Archive for ‘Energy Saving Warehouse’

November 14, 2013

Sustainable ventilation and insulation

As winters are getting colder and summers come with record high temperatures, we may think more and more about the comfort of a well-insulated and well-ventillated house.

Today, many companies work on on incorporating simple and easy techniques in order to achieve the best ventilation and insulation for more sustainable buildings.

As an example, cooling of spaces can consume a significant amount of energy and there are a number of innovations already available that can replace traditional air-conditioning systems.

Recent Ashden-Award-winner Monodraught has developed a low-energy cooling and ventilation system called COOLPHASE.

COOLPHASE - Monodraught

COOLPHASE – Monodraught

It utilises the features of so-called Phase Change Materials (PCM), which can absorb thermal energy from their environment and hence enable the cooling of the room. Running costs of the system are said to be 90 per cent lower than traditional methods, and it’s very efficient as at night it re-charges the PCMs inside the equipment.

Natural ventilation is also a hot topic. The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers even has a special interest group focusing on this area. One of the companies working in this field is Breathing Buildings, offering a range of natural ventilation products, including the e-stack system that keeps air exchange between the interior and the outside to a minimum in cold conditions, while in warmer weather it increases the ventilation rate to avoice overheating.

A significant number of houses are not insulated, and in these about 45 per cent of heat loss is through the walls. Hence insulation could mean a serious tool in reducing wasted energy levels and lowering bills.

For some, home insulation is equal to mess and inconvenience due to the construction work, while sometimes internal insulation can’t be done at all because of planning restrictions. These issues have been addressed by the new insulation technology called WHISCERS, developed by United House and Sustainable Energy Academy for houses with solid walls. The process is simple: dimensions of walls are mapped with a laser scanner, then insulation boards are cut exactly to measure and delivered to the location. This can happen within only 24 hours. When the boards are there, these are installed quickly and with minimum mess, so the life of residents is hardly disrupted.

These are only a few of the solutions that are already available for making buildings more sustainable. With the exponentially growing number of new technologies and innovations it is only a question of the willingness of residents to improve their homes – and save money.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image by Ashden

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July 25, 2013

Solar Trains

Solar-powered cars are known to be widely tested but it may not be common knowledge that there are already a number of trains all around the world that get their energy from the sun.

In Belgium, 16,000 photovoltaic panels are installed on top of a 2.1 mile long rail tunnel, which power about 4000 trains. Electricity consumption of these trains fell by 30 per cent thanks to this development.

Solar tunnel in Belgium

Solar tunnel in Belgium

Also, in India there are two solar trains in operation: The Himalayan Queen and the Shivalik Express are both diesel trains featuring solar panels on their roofs. The Himalayan Queen is fully powered by the solar panels and it can run for two days without sun. Inside lighting on both trains is LED lights and offer solar charging sockets for travellers. By installing solar panels The Shivalik Express has also become significantly lighter and so it consumes less diesel than previously.

Italy’s PVTRAIN project uses the electricity generated by solar panels to power air conditioning, safety systems as well as lights.

Some short-distance trains are also completely solar-energy-powered. In Norwalk, USA at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children a Solar Train offers a ten-minute train ride thanks to 4000 solar cells on its roof. A similar solar-powered train is running In Hungary’s Nature Reserve Kiralyret Forest, where the vehicle was built by the locals.

Besides trains, even railway stations are becoming part of the sustainability revolution. London’s King’s Cross station has just been renovated and is now home to a large number of sustainable and energy-efficient solutions, including an on-site Energy Centre, which should provide all heat energy the development needs, in addition to green and brown roofs, sustainable urban drainage solutions and lower carbon emissions.

All-in-all, solar energy-driven trains are now chugging along on all parts of the world: India, North America, Italy or Belgium. And as solar panels enable lower emissions, decreased costs and even ‘free’ electricity onboard, the spread of such solar trains may even accelerate.

