Microgeneration

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:

  1. Photovoltaic solar panels on the roof which generate electricity
  2. Solar panel water heaters on the roof (vacuum tube collector panels)
  3. 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:

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?

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2 Responses to “Microgeneration”

  1. Hi Simon, you’re absolutely right – and the UK is lagging (no pun intended) woefully behind.

    When you hear that centralised power generation loses over 60% of the energy generated in the form of heat with a further 10% lost due to transmission losses, it really does start to make you realise how much scope there is for reducing our carbon emissions and how MicroGeneration could, if done right, help with this.

    To get the maximum efficiency, the right MicroGeneration technology has to be installed for the environment in which it’s being placed – as you quite rightly pointed out, there’s been a lot of debate recently about the unsuitability of some house locations for wind turbines.

    The problem is the situation is clouded by commercial interests who have a vested interest in a particular technology and Government interests that want to be seen to be doing something, even if it’s just a token gesture.

    The challenge facing MicroGeneration is to provide the information and resources for people to ensure them to get accurate and unbiassed facts about MicroGeneration.

  2. Thanks for the info, and I wish you luck with your website: http://www.microgenerationforums.co.uk/

    Whilst hunting more info on this subject, I found Small is Useless written by George Monbiot. What is your opinion?

    Cheers,
    Simon

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