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Month: September 2008

Normal service resumes

After an unexpectedly pleasant weekend, the sun shone for two days in a row, it’s back to normal service for Monday morning! The sun has gone away. Still, I’m in a quiet office in a pleasant rural location and the dog’s asleep under the desk. Makes me almost forget that my pension plan has been shot to hell over the past year and my house is probably worth bugger all.

The doom-mongers are out in force, it’s the end of the World as we know it with rising inflation and the end of Capitalism on the horizon. Of course, it won’t matter much because if rising inflation doesn’t get us then rising sea levels will.

It’s comforting, then, that some things never change like politicians being unable to tell fact from fiction or give a straight answer as demonstrated by Alistair Darling on Breakfast this morning. Asked by Bill Turnbull whether taxes would be raised to pay for increased public spending the Chancellor wriggled like a well-hooked fish. It was a simple question and deserved a simple answer, yes or no. Did we get that? No, what we got was jibber-jabber. It’s high time politics became a lot more transparent and our representatives a lot more accountable instead of acting, and looking, like a bunch of self-serving spivs.

Alternative Energy

Now that David Cameron has had his wind turbine installed and considering we probably would all like to save a bit on our energy bills I decided to do a little research on alternative energy, in this case wind turbines. What I found out surprised even me. Firstly, there are few sites which give accurate information and many that want money for, probably, not a great deal.

So, how can you tell if you would benefit from a wind turbine?

First of all do you have any wind! Seems pretty obvious but no-one seems to be explaining this very well. In urban areas wind can be quite turbulent as the flow is affected by all the buildings, the more consistent the wind is, the better. In the city a wind turbine needs to be above the roof line to give best results. Ideally, do a survey before letting go of your hard-earned, you can get your hands on a weather station with PC interface for around £100. Collect some information about average wind speeds at different times of the year and you will soon know whether a wind turbine would be any benefit. Compare your results with the specifications of the model(s) of turbine you are considering buying. Output is roughly linear so, if a 500 watt turbine needs a wind speed of 12 miles per hour (5.4 m/s) and your average is 6 miles per hour you’ll average 250 watts.

You’ll need planning permission although for the small 500 watt systems it’s unlikely to be refused and you could also qualify for a grant towards the cost.

Okay, so you’ve established that you could get some ‘free’ electricity from a wind turbine what do you buy?

Off the shelf

B&Q offer a fully installed unit for just under £2000. It’s designed to plug straight into a standard 13amp socket to supplement your supply directly. Admittedly, £2000 is a lot to spend but it is an approved system fitted by an approved supplier and, therefore, is a qualifying system for a grant.

Install your own

You can buy wind turbines from as little as £500 but you need to be aware that you need a degree of mechanical and electronic skill to be able to install and maintain them. For example, these systems are generally low voltage so will need a battery pack and control system to complete the setup. They are unlikely to qualify for a grant as they are, typically, not approved and are DIY installations.

Build your own

You can build your own for as little as £100 provided you have the necessary mechanical and electronic skills. There are courses run by people such as Hugh Piggott which can provide the necessary skills. If you have these skills already try Mike’s site which gives comprehensive instructions. You’ll need to hunt around for a suitable generator as the one he used is rare as hens teeth 🙂

Would you save any money? Well, at today’s prices tier 1 costs per kWh are around 15p; if your 500 watt system achieved an average 30% output (optimistic) you would generate 3.6 kWh per day saving 54p. Saving over a year would be around £197. In summary, build it yourself pays for itself in about 2 years; install your own pre-built system and get your money back in 5-6 years but the B&Q option is going to take nearer 10-12 years to recover the costs.

I think I’m gonna look at building but I’m collecting wind speed information first…

Going Green

There’s so much crap written about this that the average person has no chance of getting it right.

For example, it’s said that cattle in the UK are responsible for 25% of this country’s methane emissions. Methane is one of the gases said to be responsible for global warming – it has several times the impact of CO2 but is, currently, in much lower proportion. Reducing our meat consumption would reduce methane levels. However, methane only remains in the atmosphere for ~12 years and is removed by a natural process resulting in the production of water.

Carbon Dioxide, on the other hand, remains for around 100 years and is removed via photo-synthesis. We need more sustainable forest to address this and less consumption of fossil fuels but given the cost of oil/gas it won’t be hard to accept.

More importantly, we need a complete change of attitude including reducing travel significantly – commuting specifically – it’s ludicrous to travel up and down the country to the workplace when half the work doesn’t even need to be done at work.

But there are much simpler things that anyone can do. If you’re not short of cash fit solar panels, even in our crap summer you would have made savings. Consider a low voltage immersion heater system powered by a small wind turbine – free hot water forever!

Less in the budget? Get down to your local DIY store and get loads of roof insulation in; fit blinds to windows that are not double-glazed; install a small wood-burning stove.

Got no budget? Switch off unwanted lights and electrical appliances; buy fresh vegetables as you need them – rotting food in landfill produces methane; re-use shopping bags; build a composting bin from scrap wood. Try this site for further ideas.

If everyone does something, no matter how little, it would make a big difference!

Binge Drinking

Praise the Lord!

We’re saved from binge drinking!

There’s going to be a label on bottles of alcohol warning people about binge drinking.

That’s so inspirational, NOT.

It’s too late, the lunatics are already in charge of the asylum.