Over 5,000 churches make the switch to renewable energy

churches switching to renewable energy

Thousands of churches around the UK have agreed to switch to 100% renewable electricity in an effort to fight climate change.

The Church of England have lead the effort, with thousands of Catholic, Baptist, Methodist and other places of worship making the switch. Fifteen of the country’s most famous Anglican cathedrals are also on board – including Liverpool, Coventry, Salisbury, Southwark, St Albans and York Minster.

With such a large network of buildings taking part, it has been estimated that the move will divert £5 million away from fossil fuel companies to clean energy providers.

‘One of the great moral challenges of our time’

Church leaders have described climate change as “one of the great moral challenges of our time”, with the Bishop of Salisbury Nicholas Holtam – the church’s lead bishop on the environment – calling it “an enormous injustice” which “hurts the poor first and worst”.

Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury and the chair of Christian Aid, said the Church of England will be selling all of its shares in fossil fuel companies who are not on track to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement.

“Churches are part of a global network and so are often very aware of the plight of our brothers and sisters suffering from droughts, floods and extreme weather around the world,” he said.

He urged the government to set a target to cut UK emissions to zero by 2050 to ensure Britain “remains a green and pleasant land at home and a climate leader abroad”.

Image Source

Samoa is going 100% renewable – with the help of Tesla

Tesla in Samoa

The island nation of Samoa plans to run on 100% renewable energy by 2025, and the electric car giant Tesla are helping them achieve that goal.

The small country, home to around 200,000 people, previously relied on expensive imported diesel for most of their electricity – in 2012 alone they had to import 95 million litres of the stuff. But cost isn’t the only issue – island nations like Samoa are also at particular risk from the effects of climate change.

In recent years Samoa has invested heavily in renewable energy, with five large solar power plants, a wind farm and hydro-electricity plants. But this presented the country with a new challenge – effectively storing and re-distributing all that energy. That’s where Tesla came in, who have installed 2 of its Powerpack storage systems providing 13.6 MWh of storage. More importantly, they have implemented grid controller software that can react to a spike in demand in a fraction of a second.

“If a big cloud comes over the island and the solar drops very quickly, we can control the battery to make up the difference so we don’t have to start a generator immediately, and we don’t have to keep a generator running even when it might not be needed,” explains JB Straubel, chief technical officer at Tesla.

The software does a job that would be near-impossible for a human. “You have to respond in fractions of a second and you have to be kind of watching a lot of different data sources at the same time and then responding quickly… so it’s sort of the perfect application for a computer to do exactly that.”

solar farm
One of Samoa’s many solar farms. Image Source:Tesla

Since the system was installed earlier this summer power outages have become a thing of the past, and although diesel generators are still needed, usage is way down.
Tesla hope that the technology can be used in other parts of the world as renewable energy use increases.

“We’re going to see a lot more of the problems Samoa was struggling with coming up because they were getting to such high renewable percentages,” says Straubel. “So it’s really an indicator of the future. These are the types of problems and systems that we will definitely see in more parts of the world and in bigger and bigger grids.”

UK renewable energy generation breaks records (again)!

renewable energy UK

Of all the electricity used in the first quarter of 2018, over 30% came from renewable sources – according to new figures from the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) released last week.

Renewables were up by 3.1% compared to the same period last year, despite the higher demand for energy caused by the ‘beast from the east’ cold snap. Stronger winds and greater installed capacity (41.9GW at the end of 2018) are both thought to be the main factors behind the record-breaking stats.

Record-breaking figures

  • 30.1% of all electricity used came from renewable sources during January to March 2018
  • The figure was 27% during the same period last year
  • Wind generation was up by one third compared to last year
  • Wind accounted for almost one fifth of total generation, at 19.11%
  • For comparison, gas power was 39.9%, nuclear was 17.9% and coal was 9.4%

Back in May we reported that wind power out-performed nuclear for the first time ever.

More action needed

Emma Pinchbeck, executive director at RenewableUK, welcomed the positive news but warned that much more needed to be done:

“The landmark report from the government’s official advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, warns that we need to do more to reach our clean energy targets, and it recommends deploying more onshore wind because it’s the cheapest source of energy… We hope Ministers will listen to their own experts and take swift action to lift the block on future onshore projects.”

Here comments refer to the government’s cuts to onshore wind funding in recent years.

