The UK seems to be embarking on a big nuclear power plant building exercise, to replace existing plants about to be decommissioned, to help reduce reliance on oil and gas, to reduce the carbon footprint and to increase availability of power for increasingly power-hungry consumers. These new plants will most likely be the new EPR reactors.
Apart from past horrors like Windscale, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, constant ‘minor’ leaks, spills, irradiation of power plant workers, radioactive contamination of the water table, the political ‘hot potato’ of the costs and dangers of long-term safe storage of radioactive waste for thousands of years, plus costs of securing the waste from terrorists, a big nuclear power plant rollout plan sounds like a great idea.
But what about renewable energy sources? Are these really viable, or just a crazy idea? They are at least clean and safe, don’t generate waste in operation, and provide employment for installation and maintenance personnel.
I am just beginning to research this area, but already I have seen that a windmill on the roof of one’s house seems not to be viable — see here: Carbon Trust: Rooftop windmills are eco own-goal.
Oh well, for home microgeneration, it looks like wind power is out, if the above link and report is correct. But this leaves other possibilities for generation of power within the home environment:
- Photovoltaic solar panels on the roof which generate electricity
- Solar panel water heaters on the roof (vacuum tube collector panels)
- Geothermal heat pumps
Photovoltaic solar panels will generate electricity from sunlight, which may be used by electrical devices in the house, and sometimes any surplus generated electric may be sold back to the electricity supplier.
Vacuum tube collector panels can be used to heat water directly using the sun’s rays, without the need to first generate electricity.
Here’s a few links that might be interesting for more information on these subjects:
- See this guy’s experiment showing how much hot water his solar water heating system generates (vacuum tube collector system): http://eausolaire.eu/
- Another solar water heater resource (vacuum tube collector system)
- Geothermal heat pumps
- Solarcentury, the UK’s largest solar solutions company (apparently), the boss’s blog is here
- Finally for all things power-related, see http://www.homepower.com which contains all sorts of information
Using a combination of the above renewable energy sources with improved loft insulation, it should be possible to greatly reduce one’s electricity bill, indeed some people even get paid by their electricity company.
With government subsidies available in many countries, isn’t it time we looked more seriously at adopting these kinds of technologies, rather than simply following a potentially lethal nuclear approach?