April 04, 2014 | The UK government today announced its Solar Strategy, the first such strategic document dedicated to solar by any European Union government.
It will entail the creation of ‘solar hubs‘ whereby commercial and public sector buildings deploy solar arrays onsite, effectively shifting the focus of the market towards mid- to large-scale rooftop installations.
It also reasserts the government’s goal to deliver 20 GW of solar capacity by 2020 and sets out a new ambition to double the number of domestic rooftop solar arrays in the UK to one million homes by 2015.
The announcement made by Energy Minister Greg Barker – at a Solar Strategy conference session at event SunSolar Energy in Birmingham – is a statement of intent by the UK government that it is seeking to play a more influential role in the global solar sector, estimated to be around 46 GW by analysts from Deutsche Bank.
That 46 GW represents a 50 per cent increase in existing installed capacity.
Barker said: “We have put ourselves among the world leaders on solar and this ambitious strategy will place us right at the cutting edge.
“There is massive potential to turn our large buildings into power stations and we must seize the opportunity this offers to boost our economy as part of our long term economic plan.
“Solar not only benefits the environment, it will see British job creation and deliver the clean and reliable energy supplies that the country needs at the lowest possible cost to consumers.”
Ministers have also set a target of delivering 1 GW of capacity on public buildings by 2020 and will set out plans for the first 500 MW of installations later this year.
The conference session was co-chaired by Solar Trade Association (STA) PV Specialist Ray Noble and chaired by STA Chief Executive Paul Barwell.
Barwell said: “It’s a clever move by the UK government to start strategising to maximise its stake in a global market estimated at $134bn by 2020. With The Royal Society, the IPCC and even Shell anticipating solar could be the world’s biggest energy source, the UK needs to make the most of its R&D, product design and manufacturing skills to steal a march in the global clean energy race.”
Noble said: “The Solar Strategy gives a clear signal that solar in the UK makes total sense. We still have work to do in developing solutions to some of the barriers but, working with government, these will be sorted during 2014. The message to the solar industry is full speed ahead and the message to the Minister is that we will achieve your ambition of 20GW.”
Other highlights of the strategy include plans to work with BIS to increase economic opportunities for UK plc in solar, building on UK innovation leads; new industry collaboration on building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) and the addressing removal of grid barriers that prevent the expansion of solar.
The strategy follows the ‘Roadmap to a Brighter Future‘ which was published last October. It looks to showcase how the UK is at the forefront of innovation in solar PV and its importance in driving further cost reduction, meeting the challenges of balancing the electricity system, securing carbon lifecycle benefits, and identifying new financial models to help households invest.
Some 16 Terawatts of energy of all kinds, were produced and consumed in 2009 by our civilization, and experts tell us that we will demand 28 Terawatts per year by 2050. An example of energy demand is the electricity that flows into our homes and businesses. Another example is the fuel we use in our vehicles. Still another is what powers our global industrial sector.
Of the energy produced and consumed by our 21st century civilization, approximately one-third is used for transportation.
The cars we drive, the transport trucks and trains that haul our freight, and the airlines and shipping lines that transport us and our goods around the world, are all part of what we call the transportation sector. The vast majority of these vehicles use petroleum fuels to provide the motive power. Fuels such as gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel/kerosene, bunker fuel and other fuels, produce plenty of CO2, toxic emissions, particulate matter, and soot.
Of the three categories of energy users, the transportation sector is easily the ‘dirtiest-third’ and contributes the largest share of atmospheric emissions.
Another third (approx.) of total demand is consumed by industry and like the transportation sector, contributes large amounts of pollution to our atmosphere. Depending where you live in the world, the environmental effects of that pollution can range from negligible to toxic.
The last third (approx.) of demand is used to power residential buildings, commercial buildings, and various levels of government infrastructure. When you turn on the lights or heat in a building, or look at illuminated signs and streetlights on your way to your local air-conditioned shopping mall — each is an example of residential, commercial, and government energy users.