What are the pros and cons of solar panels?

pros and cons of solar panels

If you’re thinking about getting solar panels installed on your rooftop, you’re not alone – there are almost 1 million solar installations in the UK already! To help you decide if solar panels are right for you, our experts have compiled a list of some of the major pros and cons of solar panels.

Note – if you’re looking for even more ways to reduce your living costs, you can save up to £400 per year by switching to Eversmart – we’re one of the UK’s cheapest energy suppliers. Get a quote in under 2 minutes here.

Read on for our top pros and cons of solar panels:

 

Advantages of solar energy

Advantages of solar energy

Save & make money

Let’s be honest – who doesn’t love saving money! A home solar system actually saves and makes money in 3 different ways:

1. Cheaper electricity bills

The more sunlight your panels soak up and turn into electricity, the less you will have to buy from your electricity supplier – which means cheaper energy bills! The exact amount you can save depends on a whole range of factors – such as the number of panels, which part of the country you live in, and your typical energy usage – but the Energy Saving Trust estimate that a typical household in the south of England could save as much £220 per year.

2. The Generation Tariff (formerly the Feed-in Tariff)

The old feed-in tariff, where the government paid you per unit of clean energy you produced, was launched in April 2010 ended in January 2016. The rates were much more generous than they are now, leading to a solar power boom in the early years of this decade.

The new scheme gives you a set amount of money per unit of electricity you produce (in pence per kilowatt hour). The rate you get varies depending on a number of factors – you can find out more on the government’s website.

The Energy Saving Trust estimate that you can make between £115–£160 per year from the generation tariff.

3. The export tariff

What happens to the electricity that you don’t get around to using? You can sell up to half of it back into the grid. The National Grid will give you 4.85p per unit of electricity sold. The EST estimate that you could make up to £105 per year from exporting.

So to summarise – a big installation in the right part of the country in the right conditions could make you up to £485 better off per year.

It’s good for the environment

Solar power is a clean and renewable energy source. It doesn’t produce carbon dioxide or any other harmful greenhouses gasses, and unlike fossil fuels it will never run out (at least not in the next few billion years!)

Experts estimate that you can save around 1.2–1.7 tonnes of carbon from being released into the atmosphere per year.

They are low-maintenance

A typical set of rooftop solar panels will last for around 25 years, making them a great long-term investment. Once installed, they require very little in the way of maintenance other than a quick clean every now and then.

They work in bad weather

It’s a common misconception that solar panels only work where it’s hot & sunny. They work just fine in the UK and they can still generate power even when it’s cloudy. The UK actually has the sixth highest solar capacity in the world!

 

Disadvantages of solar energy

Disadvantages of solar energy

Big up-front cost

Solar panels aren’t cheap – a new system typically costs around £5,000 to £8,000 to install. The good news is that energy saving products such as solar panels qualify for the reduced rate of VAT in UK – 5% instead of the usual 20%.

The system will pay for itself eventually, so to get the best value from your panels you shouldn’t be planning on moving any time soon.

It’s difficult to store energy

Solar panels only produce electricity during daylight hours, and you really have to use it there and then if you don’t want it to disappear back into the grid. You can use batteries to store the excess juice and save it for when you need it, but the battery arrays are expensive.

Technology is improving however and prices may eventually come down, making them a more attractive investment. The Tesla Powerwall is one example of domestic battery storage that could make storing solar energy more feasible in the future, but for now the battery and associated hardware costs just under £6,000.

You house & roof may not be suitable

For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, solar panels work best on a south-facing roof. If you roof faces east & west, the effectiveness of your panels will be reduced. Your roof also needs to be big enough to accommodate the panels (things like skylights, chimneys and dorma windows can get in the way) and should ideally have a pitch of around 30-40 degrees. Solar panels may not be a great idea if your roof is often shaded by trees or tall buildings.

You can’t install them yourself

Technically you could install your own DIY solar array if you really wanted to, but it’s not recommended. For starters, you won’t be immediately eligible for the generation tariff. The system would first have to be certified by an MCS-accredited engineer, who may be reluctant to sign-off a system that they didn’t install or supervise.

They might make your home more difficult to sell

According to research from consumer website Which?, two thirds of estate agents said that solar panels make no difference to a home’s value. 16% actually thought they would lower the price of a house, and just 8% thought they would increase property value.

That said, having solar panels can improve your home’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and the benefits of the generation and export tariffs will be passed on to the new owners.

