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Lake District Hydro Energy

Hugo House takes a close look at profitable hydro microgeneration.

Hydro microgeneration is a fantastic example of how centuries-old technology can be updated to provide a 21st-century solution to meeting energy needs. And, with the Government’s new Feed-in Tariff (FiT) payments rewarding independent generators, generating electricity from water can also be profitable.

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Hugo House takes a close look at profitable hydro microgeneration.

Hydro microgeneration is a fantastic example of how centuries-old technology can be updated to provide a 21st-century solution to meeting energy needs. And, with the Government’s new Feed-in Tariff (FiT) payments rewarding independent generators, generating electricity from water can also be profitable.

Hydro technology has always relied on harnessing the kinetic energy produced as water flows downhill via rivers and streams. Flowing water is used to drive a small turbine that generates electricity. The faster the flow and the more water there is, the more energy can be produced.
Helping preserve Nature’s assets

One of the generators Good Energy works with is Docker Nook hill farm in Cumbria. The sheep farm is a great example of how home-grown power can change the energy landscape in the UK – making the most of natural assets while preserving them. The 14kW hydro generator is run by Mark Cropper, Managing Director of Ellergreen Hydro. After three years in development and costing £85,000, funded by a loan, Docker Nook’s hydro generator started turning in February 2010. It has a life span of around 50 years and, thanks to Good Energy’s SmartGen FiT scheme, Mark can earn around £12,000 a year in payments for the green energy he generates.

The installation also saves the farm around £250 to £350 in electricity bills a year. When the hydro scheme isn’t running – around 30 percent of the time – Mark buys electricity from Good Energy. Thanks to some high-tech additions, such as a self-cleaning intake (where the water enters from the source), Mark’s scheme demands minimal maintenance. He can monitor the generator’s performance remotely via the internet. A weather station, also connected to the internet, indicates when the turbine should and shouldn’t be generating electricity. As Mark says: “It’s just so simple once everything is in place. All you have to do is wait for rain!”

Installing modern technologies in an environment as natural, beautiful and rugged as the Lake District – an area that relies on tourism for much of its income – could be cause for concern. But, says Mark, “you can see almost nothing of the equipment”. Usually tucked up inaccessible hillsides, the concrete intakes are rarely visible from any distance. At Docker Nook, 200m of buried pipelines fall a total of 30m leading to a holding shed, which Mark has taken pains to ensure blends perfectly with the surrounding buildings.
For hill farms like Docker Nook to remain financially viable, diversification through other forms of income is urgently required. “Installing hydro is one of the best options to consider. It has been absolutely key to securing the future of Docker Nook,” says Mark. “It ensures an income regardless of how the farm performs and means that I have the finances to reinvest in preservation and conservation – maintaining traditional stone walls and SSSI [site of special scientific interest] woodland, as well as bringing back heather and other wildlife.”
How the FiT works

The Feed-in Tariff (or FiT) is a payment made to those choosing to generate their own renewable electricity. Once registered, generators are entitled to a sum of money for every unit of electricity they generate – even if it is used on site – and a further sum for the units they export to the grid. This makes investment in hydro very attractive because there is a guaranteed financial return as well as the savings made on electricity bills. A 15kW hydro system will earn at least 20.9 pence per kWh in 2011/12 under FiT, plus more for exported electricity – that translates to around £12,000 a year.

Hydro can be a constant, long-lasting and reliable way to generate energy, so landowners who have a fast-flowing stream or river on their land, particularly if there is a history of even small-scale hydro power generation, such as an old water mill, may wish to look into the possibilities. Around 17 percent of the renewable electricity Good Energy sources on behalf of its customers comes from hydro power, and, recognising that preservation of the natural environment is a key issue, the company has its own strict environmental criteria for any hydro development.

Costs for installing a hydro system are variable, depending on the location and the amount of electricity it can generate. According to the Energy Saving Trust a typical 5kW scheme suitable for an average home might cost £20,000 to £25,000 including installation. Thanks to the guaranteed income provided by the FiT, hydro can be a good investment.

To find out more, visit www.goodenergy.co.uk

Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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Environment

How to Build An Eco-Friendly Home Pool

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eco-friendly pool for home owners
Licensed Image from Shutterstock - By alexandre zveiger

Swimming pools are undoubtedly one of the most luxurious features that any home can have. But environmentally-conscious homeowners who are interested in having a pool installed may feel that the potential issues surrounding wasted water, chemical use and energy utilized in heating the water makes having a home swimming pool difficult to justify.

But there is good news, because modern technologies are helping to make pools far less environmentally harmful than ever before. If you are interested in having a pool built but you want to make sure that it is as eco-friendly as possible, you can follow the advice below. From natural pools to solar panel heating systems, there are many steps that you can take.

Choose a natural pool to go chemical free

For those homeowners interested in an eco-friendly pool, the first thing to consider is a natural pool. Natural swimming pools utilise reed bed technology or moss-filtration to naturally filter out dirt from the water. These can be combined with eco-pumps to allow you to have a pool that is completely free from chemicals.

Not only are traditional pool chemicals potentially harmful to the skin, they also mean that you can contaminate the area around the pool if chemical-filled water leaks or is splashed around. This can be bad for your garden and the environment general.

It will be necessary to work with an expert pool builder to ensure that you have the expertise to get your natural pool installed properly. But the results with definitely be worth the effort and planning that you have to put in.

Avoid concrete if possible

The vast majority of home pools are built using concrete but this is far from ideal in terms of an eco-friendly pool for a large number of reasons. Concrete pools are typically built and then lined to stop keep out any bacteria. This is theoretically fine, except that concrete is porous and the lining can be liable to erode or break which can allow bacteria to enter the pool.

It is much better to use a non-porous material such as fibreglass or carbon ceramic composite for your pool. Typically, these swimming pools are supplied in a one-piece shell rather than having to be built from scratch, ensuring a bacteria-free environment. These non-porous materials make it impossible for the water to become contaminated through bacteria seeping into the pool by osmosis.

The further problem that can arise from having a concrete pool is that once this bacteria begins to get into the pool it can be more difficult for a natural filtration system to be effective. This can lead to you having to resort to using chemicals to get the pool clean.

Add solar panels

It is surprising how many will go to extreme lengths to ensure that their pool is as eco-friendly as possible in terms of building and maintaining it but then fall down on something extremely obvious. No matter what steps you take with the rest of your pool, it won’t really be worth the hassle if you are going to be conventionally heating your pool up, using serious amounts of energy to do so.

Thankfully there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure that your pool is heated to a pleasant temperature while causing minimal damage to the environment. Firstly, gathering energy using solar panels has become a very popular way to reduce consumption of electricity as well as decreasing utility bills. Many businesses offer solar panels specifically for swimming pools.

Additionally, installing an energy efficient heat pump or boiler to work in conjunction with your solar panels can be hugely beneficial.

Cover it!

Finally, it is worth remembering that there are many benefits to investing in a pool cover. When you cover your pool you increase its heat retention which stops you from having to power a pump or boiler to keep it warm. This works in conjunction with the solar panels and eco-friendly heating system that you have already had installed.

Additionally, you cover helps to keep out dirt and other detritus that can enter the pool, bringing in bacteria. Anything that you can do to keep bacteria out will be helpful in terms of keeping it clean.

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