A question arises; Which of the three categoriescan lower their emissions at reasonable cost?
In all three categories, not using the energy in the first place is the best way to lower costs and emissions. Energy conservation beats everything else, hands down, every time.
For example, no matter how cleanly your car operates for each mile you drive it — for each mile that you don’t drive it, the car produces zero emissions. The same holds true for cities that shut off every second streetlight after midnight. No matter how efficient streetlights are these days, they still use less power turned OFF — when compared to ON.
Energy conservation differs from efficient energy use, which refers to using less energy for a constant service. For example, driving less is an example of energy conservation. Driving the same amount with a higher mileage (MPG) vehicle is an example of energy efficiency. Energy conservation and efficiency are both energy reduction techniques.
Energy conservation reduces energy services, it can result in increased, environmental quality, national security, and personal financial security. It is at the top of the sustainable energy hierarchy. — Wikipedia
For decades, very little research went into increasing efficiency or adding conservation measures in residential and commercial buildings.
Until the 1980’s, electricity wastage for commercial buildings and residential buildings was often over 80% and little attention was paid to building efficiency or conservation — back in the days of cheap electrical power — but great progress is now being made in efficient buildings and conservationas a way for building owners to reduce operating costs.
One of the most cost-effective ways to reduce overhead and to help lower emissions in buildings, is to employ efficiency and conservation measures, and to source electricity from clean, renewable energy for our residential/commercial buildings and government infrastructure. Efficiency and conservation can save building owners millions of dollars per year with rapid return on investment (ROI).
Some buildings are notorious for their heavy electrical demand. For example, some large U.S. shopping malls have utility bills of $1 million dollars per month. Retrofitting such commercial buildings in order to save up to 80% on their monthly electricity bill has become a huge business in the United States and there is every possibility of this happening globally, as electricity costs are expected to rise (and in some regions, rise steeply) in the years ahead.
Get used to hearing the terms efficient buildings, conservation, and LEED Certification, as these represent a global multi-trillion dollar opportunity for retrofit companies, building systems equipment manufacturers and engineering firms. At the same time, opportunities for building owners to lower their electricity, water and sewage expenses by orders of magnitude — with swift payback on efficiency and conservation spending — via large reductions in operating expenses.
Some building owners may opt for a light efficiency and conservation retrofit, while others choose the so-called Deep Energy Retrofit which is applicable to commercial buildings and forecasts savings of greater than 50% will result from such efficiency and conservation upgrades.
Commercial Building RetroFit Initiative (USA)
Who would have thought retrofitting the 6,514 operable windows of the Empire State building on the 5th floor, for energy efficiency, would be time- or cost-effective?
But it was.
Retrofitting existing commercial buildings for energy efficiency is one of the greatest opportunities facing the building industry. If our existing buildings in the U.S. were a nation, its energy consumption would rank third after China and the U.S. More than a trillion dollars is currently flowing out of our buildings in the form of wasted energy.
Eighty percent of the today’s commercial square footage will be standing and operating in 2030. We estimate a conservative $1.4 trillion dollar value to be gained over the next 40 years from intervening with deep energy retrofits using whole systems design. — Rocky Mountain Institute
One stellar example of a government leading the way for consumers, for commercial building operators, and for industry, is Washington DC. Under the leadership of Mayor Vincent C. Gray, the city set a great example for other cities. Washington DC is a thought and action leader on green buildings, efficiency and conservation, renewables, and sustainable development.
The Living Building Challenge is part of numerous efforts by the city to reach Mayor Gray’s “Sustainable DC” initiative, which includes 11 key categories for environmental/fiscal improvement. The categories include goals such as cutting the energy consumption of the entire city by half, being able to bring in locally grown food within a quarter mile of the city and have it consumed by 75 percent of D.C. residents, as well as tripling the number of small businesses within the city. — Carl Pierre, InTheCapital.com excerpted from D.C. is Planning its First Self-Sustaining, ‘Living Building’
As more than 50% of the world’s citizens presently live in cities (70% by 2050, according to the WHO) it makes sense to ramp-up efforts on efficiency and conservation in cities — where much of the transportation sector operates, where there is an active industrial sector, and where there are large numbers of commercial/residential buildings and government infrastructures.
