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Solar power: renewable energy’s ‘more acceptable face’



Solar farms across the UK opened their doors to the public on July 4 as part of Solar Independence Day. Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Jemma Collins went to visit the Hollies solar farm in sunny Skegness, Lincolnshire.

Solar Independence Day, set up by the trade body the Solar Trade Association (STA), was set up to raise awareness about the many benefits of solar farms, while giving communities the chance to visit a site for themselves.

The date of the event, July 4, was not an accident. Coinciding with the US Independence Day, the STA was keen to promote the energy independence provided by solar power.

Clear blue skies and high temperatures in Skegness, Lincolnshire, made for perfect conditions for the Hollies solar farm, which has over 35,000 solar panels and a capacity of 8.6 megawatts (MW). A variety of people came to visit the site, including members of the public and local landowners who were thinking of doing the same on their land.

The Hollies solar farm was connected to the grid in April 2013 and the electricity generated can power approximately 25% of the homes in the Skegness area – or just under 2,500 to be specific.

West Midlands-based renewables firm Juwi Renewable Energies is one of the co-managers of the site along with Lightsource Renewable Energy. An active member of the STA, it has completed nine projects in the UK, with Hollies the largest in its portfolio.

Jan Sisson is the managing director of Juwi in the UK, and said it held the open day with the aim of building “a bit more enthusiasm in renewables”.

The farm in Skegness was approved quickly and with very few problems. Sisson says the support from the council made the project much easier than others.

Juwi is currently working on a range of renewable projects around the UK. Sisson explains, “Juwi as a company is actually founded by two guys with farming backgrounds and the vision is that sooner or later 100% of our power and energy needs can be met from renewables. There’s no good reason why not; it’s mainly just due to politics and people’s perceptions that is stopping us doing it.”

The site’s landowner Tim Spencer has been enthusiastic about clean energy for quite some time. His land was one of the first places in Lincolnshire to have wind turbines and he has now turned his attentions to solar.

“We are very very much into renewable energy and think that it’s the way forward and we all need to do something about climate change”, Spencer says.

I feel that this area in particular, with being a costal location, there’s always the risk of sea level rises and I think we have to improve the situation and reduce our emissions of CO2 to prevent global warming.”

Spencer has seen vast benefits since the installation of the solar farm, and not just from the reduction of harmful emissions. He explains how the farm has boosted the local economy and helped wildlife.

“When we built this, local builders built the sub-station, local civil engineers built the roads, local electricians worked on site, all the stone for the roads came from local quarries. There were colossal opportunities for local businesses here.”

He adds that the benefits to the local ecosystem had been one of the best, but most surprising, things about the solar farm. The fencing around the site has provided protection from predators, creating an ‘oasis’ of sorts where flora and fauna can thrive.

“Because predators can’t get into the fenced area as easily, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of hares, partridges, pheasants and we’ve got now five or six pairs of breading lapwings with chicks on site, which are becoming very endangered in this area. It does show that a small amount of effort can bring great rewards to the wildlife.”

Spencer has planning permission for an extension scheme, but says he doesn’t think he will install more wind turbines as he feels pubic opinion has moved away from this sector. He says solar power is now “the more acceptable face of renewable energy to the general public than perhaps turbines”.

Spencer and the developers hope the success of the Hollies solar farm can inspire others to follow suit in the local area. Indeed, Rebecca Whitehead, who came to visit the site with a view of installing a solar farm on her own land, says, “I’ve been saying to my children for years that they are going to be shivering [in the future] because our generation has gobbled up all the resources. And I really feel that we have to do something now to try and secure our energy for the future.”

An increasingly popular form of renewable energy, some predict that solar could be the biggest source of power on the planet by as soon as 2025. But this could be undermined by policy decisions, with the UK government looking to scrap subsidies for large-scale projects.

Chris Summers, another visitor who came to find out more about the solar farm after seeing it advertised online, says one of the reasons he likes renewables is that the surrounding area can be used for other things, “Electric is going up so it’s about what can you do to bring it down.”

It is clear there is real excitement about the benefits solar power can bring. Not only is it a clean form of energy but it seems to be more acceptable and although we might naturally shy away from change, solar power looks to be the answer for the future.

“The scenario of global warming is not improving; sea levels are rising, polar ice caps are melting”, Spencer adds.

There are different views on it but we have to do something.”

Further reading:

Solar farms to welcome visitors for ‘Solar Independence Day’

Solar farms open to visitors for ‘Solar Independence Day’

2013 record year for solar PV but sector still ‘policy-driven’

DECC plans to scrap solar farm subsidy will ‘undermine investment’

One-fifth of UK’s electricity now comes from renewables


7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption



Energy Consumption
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Syda Productions |

Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.

This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?

Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.

New Technologies to Watch

These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:

  1. Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
  2. Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
  3. New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
  4. Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
  5. Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
  6. The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
  7. Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.

Making the Investment

All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.

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Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis




Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens |

Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.

Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?

Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.

Tip #1: Focus & Determination

Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.

Tip #2: Minimize Spending

One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!

Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal

You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.

Investing in Clean Energy

One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.

With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.

The Future of Green Biz

As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.

Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.

In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!

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