May 12, 2013

Keeping fruits and vegetables fresh – the traditional and the modern way

We all know how bad it feels when food we have bought turns bad and has to be thrown away or onto the compost heap. But there are some tips and tricks on how to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for longer:

  • Some vegetables can be refreshed quickly by putting them into ice water for up to thirty minutes
  • Onions and potatoes like cool, dry places and shoud be kept separetely and avoid placing them in the fridge as they will turn bad quicker
  • Bananas are best hung up at room temperature as they turn black inside the fridge
  • Make sure that vegetables and fruits are not stored in a plastic bag

    FreshPaper

The latest novelty for keeping food fresh is FreshPaper, a piece of paper infused with herbs and spices. When vegetables and fruits are stored on top of these paper sheets, they can last two to four times longer than otherwise. They can be used anywhere, inside o

r outside the fridge, in a fruit bowl – the opportunities are countless. The papers work until you can no longer smell their unique maple scent, and they are biodegradable and recyclable, of course.

Another option is the so-called ‘produce saver’ by reuseit.com. This product can also extend the shelf life of a product three to ten times, by absorbing the humidity and ethylene gas that is released by the ripening vegetable or fruit.

Overall, besides many traditional methods and tips and tricks, novel technology can also help avoid wasting precious food in our kitchens. What’s more they can also support families in developing countries who may not be able to aford the luxury of a fridge .

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May 2, 2013

Island Power

Islands and coastlines are in a controversial position regarding climate change. 800px-AgrihanNASA

On one side, as we expect today ocean levels will rise significantly and coastal cities and regions, as well as islands, are threatened the most.

On the other hand, climate change also makes us more aware of the downsides of traditional fossil fuels and renewable energy are becoming more and more significant. Besides wind and solar, there is a further medium that can offer significant amount of energy: water. And islands and coastal areas are the best sites to take advantage of wave and tidal power, being surrounded by seas and oceans.

According to the World Energy Council the potential amount of energy that can be sourced from just waves is between 8-80,000 TWh globally, and up to 2000 TWh per year seems to be economically feasible today but technological innovations in the future could increase this figure. 

The waters around the UK have been identified as one of the best locations for both tidal and wave energy, with a potential of up to 60 GW of electricity – which is approximately 75 per cent of the total electricity needs in the UK currently. 

There are already a number of large-scale devices being tested and installed in the surrounding seas, with the two key areas being the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Energy Park in Scotland and the South West Marine Energy Park between Bristol and Cornwall, which have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding about future co-operation.

Collaboration however can also extend across borders. The Marine Energy in Far Peripheral and Island Communities (MERiFIC) is a great example of international co-operation between the British and the French, involving members from Cornwall, Finistere, le Parc Naturel Marin d’Iroise and the Isles of Scilly. [3]

The MERiFIC initiative aims to investigate opportunities and threats, the economical and technical feasibility of marine energy utilisation in the area, besides a number of joint tests and research projects. Members, including the University of Exeter and University of Plymouth, have been working on developing a framework for other international partnerships that can be used by similar communities on other parts of the world.

International alliances like MERiFIC hence may mean a successful way of looking into the future in the renewable energy sector.

 

March 27, 2013

Collaborative consumption – is it the future?

Collaborative consumption means that people share or exchange their items, clothes, vehicles or even flats for the benefit of both parties, instead of buying them,. Although the term is not new, it has become more meaningful in recent years and in 2010 Time magazine named it as one of the 10 ideas that would change the world. There is even a special day of the year celebrating it – the Global Sharing Day, which falls on 14th November.

Clothes swapping

Clothes swapping

Well-known services include Netflix, which is used for sharing video content, Zipcar for sharing cars or Airbnb – a platform, enabling search for privately rented properties. But one can participate in exchanging luxury homes in different parts of the world with Lovehomeswap, just sleep on someone’s couch with Couchsurfing, or share a taxi ride with Taxifortwo, or use the some else’s parking spot with Parkatmyhouse, and even nearby storage space can be found with Sharemystorage. Another new emerging service is Zopa, offering social lending by avoiding middlemen. Even eBay and Craigslist can be considered as part of the collaborative consumption movement.

