Comparison between RESTATS and Renewables Map

With the tender offer for the provision of the Renewable Energy Project Database, they gave out stats about the usage of their system. Well, if you can make head or tail of them, then you are better (wo)man than I am (I’m being PC). If anything it shows a poor approach to the collection and promotion of data.  Not giving a time-frame makes the data all but meaningless.

See DECC / AEA Ricardo’s statistics

RESTATS (then run by AEA Ricardo, now run by Eunomia) quote for “Renewable Energy Maps” is 385 page views.

They do not say whether this is per hour, day, week or month. Elsewhere within an answers to questions, they are using per month figures, so I  guess this is per month, but it might not be.

Renewables Map (www.renewables-map.co.uk) on an average day gets over 1,000 page views, from 300 to 350 visitors,

Over an average month, there are about 7,000 distinct visitors, with 25,000 page views.

(from October 2014 this has increased to 10,000 unique visitors looking at 30,000 pages)

I am excluding Search Engines updating their database, these are real people looking at real data.

So, for Map / project enquiries, “Renewables Map” gets between 60 to 70 times more (from October 2014, a good 100 times more) use than the official Government version.

Looking at stats for ALL pages on the RESTATS website, they quote  11,890 page views, which rather reinforces this as a per month value.  (Google Webmasters analysis says that Renewables Map gets visited by 10% of ALL people doing searches for this type of renewable energy information).

Going back to the 11,890 page views – that’s for all parts of DECC’s presentation of information about renewable energy projects. Renewables Map gets over 25,000 page views!

It would be great if Eunomia (who are regular visitors to Renewables map, maybe this is where they get their data??) could give some usable stats on the use of the RESTATS site. I think it will be a bit too depressing to make it public?

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Atlantic Array Cancelled

The BBC’s online article “Offshore wind farms face uncertain future” 

Atlantic Array’s 1.2GW was part of 32GW of planned offshore wind capacity

 

The article looks at the viability of offshore wind farms. While these are clearly more expensive to install and maintain, the challenges being not just the distance from port and dealing with the weather, but also establishing electrical connections, undersea cable and a link into the onshore grid, then there is the salt! Conversely, the wind is more consistent and with bigger turbines, far more capacity can be installed.

One of RWEs comments was that the project might be viable with the next round of technology, I guess both bigger turbines going up to 5MW capacity and maybe floating turbines that in extremis can come back to port to be maintained.

The idea of a tethered floating turbine, or maybe on jack-up type bases,  using oil industry type technology must be an attractive alternative to static pin piled turbines? The advantages, with a working system would circumvent many of the current disadvantages. Both jack-up and floating/tethered can be fully fitted out in dock and potentially returned to dock for major refurbishment on a routine basis. Rather than having an installed turbine that degrades over the years to the point where it is fit for the scrap yard, along with the huge cost of dismantling, a portable wind turbine might go on for many decades.

In the case of non fixed turbines, I would tend towards vertical axis turbines. With a horizontal axis turbine there is always going to be a stress as the wind tends to push the turbine mountings over.  A VAWT in spinning on a vertical axis will have a gyroscopic effect, aiding the stability of the installation. Agreed, the technology is in a sense still developing, but surely the ultimate benefits will seriously outweigh that additional cost of development, certainly more so than the current tendency towards what seems to me the brute force approach of ever bigger turbine blades with the concomitant problems of more bearing problems, bird strike, bigger foundations.   

Midnight Sun – Solar Energy

I’ve just seen an advert for “Midnight Sun” in the daily mail. This is from a company called AWE – nothing to do with AWE Aldermaston which makes nuclear weapons.
Along with solar panels and the rest of the eco type stuff, they are marketing a gizmo called Midnight Sun which supposedly stores energy generated through the day for use during the night, thus saving you money ! Ostensibly a good idea but what is it.
Well, it can only be a battery, a battery charger and an inverter, hopefully a bit more electronics to synchronize with the phase of any solar panel inverter (Otherwise you are simply charging from the mains) .
Further research says about 9kWh of storage and 5kWh available (think 9 and 5 units of electricity ) So in simple terms a deep cycle battery, on ebay look for deep cycle gel battery 12volt  170ah which equates to about 8.5kWh and is about £250.  Battery chargers aren’t expensive and inverters much the same, lets say £100 each for the top of the range, maybe £600 worth of kit including something to balance the phases.  The deep cycle battery has maybe 700 cycles before it needs replacing.
This £600 worth of equipment will potentially store 5kWh of unused solar energy, assuming that over the day there is any unused solar energy and that the sun is out, so it might work at near capacity during the summer , hardly at all during the winter.
So we might save at max 5 units of electricity, lets say an average of 3 units a night -I’m being very generous!  Each unit represents maybe 6p taking into account the savings in not buying it and the loss in not exporting it. Our £600 investment  saves us at best about 20p a night or maybe £60 a year!  So, ignoring battery replacement and any “money” cost associated with having £600 invested in batteries and not invested in savings, even at 1%, we have at minimum a 10 year payback.
Now have a look at their website : http://www.aweenergy.com/midnight_sun.php.
I was drawn to this by the full page advert in the daily mail for “Midnight Sun”  / “Solar PV Payback Scheme” It sounds good, no mention of batteries, lots of “Solar Energy” , “Stored energy” etc. No mention of price nor actual savings.
Now read this: http://www.navitron.org.uk/forum/index.php?PHPSESSID=c24b607093cc3df8638529bcb5fefcbb&topic=18595.15 and we get an idea of the price, not £600, not £1,000 which might allow a bit of profit.
No, to get a price, apparently (according to the Navitron subscribers) you have to have the salesman visit, salesman usually equals a lot of commission .  Well, the prices I have come across are from £5,500 upwards.
So, with a saving of £60 a year and that assumes the system really stores ONLY excess solar power! That means over 100 years to recoup your investment, but the batteries won’t last that long, maybe 5 years?
I suppose as a UPS / Battery backup it might work, but UPS’s are in the region of £100 not £1,000s