Washington DC, San Francisco, New York, and other cities are leading the world with their great examples.
What can you do to help add efficiency and conserve power in your home, commercial building, or industry?
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington State.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) comprises a campus with several buildings with 532,602 square feet of floor space in Seattle, Washington. The facility was built from 1990 to 2004 and has won numerous awards for energy efficiency because of its original design but also because of its ongoing efficiency programs. For example, FHCRC staffs recommission all air-handlers, controls, and electrical equipment every two years in partnership with the controls system provider, Siemens Building Technology.
Campus maintenance is managed full time by a team of three professionals. In 2000, for example, this team performed more than 1,500 preventative maintenance operations. The performance of campus buildings is the subject of a Labs-21 case study titled Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington.
Other examples of campuses with good maintenance and energy management programs include the following.
Seven million premature air pollution related deaths — World Health Organization Air Pollution Report
A March 25 report from the World Health Organization (WHO) says that 7 million premature deaths were caused by air pollution in 2012. That’s one of every eight deaths worldwide. “This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk.” — WHO report
Air pollution is contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires are common sources of air pollution. Pollutants of major public health concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Outdoor and indoor air pollution cause respiratory and other diseases, which can be fatal. — World Health Organization
The report clearly delineates between indoor and outdoor air pollution. A large percentage of deaths occur as wood, coal, or kerosene are used as fuel for indoor stoves in the developing world. These rudimentary cooking and heating stoves emit relatively large quantities of soot, particulates and toxic gases. Not to mention comparatively large quantities of CO2 — and while carbon dioxide itself is not a toxic gas it can displace oxygen in enclosed areas within a house for example, causing death by asphyxiation.
Women and Children at highest risk
Women and children tend to suffer most and levels are often significantly higher than outdoor pollution measurements. Indoor air pollution is responsible for 2 million deaths per year, according to the report.
Air pollution is a major environment-related health threat to children and a risk factor for both acute and chronic respiratory disease. While second-hand tobacco smoke and certain outdoor pollutants are known risk factors for respiratory infections, indoor air pollution from solid fuels is one of the major contributors to the global burden of disease. In poorly ventilated dwellings, indoor smoke can be 100 times higher than acceptable levels for small particles. Exposure is particularly high among women and young children, who spend the most time near the domestic hearth.
“Cleaning up the air we breathe prevents noncommunicable diseases as well as reduces disease risks among women and vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly. Poor women and children pay a heavy price from indoor air pollution since they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from leaky coal and wood cook stoves.” — Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General Family, Women and Children’s Health
A solution to the millions of deaths in recent decades caused by indoor pollution is the replacement of inefficient wood-burning, coal-burning and kerosene stoves, with electric stoves. For that, 1.3 billion people living in remote regions unserviced by electrical grids in Africa, Asia, and parts of South America will need either standalone energy power plants in the form of Solar Home Systems (SHS) or microgrids to generate and deliver clean electricity for electric stoves and heaters.
Outdoor air pollution levels continue to increase
The growing outdoor air pollution problem is also a contributor to the millions of premature deaths from outdoor airborne emissions. Urban outdoor air pollution alone is estimated to cause 1.3 million deaths annually.