 

Have you recently had solar panels fitted? Do you think it was worth it? What advice would you give to somebody thinking about getting them? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

 

400 megawatt hydro plant planned for Loch Ness

Loch Ness hydro plant

Plans are underway to build a 400MW pumped hydro scheme on the east shore of Loch Ness, capable of powering 400,000 homes.

The energy storage system would take excess electricity generated by wind farms and use it to pump water up to an elevated reservoir. The water can then be released at times of high demand, moving turbines and generating power on its way back down to the loch.

Once completed, the hydro plant will be able to provide 2.4GWh of storage capacity for the grid over a six hour period.

Energy storage has long been a challenge associated with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, which don’t necessarily produce power when demand is highest.

Boost to the local economy

The proposed site is just south of Dores, a small town around 6 miles away from Inverness. The upper reservoir will blend into the natural geographic features from where it gets its name – Red John.

Hydro dam
The new project will join an existing hydro power station. Image source.

Intelligent Land Investments (ILI), the company behind the project, say that it will create jobs for up to 300 people.

Mark Wilson from ILI said: “Pumped storage hydro is the largest and cleanest form of energy storage that currently exists – and a key enabler in helping Scotland meet its green energy ambitions.”

“As well as dramatically improving our energy security, this transformational proposal is a fantastic opportunity for the community to benefit from the energy transition while helping turbo-charge Scotland’s decarbonisation efforts.”

The Red John project will join the existing Foyers hydro-electric power station, also situated on the east shore of Loch Ness.

UK solar growth halves for the second year in a row

rooftop solar panels

The number of new solar power installations in the UK has dropped for the second year in a row, according to a new study published by Solar Power Europe this week.

The decline has been so steep that is has brought the entire EU average down to practically zero, despite several European countries installing record-breaking numbers of panels last year.

  • The UK installed 4.1GW worth of new solar panels in 2015
  • In 2016, the figure was down to just under 2GW
  • Last year, we installed just0.95GW

Lack of government support

The sharp drop has been blamed on government cuts to solar panel subsidies, making them a less attractive financial investment to homeowners and businesses.

The Labour party have called the government’s commitment to green energy “nothing but an empty PR move”, while the chief executive of Solar Power Europe said “Solar power has been voted the most popular energy source in the UK, it is therefore sad to see the UK government not take advantage of the huge potential of solar.”

Energy and climate change secretary Amber Rudd challenged the criticism, stating that the cuts were necessary to keep energy bills down “whilst ensuring there is a sensible level of support for low carbon technologies that represent value for money.”

Still a world leader

Despite the recent slow growth, Britain is still ranked sixth internationally in terms of installed solar capacity, and third in Europe behind Germany and Italy. China are now the biggest, with a total of 130GW installed capacity providing 1.07% of the country’s consumption.

Installed solar capacity by country:

Installed solar capacity by country

Ten of the World’s Greenest Football Stadiums

Green football stadiums

The 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia later this month, so what better time to take a look at some of the most eco-friendly, energy efficient football stadiums in the world.

Stadium owners around the globe have been making big steps to cut the environmental impact of these huge energy-hungry buildings, from covering roofs in solar panels to recovering & recycling rainwater. And it’s not just national stadiums and top-flight clubs that are going green – one non-league English team features on our list, with one of the most eco-friendly football grounds in the world!

You can check out the full list in the infographic below. If you would like to re-publish it on your own website or blog, we have included some easy embed codes at the bottom.

(Click or tap on the image for a better view).

Green Football Stadiums - Infographic by Eversmart Energy

Use this infographic on your own website

Simply copy & paste the below code into your website editor.

<img src="https://www.eversmartenergy.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/green-stadiums-infographic.jpg" alt="Green Football Stadiums - Infographic by Eversmart Energy" width="800" height="7779" /> <p>Infographic by <a href="https://www.eversmartenergy.co.uk/">Eversmart Energy</a></p>

North West company launches pioneering ‘liquid air’ energy storage plant

Liquid air energy storage plant

Highview Power has launched a grid-scale liquid air energy storage (LAES) plant, thought to be the first of its kind.

The 5MW facility opened yesterday near Bury, Greater Manchester. The owners claim that with the right funding and support, the system can be up-scaled to hundreds of megawatts in the future.

