’s an informative article (and readable discussion) on the Guardian website.

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Combined Heat and Power

Category: Systems of interest September 30th, 2010 by mbc

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems generate electrical power and heat simultaneously.

There are three main technologies utilised to provide CHP systems – External combustion, Internal combustion and Fuel Cells.

External combustion
Central to the generation of electricity is the Stirling engine. A Stirling engine operates by being heated externally and so is described as an external combustion engine (ECE).

Fuel Cells
A fuel cell is an electrochemical cell that converts an input fuel into a number of outputs – an electrical current, heat and waste water or carbon dioxide. The primary function of a fuel cell is usually generating electricity but they run hot and so provide heat as a ‘bonus’. A wide range of fuels, both fossil based (gas, coal, oil) and renewable (biomass) can be utilised.

Internal combustion
Commonly used in automotive applications the fuel burning internal combustion engine (ICE) that we are all familiar with is applicable to CHP applications although the noise, emissions and need for servicing make the other options more generally suitable.

The Green Angle
Greenpeace claim that:

 ‘On average, our large, centralised power stations throw away two thirds of the energy they generate.’

(greenpeace.org.uk/~/combined-heat-and-power-chp).

In contrast the overall efficiency of CHP systems can be in excess of 80% at the point of generation.

With CHP power & heat generation is moved closer to the consumer. Being close to the consumer has two main benefits:

  1. With its dual function – heat and electrical power – the CHP facility avoids the inefficiency of it’s single purpose cousins such as the traditional coal electric power station. In such traditional power plants, generated heat is often treated as a waste product and merely vented or otherwise disposed of.
  2. Power does not need to be transferred over distance to remote consumers and so losses during transmission and distribution of electricity through the national and local distribution networks are avoided.

The Combined Heat and Power Association website has more detail on the advantages of CHP over traditional power plants.

Sizes
Large CHP installations are sized to provide for the needs of large consumers of heat and power such as industrial sites or large hospitals. Mini installations can be sufficient for the needs of a group of dwellings. Micro CHP is applicable to the individual householder.

Cooling
CHP techology can be further evolved to incorporate cooling. Through cooling generated heat using absorption chillers a CHP plant can add the ability to provide cooling and become a Combined Cooling, Heat and Power (CCHP) plant.

Micro CHP ~ Now?
The first widely available micro CHP unit in the UK is the Baxi Ecogen micro-CHP unit. This is basically a replacement for a traditional gas boiler that contains a sterling engine and so is able to generate electricity as well as heat water. It can generate 3.5kW to 6kW of heat that can be boosted to 10kW or 24kW if necessary – thus allowing a relatively standard heating range of between 3.5 and 24kW. The Ecogen is capable of producing up to 1 kWh of electricity. It can be grid connected, with excess electricity sold back to the grid operator. In the UK these micro CHP units can be included in the Government’s Feed-in Tariff Scheme providing owners with an additional payment on top of the standard price for any power they sell back to the grid. See my recent article on Feed-in Tariffs for more details.

Worcester (a part of the Bosch group) have the Greenstar CDi DualGen in development. It has a similar footprint and specification to the Baxi Ecogen unit. It utilises a stirling engine that can generate up to 7kW of heat (that can be boosted higher) and 1kWh of electricity. The Greenstar unit is due for full release in 2012 following a europe wide field trial.

Summary
So, is now (September 2010) the time to consider CHP as a viable technology?

I think the answer to the question depends on your specific project. Let’s start with this advice from the Worcester-Bosch website:

‘Micro CHP is most suited to older buildings that are poorly insulated for example, with sash windows and no cavity wall insulation.’

worcester-bosch.co.uk/homeowner/products/micro-chp~

That quotation causes a couple of issues. Firstly, for the sake of sustainability and common sense the fabric of the building itself should be addressed. Insulation installed and leaky windows renovated or replaced. Then secondly, once the building has been sorted out, what are the heating & energy requirements – is a CHP system appropriate and can it be made to pay? That’s a pretty straight-forward analysis based on:

    Costs:

  • The cost of installing the CHP system.
  • It’s cost of running in terms of how much fuel it will consume.
  • Cost of servicing.
    Benefits:

  • How much it will save you financially in comparison to other forms of heating.
  • How much will be generated electricity save from your electricity bill.
  • Feed-in tariffs confuse things somewhat, suffice to say that the electricity generated will be have a value to you beyond the current 13 pence or so that you’ll pay per kWh on a standard tariff.

Also, bear in mind that the systems I’ve been discussing here are gas powered (the Ecogen has an LPG version), so you’ll need a mains connection or the ability to juggle LPG bottles.