Outdoor air pollution is large and increasing a consequence of the inefficient combustion of fuels for transport, power generation and other human activities like home heating and cooking. Combustion processes produce a complex mixture of pollutants that comprises of both primary emissions, such as diesel soot particles and lead, and the products of atmospheric transformation, such as ozone and sulfate particles. — WHO
Transportation Sector must reduce emissions, now
To reduce the millions of premature deaths caused by outdoor emissions, doubling the automobile fleet miles per gallon, per country, would halve the amount of outdoor emissions emitted by the land transportation segment. Switching from diesel to algae biodiesel (which can emit up to 80% fewer toxic pollutants) can dramatically improve the air quality in cities. And both gasoline vehicles and diesel vehicles can be manufactured or converted to run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). New, CNG-burning Honda cars are available for sale in the U.S. and Japan, while many truck fleets in the U.S. and Europe are switching to CNG or CNG+diesel power in an effort to lower costs, extend engine life, and reduce emissions.
The global shipping segment also emits large amounts of CO2, toxic gases and particulates. Emissions from ships may be especially harmful to human health due to the high levels of toxic gases, soot, and particulate matter which are a byproduct of burning so-called ‘bunker fuel’. Biofuel development is underway to help mitigate the damage caused by the world’s shipping lines to the atmosphere. Commercial aviation adds a similar total amount of CO2 to the atmosphere, but soot and particulates are less concerning with aviation fuels as much cleaner fuels are used for aviation. Increasingly, commercial airlines and the U.S. military are switching to biofuel+conventional petroleum blended fuels. Boeing reported that it’s jets produced 80% lower emissions when blended biofuels were used in test flights.
Electric Vehicles emit zero emissions
Cars like the Nissan LEAF and the Tesla Model S are stunning the world with their sales and performance — and their zero emissions for the life of the car. In North America and Europe, Tesla provides free charging for the life of the car via a growing network of charging stations which are often solar powered. Which means zero ‘fuel’ cost for the life of the car, if the owner chooses to recharge at one of the free Tesla ‘SuperCharger’ charging locations. Both the LEAF and the Tesla Model S boast a >95% recyclability rate.
The Nissan LEAF has sold over 100,000 units since it’s introduction, while the Model S is limited to only 30,000 per year (for now) due to a lack of manufacturing capacity. The latest Tesla vehicle, theTesla Model X has a growing ‘waiting list’ of 12,000 people, and each one of them have paid a minimum deposit of $5,000. as far back as 2013 and are prepared to wait until 2015 if necessary, for their new Tesla electric vehicle.
It will get worse, before it gets better
For now, the annual death toll due to airborne emissions will continue to rise. By 2017, the yearly premature death toll will become a staggering number, much worse than 2012’s one-in-eight and will be a set of statistics difficult for many to comprehend.
Our health is in our hands
Many of us have the opportunity to become part of a better future by the choices we make now. Gas-guzzler, or economy car? Burning fossil fuels indoors, or switching to electric heaters and electric stoves? Burning plastic rubbish, or taking it and other recyclables to the recycling station? The choice is ours!
A list of specific diseases caused by indoor and outdoor air emissions from the report:
Outdoor air pollution-caused deaths – breakdown by disease:
It may surprise you to know that the world’s oil companies see renewables as an unstoppable force. Some oil companies have issued landmark reports informing us that by 2100 at the latest the world will be getting 90% of its energy from renewable energy, indicating this could happen as early as 2060 under certain geopolitical conditions.
Although oil companies were initially hesitant to embrace renewable energy, in recent years their position has changed somewhat, as the many positive attributes of renewables began to convince senior oil executives that changes were on the horizon and their choice was to either embrace that change or accept an ever-declining energy market share. By their own admission only 10% of late-century energy will be met by petroleum.
In the final analysis, energy is energy after all, and it is the energy business that the oil companies are in.
So, rather than cede energy market share to up-and-coming renewable energy companies, big oil decided to become involved in renewables, first with biofuel, then solar, and later, wind. Some oil companies even purchased solar companies with their already installed and operating solar farms to gain experience in the new frontier.