Supply and demand

Storing electrical energy has been a challenge for engineers for as long as we’ve been using electricity – generally speaking we have to generate electricity as and when we need it, which means that power stations and the national grid have to perform a careful balancing act to make sure demand is always met.

This presents a particular challenge for renewable energy sources – solar power for example can only be generated in during daylight hours, but most demand happens in the evening.

This new system takes excess electricity and uses it to cool and compress air into a liquid state. The liquefied air can be stored indefinitely in large metal tanks. Then, when demand is higher, the liquid air is allowed to heat-up and expands back into a gas, driving turbines and generating electricity. No fuel needs to be burned and no carbon is released into the atmosphere.

This isn’t the first attempt to effectively store electrical energy. Some companies do use large lithium-ion batteries, but they degrade over time and are only suitable for storing energy for a few hours. Pumped-storage hydroelectricity is another popular solution, using excess power to pump water up a hill and releasing it to generate hydro-electricity when the demand is present.

Government support

The current plant has the capacity to power 5,000 average size homes for around three hours. Highview have their sights set higher, but they need the support & cooperation of the government and other infrastructure partners.

Highview Power CEO Gareth Brett said, “Support from Government, our partners and our supply chain, has enabled Highview Power to successfully design and build the world’s first grid-scale LAES plant here in the UK. The plant is the only large scale, true long-duration, locatable energy storage technology available today, at acceptable cost. The adoption of LAES technology is now underway, and discussions are progressing with utilities around the world who see the opportunity for LAES to support the transition to a low-carbon world.”

He continued… “the market opportunity for LAES technology is exciting – we estimate that 60% of the global energy storage market comprises long-duration, grid connected storage and that our LAES technology is ready to meet almost half of this (45%).”

10 alternative energy sources we could be using in the future

It has been estimated that fossil fuels will completely run out within the next 50 to 100 years. The world has already started to look to sustainable alternatives such as wind and solar power, but some researchers are looking further ahead to even more efficient and cleaner alternatives.

The team over at Futurism.com have compiled a list of some of the most promising & exciting alternative energy sources.

One day, we could be collecting solar power from space and beaming the energy back down to earth, or digging deep below the ground to harness geothermal energy from magma. Some of these ideas are already being developed, whilst other are still firmly in science fiction territory.

You can check out the full list in the infographic below. (click or tap on the image to view the full-size version).

alternative energy infographic

Scotland sets new 90% carbon reduction target

Edinburgh

The Scottish government has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2050. This exceeds the UK’s overall target of 80%, making it one of the most ambitious climate change targets in the world.

The Climate Change Bill

The Climate Change Bill, which was introduced last week, sets out to cut emissions by 90% compared to 1990 levels. The Scottish government says that the 90% target is “at the very limit of feasibility”, but that they are eager to push the target right up to 100% as soon as realistically possible. At this point the country would achieve “net-zero” emissions – where 100% of the carbon released into the atmosphere is captured or offset.

  • The Scottish government claims that the Climate Change Bill is the toughest and most ambitious in the world
  • Scotland will include a fair share of all international aviation and shipping in its targets
  • The targets will cover all greenhouse gasses – such as methane and nitrogen oxides – not just carbon dioxide
  • As soon as the technology exists to deliver the 100% target, it will be written into law

Scotland’s track-record

Scotland has an impressive track-record when it comes the climate change targets. The country has already reduced emissions by 38% since 1990 – Sweden and Finland are the only industrialised European nations that have done better.

Its unique climate and geology means that Scotland can generate large amounts of renewable energy, particularly from wind and hyrdo. In 2015, renewable sources accounted for over half of Scotland’s electricity consumption.

The Scottish Parliament building

Criticism

Some climate change campaigners have criticised the bill for not being ambitious enough, stating that the 100% target needs to be brought forward in order to meet the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Scottish ministers have pointed out that they took on independent advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change, and that the current target is at the limit of what is feasible right now.

Scottish environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said that: “Our climate change bill sets out our commitment to reduce emissions by 100 per cent with ambitious interim targets which strengthen Scotland’s world-leading position on climate change.”

“Our 90 per cent target will be tougher even than the 100 per cent goal set by a handful of other countries, because our legislation will set more demanding, legally-binding, annual targets covering every sector of our economy.”

“By 2030, we will cut emissions by two-thirds and, unlike other nations, we will not use carbon offsetting, where other countries are paid to cut emissions for us, to achieve our goal.”