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The power is in your hands: the benefits of solar energy

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Electricity prices have risen 37% in the last three years, and are set to increase well above the rate of inflation for the foreseeable future. Looking for ways to reduce your energy consumption and find alternative cheaper sources of energy has never been more important, says James Carpenter.

With government incentives and commercially funded solutions available, there has never been a better time to consider the implementation of renewable energy technologies. Combined with other energy-saving measures, they can make a considerable contribution in reducing energy costs.

For businesses and organisations, solar photovoltaic (PV) in particular is an ideal choice. The main reasons being that power production and subsequent energy savings can be accurately forecast, solar panels are quick and easy to install and make good use of unused roof spaces and there is very little maintenance required.

According to Westinghouse Solar and the Carbon Trust, organisations can generally expect to see a reduction of around 25-30% from electricity bills. As well as the financial costs savings, there are also the environmental benefits to consider. Clean electricity being generated and consumed on site means that less fossil fuels need to be burnt, reducing carbon emissions.

Whilst the take up of solar PV in residential markets has been popular and widespread, business and organisations have been slow to take up the technology and realise the possible income and saving benefits.  This has mainly been due to uncertainty following the economic downturn.

Although the cost of solar PV has dropped considerably, by more than 50% in the last two years, the initial capital outlay can still be prohibitive for many, with average-sized commercial systems of 30-50 kilowatt peak (kWp) costing in the region of £35,000-55,000.

Nevertheless, for those with the funds, the financial rewards are attractive. With the help of the government’s feed-in tariff (FiT) scheme, which pays you for every unit of electricity you generate, returns in the region of 10% can be expected over the 20-year life of the scheme, with a payback period in the region of 7-8 years.

For businesses and organisations who have little or no budget for these kind of projects, and local authorities in particular, help is at hand. A new scheme recently launched by Westinghouse Solar enables those who don’t have access to funding to reap the benefits of solar by supplying a complete system and operating it for 20 years free of charge.

Once installed, the electricity generated by the solar panels is sold to the building occupier at a heavily discounted rate, typically around 5p per kilowatt hour (kWh), rising annually in line with inflation (RPI).

The company recently completed the installation of three systems at schools located in Devon, the Midlands and Hull, with a further 50 planned over the next six months.

The government has set out a road map for the deployment of renewable technologies which will see incentives reduced as quotas are reached. Organisations looking to benefit are advised to move before it’s too late.

James Carpenter is a director for Westinghouse Solar, which is part of CBD Energy group, a company that specialises in renewable energy technologies. James joined the company in 2011, establishing the UK business. It has seen strong growth in the UK solar market and is looking to become a national leader in the funded solar sector. To find out more, visit www.westinghousesolar.co.uk.

Photo: Dirk Kratzenberg via freeimages

Further reading:

Solar panels now on nearly 500,000 rooftops across UK

Chinese solar firms offer tax rebates to get industry back on track

£10m ‘Greener Bond’ unveiled to finance solar and low energy boilers

‘Record-breaking’ Abundance solar projects raise £700,000 in 35 days

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2013

Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.

1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.

3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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Economy

IEMA Urge Government’s Industrial Strategy Skills Overhaul To Adopt A “Long View Approach”

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IEMA, in response to the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, have welcomed the focus on technical skills and education to boost “competence and capability” of tomorrow’s workforce.

Policy experts at the world’s leading professional association of Environment and Sustainability professionals has today welcomed Prime Minister Teresa May’s confirmation that an overhaul of technical education and skills will form a central part of the Plan for Britain – but warns the strategy must be one for the long term.

Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Advisor at IEMA said this morning that the approach and predicted investment in building a stronger technical skills portfolio to boost the UK’s productivity and economic resilience is positive, and presents an opportunity to drive the UK’s skills profile and commitment to sustainability outside of the EU.

Commenting on the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, Baxter said today:

“Government must use the Industrial Strategy as an opportunity to accelerate the UK’s transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy – one that is flexible and agile and which gives a progressive outlook for the UK’s future outside the EU.

We welcome the focus on skills and education, as it is vital that tomorrow’s workforce has the competence and capability to innovate and compete globally in high-value manufacturing and leading technology.

There is a real opportunity with the Industrial Strategy, and forthcoming 25 year Environment Plan and Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan, to set long-term economic and environmental outcomes which set the conditions to unlock investment, enhance natural capital and provide employment and export opportunities for UK business.

We will ensure that the Environment and Sustainability profession makes a positive contribution in responding to the Green Paper.”

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