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Back-up or Pack-up: how the storage revolution can help keep the lights on



Energy storage is becoming an increasingly important topic of discussion for the renewable sector. An energy storage revolution could completely change the energy industry. Dr Andrew Crossland, senior design engineer at Solarcentury, discusses renewable energy and storage below.

Energy storage is often cited as the missing link for renewables. Solar power plants can charge batteries in the day so that we have a supply of energy after dark. On the windiest days, wind turbines can use storage to hold the energy that we can use to power our homes on the stillest of cold winter days.

However, the reality is that storage remains prohibitively expensive- or so we are lead to believe. Is that true? I don’t think so. And nor is storage a one trick pony – it has the ability to completely revolutionise the world’s energy system – and to understand how, I need to recount the events that occurred on the day of my Grandad’s birthday party.

As we tucked into our roast dinner on party day in May this year, not just one but seven British power stations either broke down or became unavailable. This, together with inaccurate wind forecasts and a breakdown of a subsea connector to France, led to a massive shortfall in electricity. National Grid just didn’t have as much power as it expected.  In total, Britain unexpectedly lost around 1,800MW of supply (enough to boil 800,000 Tesco own-brand kettles). National Grid had to find emergency energy sources, so we could continue to enjoy our roast dinner without the lights going out. However, acquiring emergency energy did not come cheap: some power stations were reportedly charging 24x the normal rate –inflating our electricity bills.

So how can we keep the lights on without paying 24x the normal rate of electricity? The best way to keep prices steady is to have a readily available source of backup power which pays for itself by serving multiple functions in the power system. That’s where storage comes in. My proposition is that the same storage that is needed to enable more renewable generation in the electricity system can also be used as backup power, at a fixed and reasonable price.

As coal stations are phased out in many countries around the world (including the UK), we are becoming more reliant on gas power stations to provide the bulk of our electricity. (Biomass is also used to supply electricity to the grid.) These power stations provide reliable power – when they work. But when a big power station fails, the impacts are acute. Renewables are intermittent; however, the impact of a single wind farm failing is miniscule relative to a big power station coming offline.

Storage technology is the perfect partner in both situations: it overcomes the intermittency of renewables and is a vital source of backup power when big power stations go offline.


Storage in the UK

According to the Renewable Energy Association (REA), the UK has 22 large storage installations tied to the electricity system. This is a start, but there is some way to go until there is a sufficient amount of capacity to guard against power outages.

The Energy Storage Network (the industry body for storage) is calling for 2,000MW of new energy storage to be built by 2020. With this amount of backup, the UK could be more comprehensively protected from energy shortfalls which, besides being a massive headache for National Grid, hit consumers where it hurts the most: their wallets.  Storage is a money saver: the National Infrastructure Commission recently reported that a smarter energy system with more storage, flexible demand and power connectors to other countries could save the UK up to £8billon every year.

Innovation in storage

Storage technologies are evolving fast. This is driven in part by the need for batteries to power the various devices we now use in our everyday lives, such as phones, electric cars and laptops.

It’s exciting that some of the most innovative storage products are being developed in this country. Although the lithium battery is probably the most famous, flow batteries and thermal storage are hugely promising for some applications. The challenge now for the UK is to properly recognise the value of storage in helping to meet the government’s three core aims:  keeping the lights on, reducing our carbon footprint and keeping electricity prices low.

Grandad was born into a coal-centric world. Some 80 years later, the world is moving away from fossil fuels in favour of cleaner, more sustainable energy sources. Without more energy storage, a low carbon world cannot be realised. What is clear is that storage benefits more than the renewable transition – it also improves the reliability, affordability and flexibility of our existing electricity system. This means cleaner air, more consistent prices and more energy independence for the UK. Who wouldn’t want more storage, and who wouldn’t want more right now?


How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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




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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