The Oil Industry: Early Oil
In the early 20th century it was all about the oil, but in the later 20th century it was all about refining it into diverse products and the oil industry then morphed into a much larger entity named the petrochemical industry which created billions of tons of plastics, fertilizers, liquids, products and even medicines every year. The petrochemical sector includes the natural gas segment and thousands of miles of pipelines exist on every continent except Antarctica to move methane from gas wells to processing facilities and then forward it as usable natural gas to the end users.
A much larger industry had sprung up out of the original oil industry, one that was far larger than the one that had merely pulled oil out of the ground and refined it for transportation use.
The High Cost of Oil
Almost all countries heavily subsidize their oil and natural gas industries, and the United States is a great example. Oil companies there get over $4 billion dollars per year (yes, every year) to ensure stable petroleum supplies, compliance with regulations even in difficult drilling locations, and to help levelize gasoline prices across the country.
It is commonly reported that the petroleum industry (worldwide) receives over $500 billion dollars worth of subsidies and tax breaks every year. The worldwide oil and gas subsidy reported by the EIA for 2012 was $550 billion dollars and 2013 will have a similar subsidy figure attached to it.
Besides the massive taxpayer funded subsidy scheme for oil and gas are the externalities associated with the burning of all those long dead and liquefied dinosaurs. For each ton of gasoline burned, 4.5 tons of CO2 are created. If you add up all the billions of tons of gasoline that have been burned since the first Model T Ford rolled off the assembly line on August 12, 1908, it totals an incredible amount of CO2. Not to mention the billions of tons of non-CO2 airborne emissions created by our petroleum burning transportation sector since that date.
All this burning has a significant healthcare cost for nations (look at China, for example) and pollution-related damages will continue to affect the agriculture sector and cause damage (spalling) to concrete structures like buildings, bridges and some roads.
Although an excellent source of energy for motive power with high output per unit, the necessary high subsidies and unfortunate climate-changing externalities have conspired to considerably shorten the age of oil.
Natural Gas, the ‘Bridge Fuel’ to a Renewables Future
The oil companies are ahead of regulators on this one. Knowing that emission regulations were getting stricter every decade, petroleum companies knew that they had to pull a rabbit out of a hat, as gasoline and diesel can burn only so cleanly without prohibitively expensive technology. This is why we hear every day about ‘Natural Gas the Bridge Fuel to the Future’ and how natural gas will revolutionize our power generation segment and transportation sector.
Convincing regulators, utility companies, and automakers to switch to natural gas became the new mantra of oil company executives in order to meet increasingly stringent emission targets in developed and emerging nations.
The ‘Bridge Fuel’ will peak between 2040 and 2045 in most published oil company scenarios and somewhere between 2060 and 2100 natural gas itself will be almost completely replaced by renewables.
Although natural gas is hundreds of times cleaner burning than other fuels, it still emits plenty of CO2, but emits only minute quantities of toxic gases — and, importantly, no airborne soot or particulates.
By mid-century or 2100 at the latest, cleaner burning natural gas will be replaced in order to meet emission targets, and natural gas would lose out to renewable energy anyway — even without emission regulations — for the simple reason that solar and wind have zero fuel cost associated with their operation, while natural gas will always have a fuel cost and a separate delivery cost per gigajoule.
Imagine all of the costs involved in prospecting for and siting natural gas fields, purchasing the land, drilling, installing pipelines, processing methane into natural gas and adding even more pipelines to deliver natural gas to the end user. It all adds up, and even the most efficient gas producers/processors/pipeliners must cover their overhead.
There are no comparable ongoing fuel or distribution overheads with renewable energy.
What will we miss in the Clean Energy Future?
Once a solar or wind power plant hits completion all it needs is for the Sun to rise or the wind to blow. No drilling, no processing, no pipelines, no supertanker spills or pollution, and no CO2 sequestration required. Just plenty of clean renewable energy.
For all the right reasons, renewables are making progress. Economics, human health and our environment are the factors driving this energy change-up.
Let’s hope in our energy future that oil companies and gas companies, simply yet profoundly, morph themselves into energy companies— and upon actualizing it, become renewable energy companies in the process.