To me this seems an immature technology, one perhaps for early adopters who aren’t too sensitive to the raw economics of these systems in comparison to the heating only alternatives such as modern condensing gas boilers, heat pumps and wood-burners. These systems also seem more suitable for replacing old gas boilers than for installing in ‘green-field’ sites such conversions or new builds with no mains gas.

Further References

http://www.envocare.co.uk/combined_heat_and_power.htm

http://www.worcester-bosch.co.uk/homeowner/products/micro-chp?gclid=CKunl4Owk6MCFQT92AodS1z5qA

http://www.baxi.co.uk/ecogen

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Feed-in Tariffs

Category: Essential information September 27th, 2010 by mbc

Whilst I have no immediate plans (or money) to install any electricity generation technology at the barn, I like to keep an eye on future opportunities and thought a review of Feed-in Tariffs may be in order.

The Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme has been available through electricity suppliers since April the 1st 2010. The aim of the scheme is to encourage the uptake of small-scale (up to 5MW) low carbon generation technologies through tariff payments made on both generation and export of produced renewable energy. The scheme is designed with the goal of providing a monthly income from your installation that will be greater than your monthly loan repayment to install the equipment (bear in mind this factors in long term loans usually of 20-25 years). It is the large energy companies, (or rather their customers to whom they pass the costs on) rather than any government body that foot the bills for these systems.

The following technologies are eligible for entry to the scheme:

Photovoltaic (PV)
Wind
Hydroelectric
Anaerobic digestion
Micro CHP – this is a pilot programme with 2kW upper limit to generating capacity.

The financial benefits of the scheme come in a number of forms:

The Generation Tariff - you earn a fixed amount for each kilowatt hour of electricity (kWh) you generate and use.
The Export Tariff – you earn an additional fixed amount for every kWh of electricity you generate and sell back to the grid.
Savings made through the reduction in electricity bills.

The exact amount you get paid through the Generation Tariff will vary depending on your specific generation system. For example, a new Solar PV system generating four or less kWh is eligible for a payment of 36.1 pence per kWh, for a medium-large sized wind turbine (>15 – 100kW) the payment is 24.1 pence per kWh. The tariff levels are index-linked for inflation and will be paid for a set period of time – in the case of the examples, 25 years and 20 years respectively. The full table of tariff levels is available from the Energy Savings Trust website in PDF format.

There are plenty of example scenarios with tempting £’s value headlines around the web, I’ll leave it to you to search them out if you’re interested. There are also plenty of online calculators out there to tempt you in and hopefully further inform you – start with the one on energysavingtrust.org.uk, the link is below. But, to summarise what I’ve found, typically for a family home consuming 4-5,000kWh of electricity per year, 2-2.5kW of solar PV panels will generate an income for the householder of upto £1000 per year with around £150 in savings from reduced electricity costs.

Bear in mind that you’ll need to work with a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certified installer to be eligible for the scheme.

Futher references:

http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/Sustainability/Environment/fits/Pages/fits.aspx

http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Generate-your-own-energy/Sell-your-own-energy/Feed-in-Tariff-scheme

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Wales has a ‘carbon free’ house

Category: News August 4th, 2010 by mbc

An interesting story on Wales Online today that raises more questions for me than it answers for me…

Wales has it’s first ‘carbon free’ house. The house is built along PassivHaus lines on a small estate in Ebbw Vale from mainly Welsh materials. It has PV panels so generates its own power and has managed to achieve level 6 in the Code for Sustainable Homes.

However, it still has energy bills of £50 a quarter. Not sure what that’s for, perhaps electricity connection or standing charges (although the article does specify ‘energy bills of just £50 a year’). As such, I’m not sure what ‘carbon free’ means – perhaps I’m being cynical and perhaps some more research is required…

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Feed-in tariffs … coming soon to a roof near you!?

Category: News February 2nd, 2010 by mbc

The feed-in tariffs scheme certainly looks to be of great interest. For the unitiated, feed-in tariffs are the governments new scheme to encourage the takeup of renewable technologies through financial benefits. These financial benefits are two-fold, firstly in the form of savings made to on-going energy costs and secondly through a payment made through the scheme:

Installing solar panels [2.5 kilowatt peak photovoltaic system], which cover a space of around 10ft x 10ft on an average sized roof, will cost around £12,500 but this will be paid back in 10 years because the households will be paid £900 per annum, plus making £140 savings on the yearly electricity bill.