Collaborative consumption allows a more sustainable lifestyle as it promotes the re-use and sharing of things instead of buying them. In a world of finite resources and a growing population, this could help avoiding the mountains of unused stuff, and remind adults that sharing is important as we teach it to our children.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Photo by Neesa Rajbhandari

March 20, 2013

Energy Points

Kilowatts, kilojoules, litres, gallons, Celsius and Fahrenheit – have you ever got confused on how much energy you actually save by living greener? Do you understand what these metrics mean at all or are they just numbers with no real meanings?

An already well-established ‘universal calculation’ is carbon footprinting – offered by many organisations. The basis is adding up the carbon-dioxide emissions from various activities, including those by eating meat, driving a car, travelling or just turning the heating up at home. This calculation also helps companies to see their ‘footprint’ in their environment, and so help them at making sustainable decisions.

A new company now wants to make an even simpler and easier system that should be more understandable for everyone.

Energy Points is a software company offering various products, mainly for companies, to be able to track and compare their savings in various areas (water, electricity, vehicles, renewable energy installations, waste, fuel) by introducing just one metric: Energy Points, which is the amount of energy embodied in a gallon of gasoline, equalling 3.9 litres. This unit is more graspable to most of us who owns and uses a car regularly, making us related better to the sustainable lifestyle.

Besides general areas of life, like driving, eating or heating, Energy Points could also stand for how much energy is needed for pumping, desalinating or treating water, as well as how much is necessary for treating waste or for the life cycle analysis of an item. Exact location and the method of generation are also taken into account.

The company then offers a whole platform and detailed analytics using these Energy Points to enable organisations to make comparable decisions regarding investments or even organisational changes.

There are also other energy and impact measuring methods. The Energy Saving Warehouse offers the LeSTO Energy Saving Survey, which can help anyone at home or in the office at becoming more energy efficient. For this one only has to fill out a detailed survey on the site and then improve the lifestyle.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse 

March 13, 2013

What are urban heat islands?

Urban heat islands develop in cities when due to human activities the temperature is much higher than that of the surrounding environment. This is mainly caused by the type of materials used for buildings, roads, pavements – especially concrete and asphalt. Water cannot filter into the ground easily, and dark materials absorb light and then later in the day emit it as heat. Cars, air conditioners, and other equipment also release heat while operating, further increasing the temperature – and pollution.

Green Roof

Green Roof

This temperature difference can be quite high – up to 12C degrees in the night – and it has various effects.

According to the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency  heat island effect not only increases energy costs, but also air pollution grows, and in the summer heat-related illnesses and deaths are more frequent and also water quality can suffer.

Some of the solutions for easing the problem include adding more parks and green surfaces, as well as green roofs [rooftop gardens]. Buildings could be painted with lighter colours and pavements can also be built in a more efficient way, for example by using alternative materials [1].

Hence, there are ways to reduce the urban heat island effect but it cannot be totally eliminated. While many believe that it’s also driving climate change, it significantly affects the lives of the residents – both financially and personally.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Photo: sookie / Wikimedia

January 22, 2013

Energy co-operatives

Co-operatives are traditionally an efficient and successful way for communities that aim to live or work with certain benefits through co-operation. Co-operatives are usually created by people working, living together or by those consuming products or services as a group.

Utility co-operatives have been around in the US since the New Deal but recently there are more and more such co-operatives set up all around the world, which focus on green and alternative energy usage.

These co-ops provide an opportunity for local people to invest into various projects, for example setting up new solar panels or a wind turbine. Then, the co-operative provides interest for these investors from feed-in-tariffs or by selling electricity.

In Germany, the number of energy co-operatives has tripled to more than 600 in two years, with over 80,000 active members. The largest of these is EWS, where 99.2 per cent of the electricity comes from renewable sources and 0.8 per cent is from the co-generation of heat and power (CHP).