Even amid policy uncertainty in major wind power markets, wind developers still managed to set a new record for installations in 2012–with 44,000 megawatts of new wind capacity worldwide. With total capacity exceeding 280,000 megawatts, wind farms generate carbon-free electricity in more than 80 countries, 24 of which have at least 1,000 megawatts. At the European level of consumption, the world’s operating wind turbines could satisfy the residential electricity needs of 450 million people. Image courtesy of the Earth Policy Institute.
Home Battery systems can collect and store electricity from rooftop solar panels, lower utility bills, and provide electrical power during utility company power outages.
Ever since lower priced solar panels hit the market it has become obvious that home battery systems are the next step for our modern, but still evolving, energy grid.
Installing solar panels on your rooftop has never been easier as panel prices have fallen by 80% over the past two years and installation rebate programs are generous in many jurisdictions. But getting all that free daytime energy from the Sun won’t do you much good unless you can store it for later use.
Having a home battery system allows you to store the energy that your solar panels collect every day.
Solar power can make economic sense in many locations. But solar with a battery system will rock your world! OK, maybe not rock your world, but it makes a lot of sense if such a home energy storage system can be had for a reasonable price.
Home Battery Systems can make sense even without solar panels
Without a home battery, you can still sell your excess solar generated electricity to the grid if your utility has a net-metering programme. But some of your profit is eaten up when you must buy back some of that electricity after the Sun sets, at a higher price. Yes, every day of the year.
For homeowners, having home energy storage means you could save a lot of money over ten or twenty years if the system is cost-effective to begin with — and a battery system is a wonderful thing to have during utility company power outages.
If you live in a jurisdiction where you can buy electricity from your utility company at a very low rate during certain hours and store that energy with your home energy storage system for later use, that can work for you — regardless if you have solar panels or not.
Peak rates can be $0.38 per kWh (or higher), while off-peak rates can be $0.08 per kWh (or lower) making the peak rate about five times more expensive in this example, than the off-peak rate.
Prognosticating ten or twenty years out, who’s to say what electricity rates may be? There always seems to be a reason to hike the rates.
Your home or business can run on the power from your stored electricity during high electricity rate periods, and sometime past midnight, your system can be scheduled to automatically connect to the grid and recharge itself at the lowest possible rate.
Home Battery systems protect you during power outages
Apart from collecting solar energy all day, or saving money due to electricity rate fluctuations, (or both), having a stored energy system can protect you from utility company power interruptions, especially for those in rural areas or other areas where power outages are common.
For homeowners in rural areas and who may be subject to frequent power service interruptions, having battery backup can make sense, particularly during storms, typhoons, or very hot or cold weather.
Of course, the old standby has always been an expensive-to-fuel diesel generator and the noxious fumes that go along with it.
Emergency service providers, schools, and other important government buildings and businesses could also benefit from such in-situ battery systems. We can look at a veterinary clinic or other examples where uninterrupted electrical power is important. With stored energy backup, electrical power is automatically restored within a few seconds and the vet can continue with the days’ operations on her four-footed patients — just that easy!
SolarCity and Tesla combine forces to offer home energy solutions
It is interesting to note that Tesla is working with Solar City to offer home batteries, using their proprietary Electric Vehicle (EV) battery technology. A fascinating development and one that holds game-changing promise.
Recycled Electric Vehicle batteries still have 70% life
In many cases, when an EV battery has reached the end of its life in an automotive application, only 30 percent or less of its life has been used. This leaves a tremendous amount of life that can be applied to other applications like powering a structure before the battery is recycled. — Pablo Valencia, GM senior manager of battery lifecycle management
Innovations like recycled EV batteries will pave the way forward to a viable and affordable distributed energy future and are an efficient second-use of this technology.
EV batteries store a huge amount of power, enough to easily power a home for two or three days in the case of a service interruption — and in the case of storing energy for everyday use during peak rate periods, would be well within their capabilities.