Telegraph article

Given the feedback I’ve had on this site in relation to heat pumps and running costs I’m a little concerned that air source heat pumps are included in this:

Mr Miliband also introduced a renewable heat incentive that will pay households for producing their own heat from woodchip boilers or an air source heat pump. A ground source heat pump, that costs more than £1,000 to put in, could be rewarded with £1,000 a year and lead to savings of £200 per year if used instead of oil.

So a step in the right direction, as some financial incentive has to be good for the takeup of renewables and is well overdue – I’ve been moaning about this for sometime now.

Given that this technology is already being sold by ex-used car salesmen who graduated from selling uPVC windows (i.e. sales over-whelmingly motivated by commission) I have concerns for the future morals of the renewables industry and will watch with interest the degree by which demand drives price rises following the introduction of the scheme.

But putting my cynacism aside, one to watch and a step in the right direction.

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Progress

Autumn 2013

Right that’s the summer over with, now I can get on with some real work without the distractions of other things (like holidays and playing with children, all that enjoyable stuff that gets in the way of progress)… With few major jobs (painting, boxing in – nasty stuff!) left inside, mainly fiddly things that need […]

I’m having a moan on twitter… https://twitter.com/barnconversion/status/368427314868396032

A lovely Flemish barn conversion

I love the interior of this conversion and the great use of horizontal slats on this conversion. I retains the essential ‘barnyness’ of the building… flemish-barn-by-arend-groenewegen-architect

Coming soon, my barn conversion guide… Interesting earthship greenhouse project on Kickstarter

I really like this Kickstarter project >> The Farm of the Future: Earthship-Inspired Greenhouse This project is “Prototyping the First 100% Off-The-Grid, Affordable, Low-Maintenance Greenhouse using Earthship Principles and Aquaponics“. If any of those words meaning anything to you you’ll be interested in the project if not, pass it by… It’s already funded so I […]

Barns

Barns Gallery on Remodelista

There is a lovely gallery of barn related inspirational photographs available on Remodelista.

Barns – the Long House

Situated on the North Norfolk coast, this is a building to admire…

Barns – the Balancing Barn

A stunning piece of architecture, although not entirely to my taste…

New fast-track planning permission for the development of barns proposed

The Daily Mail reports on a new fast-track route through planning controls for the conversion of barns…

De-assembled, re-assembled, re-cycled barns

“A bit like a private sector, modernising, repurposing St Fagan’s…”

Design

What is a shadow gap?

A shadow gap – a mysterious dark place between two plains…

Your barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Thoughts on making YOUR barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Building Regulations, Approved Documents Part D – Toxic substances

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents Part D – Toxic substances

Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

Architecture

Your barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Thoughts on making YOUR barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

The Stirling prize 2012 winner – the Sainsbury Laboratory

The 2012 Stirling prize was won by a outsider, the Sainsbury Laboratory…

The Stirling prize 2012

I think that this years Stirling prize has some exciting projects on the shortlist…

Our engineers … our architects – Le Corbusier

The efficient, shiny world of construction in 1923…

Design in Storage

When designing a layout it’s easy to forget to plan for storage…

News

Green Deal slow beginnings?

Oh dear! The green deal hasn’t got off to a very auspicious start… As reported in the Telegraph today since it was launched nearly a year ago just 12 homes have taken advantage of the Green Deal with a few hundred more in the pipeline. 71,210 households had been assessed for Green Deal measures such […]

The property roller coaster – planning reform to be rethought

Eric Pickles vague compromise on planning reform keeps the house happy (for now).

Energy policy, smoke screens, fracking, confusion and big bucks

There seems to be only one thing that is certain in the world of energy policy and that is that costs will rise annually above and beyond anything that inflation can currently throw at us. Beyond that, smoke screens & confusion seem to reign. Take the recent news for example… It’s reported today that the […]

Flanking manoeuvres and good design…

It seems that the government are undertaking flanking manoeuvres on the green belt…

Green Deal Launch

The Green deal launched in the UK on Monday of this week. Fanfares? fireworks? a deluge of marketing? … read more …

Plaid Cymru’s Green New Deal promise

The leader of Plaid Cymru has promised a “Green New Deal” to rejuvenate the Welsh economy and help maintain Wales’ position at the forefront of Green policies.

Permitted development extension limits to be doubled

The government is due to announce a temporary increase in the maximum depth of extensions that can be built under permitted development rules.

Lloyd Khan, making shelter simple.

I wanted to share an interview with Lloyd Khan that I recently found…

Just what is ‘sustainable development’?

Sustainable development – with the term now enshrined in planning law, what does it mean?

Sir Patrick Abercrombie – “It is a matter for serious thought…”

While reading up on the response of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) I came across this quote from Sir Patrick Abercrombie…