Friday, 22 November 2013

Climate warming anything to concern about?

I have a question, is climate warming or the lack of climate warming anything to be concerned about. It might seem to be a strange question. Worrying is to strong a word to use. I think its more to do with if something is a concern or isn't a concern rather than a worry.
For years I have read each side of the issue and to my crotchety mind I still don't have a clue. The concern is that there are so many factors to take into account. Broad brush strokes split into two areas, natural phenomena and man made.

The natural phenomena covers just about every niche science subject you can think of.  Astronomy through to Volcanology and many other ologies in between seem to have a view on is there isn't there global warming. The sun cycle is obviously a factor and modern astro-science is giving us a better understanding of the processes. But we have no control of the sun. When it comes to volcanoes its a similar outcome. We understand more of the causes and processes. But as with the sun we have no control whatsoever.

Man made processes are in many cases outside of the worlds control. There are the big issues like slash and burn of forests. To widespread and ever increasing air travel. What we have in place is an accounting and measuring system that is based on carbon. One that we refer to as the carbon tax. It's a form of currency and like currency the world over, its not universal. In the UK we have taken positive steps to reducing carbon emissions. The winding down of power stations using fossil fuel such as coal is one such way. The clean burning of fossil fuels was talked about but was never fully explored.

What I do worry about however is the two camps of believers and non believers. They are at the two groups who are at extreme ends of the greenhouse gas / global warming / climate change spectrum. Where there are extreme views there is usually evidence manipulation.

Now we in the UK are trying to 'go green' with wind farms and the use of solar generation. Each has a role to play and each has its own limitations. If the wind does not blow or at night when solar is not available. There are other forms of generation such as nuclear which also has its own pitfalls. To large scale generation by the construction of barrages which have environmental impacts.

The nub of the problem as I see it, which is largely ignored is the ever spiralling demand for energy in all its various forms. Generation is such a wasteful process which is not cost effective for anyone other than the big power providers and the balance sheet.

If I am our at night, I see thousands of street lights which are in constant use from dusk to dawn. Yet in time of conflict we managed to cope with the blackout. Modern street lighting is supposed to reduce street crime. The reality is that it only reduces the fear of crime. We could reduce energy cost by switching off or operating street lighting for shorter periods. Or should we turn off or take out of service every other street light. The financial cost of provision of street lighting is immense.

Britain’s 7.5 million street lamps cost an estimated £500million a year to run. Each one costs around £60 a year in electrical power and maintenance costs. If savings are made, across the country of say 50% that would be a reduction of around 11 million tons in carbon emissions.

Some councils are already making the cuts or operational changes. The energy used to light Kent's streets next year will cost £6.4 million and will produce 29,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. There are around 90,000 street lights and 15,000 illuminated signs in the county of Nottingham which cost approximately £5m each year in electricity and maintenance. In Shropshire, 12,500 or 70 per cent of the area’s lights are now switched off between midnight and 5.30am. Derbyshire County Council plans to turn off 40,000 lights at night. Leicestershire County Council expects to save £800,000 a year in energy bills for the country’s 68,000 street lights. Bradford dims 1,800 of its 58,000 street lights between 9.30pm and 5.30am. Worcestershire County Council postponed plans to switch off and dim lights. The authority currently pays £2 million a year to run 52,000 street lights.

Now, just imagine if the savings were then used to modernise the lighting systems to incorporate LED systems. With a 90% reduction in power requirement and reduced maintenance. Plus at the same time to install better control systems to give even bigger savings in costs and emissions.  However, as the government has cut payments to local councils then the savings are used to help balance the budgets. 

As an island nation we should be looking at wave energy. This is a slow emerging technology, which has yet to benefit from cost reductions through volume. It initially requires levels of additional market support in order to make it competitive against established sources of electricity which have already been supported through this phase of development.

Large-scale capacity: hydro plant producing more than 5 megawatts

Imagine if the 50 billion budget for HS2 was to be used for improving things like the construction of more efficient large-scale capacity renewable energy systems. Say the Thames barrage, Severn Barrage and a Humber Barrage for power generation. The UK currently generates about 1.5% of its electricity from hydroelectric schemes. There are other potential sites around the UK that could be used. Hydro generation would be almost around the clock generation of power due to the effects of the high point of the tide occurring in different locations at different times of the day.

Small-scale capacity: hydro plant producing less than 5 megawatts.
There is also small-scale capacity scale generation on river weirs where there is a nearby usage for the generated power. For instance the two Archimedes screw generators installed on the River Thames, at Romney Weir, represent the production of 300KW of electricity that will reduce CO2 output by 500 tonnes a year. Generation at Teddington Weir for instance could produce 500KW. Enough to power up to 800 houses. There are similar plans for Sunbury Weir, Bell Weir, Viaduct Weir, Boveney Weir at Windsor, Boulter's Weir at Maidenhead, Marlow Weir in Buckinghamshire, Goring Weir and Osney Weir in Oxfordshire.

Micro-scale capacity: hydro plant producing less than 50 kilowatts.

Micro-scale capacity generation such as at Greenholme Mill on the River Wharfe which has started to generate electricity. Enough for about 300 homes at a cost £700,000 and will produce around 14,000 megawatt hours of electricity a year.

EU legislation made it compulsory for energy efficiency ratings to be published in all UK homes for sale advertisements. Home owners are now required to commission an energy performance certificate (EPC) before putting a property on the market. The legislation will effectively put an energy efficiency grading on ever house that is advertised for sale. But what if all new buildings were required to include solar power and or solar heating in the design.

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