But Germany is not alone. In the UK, there are also an increasing number of such community initiatives.

Brixton Energy already has two existing solar projects in the Loughborough Estate with hundreds of square metres of solar panels, while Community Energy Warwick raised enough money for solar panels to be placed on the roofs of the Stratford upon Avon and Warwick hospitals. Meanwhile, the Brighton Energy Co-op recently set up “the largest solar system in Sussex”, with installations in Shoreham-by-sea, Portslade and Brighton.

But the list goes on: Leominster Community Solar, Ovesco, Bath & West Community Energy, Westmill Wind Farm, Baywind Energy, Hockerton Housing Project, Boyndie Wind Farm, and many others – with a total of 75 utility co-ops listed with Co-operatives UK.

Renewable energy co-operatives thus could mean the future for renewables with local communities joining forces to gain access to cheap (or free) energy sources by working together.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse 

January 15, 2013

Heated pavements – wasted heat or saving resources?

When talking about heated pavements, the first thought that would come to one’s mind would be – what a waste of energy and heat! However many existing schemes in Northern cities could show that these heated ‘roads’ could be beneficial and may even save resources.

A recent pilot project in the Netherlands for example is investigating the possibility to collect and store summer heat underground and release it in the winter months to keep the bicycle lanes ice-free. The benefits could mean less salt used and probably more cyclists on the roads.

In Northern countries, like Norway or Iceland, heated pavements are already well-established – in the latter one mainly fuelled by geothermal energy.

The company ICAX has developed its unique  ‘Solar Road Systems’, which collect the heat in the summer for road heating and de-icing in the winter. Their technology utilises the fact that black tarmac used on the road surfaces can heat up significantly in the sunshine, and by storing this heat – it can be used in colder months – for free. Their first successful trial in the UK took place under an access road to the M1 motorway at Toddington, Bedfordshire. Furthermore, the firm also claims to provide a solution for de-icing runways and parking stands at airports, potentially lowering disruption at busy terminals in snowy conditions.

Another company, Solar Roadways from Idaho, USA [4] has tested specially designed glass panels, with multiple features. These contain LED lights – which could display for instance road signs – , while the heating elements can help melt snow and ice, improving winter driving conditions.
This system is currently quite expensive due to the materials used, but there are also some cheaper alternative methods being investigated. One of these is using photovoltaic panels and cells on the roads, with embedded pipes for storing energy until colder times.

For a small town in Michigan, USA, this idea is nothing new. Here, waste heat from the local power station has been used in the underground pipes to melt the ice on the pavements since the installation of this system in 1988.

Also, there are already many commercially available personal under-driveway and under-pavement melting systems and mats, but these are costly and may not be very environmentally-friendly.

Hence, if cold winters continue to be harsh, heated pavements could be seriously considered as one of the long-term solutions for easing winter problems.
Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

 

January 8, 2013

Oil for computers?

We all know that you should keep your computer away from any kind of liquid. However Intel has just recently conducted a trial by dipping their servers into mineral oil for a year, ultimately with great success.

The aim of this research project was to investigate how to make data centre cooling more efficient, perhaps even moving away from traditional air cooling. While some companies, like Google or Facebook are re-locating their whole data centres to Northern countries, the mineral oil bath could be an easier solution.

Intel conducted the experiment in New Mexico together with Green Revolution Cooling, and during the course of one year it turned out to be more efficient than fan-based air cooling. What’s more, none of the computer components were damaged while submerged, either.

Data centres consume enormous amounts of energy. According to some recent data, server management, power and cooling on unused systems inside data centres amount to USD 24.7 billion per year. These unused machines may even make up 15 per cent of all data centre servers, increasing the level of inefficiency and costs even more.

Intel is not the first company to investigate liquid cooling methods. A start-up called Iceotope has also achieved impressive results by using their own cooling liquid, called Novec.

Hence, with more and more research in this area, hopefully data centres could become more efficient, which is crucial in the ever-connected online world of today.

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