How would I reach the Government’s new target?

The Government has declared a new target of 50% reduction in CO2 based on 1990’s figures by the year 2027.

This risks driving out industry to relocate to countries with laxer standards and the result being higher levels of CO2 generated – though not associated with the UK so DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) can claim a level of success when in fact more damage is being done.

We need to take real action that on the one hand isn’t an accounting exercise, but equally doesn’t damage industry, without which there is no money and we all go hungry.

The 1st thing to do is get away from the obsession with electricity as representing the only form of energy. There is far more energy saved per unit of investment through insulation than all the clever ways of generating electricity. Our houses are in a sorry state, not only that, but energy is so cheap relatively speaking that most people couldn’t care to save it.

I remember the news item about 2 years ago where a new house was raided because its thermal signature was so high!  Incredible! It shows the shoddy construction of new houses. Bring in better building controls which demand decent insulation and we might get somewhere, then work through the existing stock to upgrade, not to modern standards which are shoddy, but to a decent standard of insulation.

Let people know how well they are doing, thermal imaging cameras in the winter will show which houses are losing heat and where, then help people fix it.

Here’s and opportunity for D. Cameron’s big society, give the task to friends of the earth and fund them, though keep control of the looney’s.

Glass skyscrapers, what do they think they are doing? A greenhouse in the sky, the amount of energy required to cool them is huge, and for what benefit? Actually it boils down to vanity, Norman Foster and his like should be ashamed of themselves.

Then look at water heating. I could cover my roof with solar PV and it still would struggle to provide enough energy to heat my hot water, but a couple of panels of solar water heater and job done! But I am paid an inordinate amount to generate a small amount of electricity while there is little or no subsidy for solar water heating. Okay RHI is about to be introduced but it is still totally out of balance in respect of saving carbon.

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Minty-Fresh™.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2010. That’s about 4 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 16 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 40 posts. There was 1 picture uploaded, taking a total of 44kb.

The busiest day of the year was January 7th with 26 views. The most popular post that day was Why Isn’t Solar Energy being used in Egypt?.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were solarkent.co.uk, renewables-map.co.uk, solaruk.net, solaruk.com, and google.co.uk.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for solarkent, feather board cladding, solar panels egypt, british embassy cairo, and solar panels in egypt.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Why Isn’t Solar Energy being used in Egypt? September 2008
5 comments

2

Feed in Tariffs, a kick in the teeth! December 2009
2 comments

3

Free Solar Panels October 2010

4

About February 2008
5 comments

5

New Wind Turbine Installed! October 2008
3 comments

Renewable Heat Incentive RHI

The aim of the RHI is to provide an incentive to people to generate usuable heat without consuming carbon.

This incentive is planned to be paid where a unit of heat is created that avoids the burning of carbon (oil/coal/gas) or multiplies the amount of heat rather than having a direct generation of heat. An example of this being the use of a heat pump.

The ideal technology for RHI is Solar Water Heating, once installed (apart from the pump) a totally carbon free means of heating water. With a heat pump, the heat that is accounted for on the RHI is the difference between that which would be generated by heating air or water directly using electricity and the actuall heat given out. So a heat pump that has a conversion ratio of 3 to 1 could be said to provide 2 units of carbon free heat for every 1 that uses carbon.

The unit of heat is nominally going to be measured in MWhr under the RHI.

The RHI committee are looking at the ROI (Return on Investment) and how to measure.  One of the ways of measurement will be to set a nominal effectveness for a technology and work out an annual incentive payable on an installation.

Potential for Fraud within the RHI

I can see this being wide open to abuse. Lets say I have a Heat Pump that runs for the 1st two or three years, it means I don’t have to use my boiler and I get an annual incentive for using what is a marginally cheaper system.

Once the system is beyond the warranty period, lets say it fails and repairs will cost the equivalent of 2 years worth of incentive. With a failure I will anyway switch on my boiler, I need heating, then I must arrange a repair. But the RHI continues to be paid as it is not based on a meter. Even if there is some facility for inspection, all I have to do is say it failed last week and I am arranging a repair.

The same will apply to any system that is not metered in a verifiable way.

Insurance

As a solution, perhaps include a mandatory insurance policy that is paid out of the RHI. This can be open to competition as with car insurance, but the payment of RHI is dependent on the equipment being insured. This will have an additional bonus in that reliable systems will cost less to insure and therefore challenge the market to improve quality. To an extent, as with the motor insurance trade, this will represent an unofficial but effective additional  regulation of the RHI.

Insulation

Now, the RHI is there to pay an incentive to reduce the use of carbon in heating. But lets say I have a house with an energy bill of £1,000 to heat it. I switch to a Heat Pump and with incentives covering my 2/3rds heating that is carbon free my heating bill comes down to about £300.

But what if I super insulate my house such that I match that reduction in energy use. Or turn my thermostat down by a notch and put on a jumper and save £500? It seems the RHI is focused on making money for people who both have money and choose a technical solution.

cavity wall with additional 2 inches of insulation and weatherboarding.

cavity wall with additional 2 inches of insulation and weatherboarding

Perhaps the granting of RHI for space heating should also be dependent upon the house being as efficiently insulated as possible. Not just the minimum loft insulation and cavity wall, but really well insulated, triple galzing, additional insulation over and above cavity wall, even more loft insulation than minimal!

I would exclude water heating from this as this kind of heating requires a proactive response rather than preservation of existing heat.

Free Solar Panels

I’m paying to have a new set of solar panels, its happening while I write this, the installers are on the roof drilling holes and so far not having cups of tea, though coffeee was offered.

The installation is being paid out of my hard earned savings and in my view a more effective alternative to either keeping the money in the bank or ‘investments’. I’m expecting an 8% to 9% return on my capital outlay over the course of the next 20 years or so, that return dropping at the point my Feed in Tariff contract finishes though I would expect to keep generating electricity for some years after that.

Overall my £12,000 investment will repay a bit more than £20,000 at current rates. The FITs are inflation linked so my return will not be eroded by inflation. Keeping my money in the bank at say 0.5% will see a degradation of about 1.5% per year allowing for 2% inflation.   Solar, with the Feed in Tariff is clearly a good bet.

Prior to going ahead with a paid for system I had looked very carefully at the option of a free system, I expect that my roof is South enough to comply with any ‘free’ requirements, however going through all the pros and cons it was clear that a paid for system was a better bet.

My concerns were:

  • Its my roof, getting free electricity based on a fairly standard install of 2kW would save me about £100 a year.
  • For the next 20 years, I cannot install my own system!
  • Nor can any prospective buyer of my house
  • That bit of roof is no longer mine to do with as I wish
  • Insurance / Damage

While I am sure that much of this has been carefully looked at by the free installers and there is a lot of small print protecting each party, it wasn’t at all for me.

I also looked at a company offering leased systems, effectively a solar installtion that after 20 years you might own. Wow, all the downside of a free system and you pay for it!  I covered this is greater detail here:
Solar PV leasing along with numbers, don’t go there!

While all the free and leased systems that I have looked at seem to have a reasonable business ethic behind them, just a bit too in favour of the installer, I am waiting for the real scammers to jump on this and how they will fleece people who usually tend to be older and trusting.

The Sunday Times 10/10/10 page 27  identified a clear scam. Free solar panels, but you have to pay for a survey to see if you are eligible. I doubt that there is any chance of any free solar panels being installed, especially when the ‘survey’ costs £2,500!

I can see more of these free solar scams coming on stream, perhaps a fixed annual rental, maybe an upfront bond re-payable over the years – but not when the company goes bust and re-starts with a new name and same scam.

My standard advice when considering solar thermal and PV.

Solar thermal will only heat your hot water, it won’t heat your house. At best it will provide 70% of your hot water, it shouldn’t cost more than £4,000 and you should use an MCS accredited installer in order to get the RHI when and if it is introduced.

Solar PV will cost about £12,000 or less for a medium sized system of 2kW, less than £19,000 for a 4kW system. The return should be in the order of 8%

(2012, prices have fallen and you should be looking at less than £10K for a 4kw system, the returns remain the same or better even with lower FITs)

You will never have to pay for a survey from a legitimate supplier

Never use a supplier / installer who will not discuss prices prior to a visit.

Installers who insist on sending a salesman prior to even talking about a price will be looking more at what you can afford, less at what the system costs.

As to who is installing my system – solarUK