Saturday, 30 June 2007

David Millward takes the world's fastest zero-emissions car for a test drive

Getting behind the wheel of any new car is a tad nerve wracking, but being entrusted with something worth around £5 million is enough to induce a cold sweat.

Somewhat rashly Honda invited me to get behind the wheel of its latest concept car, a vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell engine. The car is filled with hydrogen rather than petrol and is the world's fastest high performance zero emissions car.

The hydrogen is pushed through a "fuel stack" somewhere beneath the arm rest between the driver and passenger, where it is converted into electricity which powers the engine. While conventional cars give out varying amounts of C02, this rather sleek beast emits only water vapour.

Transport for London has been part of an EU project testing the technology on buses and many of the major companies are trying to develop the ultimately ecologically friendly car.

There are already hybrids such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic, which are powered by a combination of petrol and electricity and, though their carbon emissions are much lower, there is some debate about their fuel economy.

Cars such as Saab's dual fuel car run on any bio-fuel, but they are losing ecological brownie points from some who argue that they are merely depleting another valuable resource.

The latest Honda car is their third crack at the technology. The previous two sounded a bit like high-technology washing machines, with a tendency to hum rather than roar. Now the fuel stack - the box which converts the hydrogen and oxygen into electricity -has shrunk, making the new version radically different to drive.

The Honda car can travel up to 100 mph and is due to go into production in small numbers in Japan next year, where owners will be able to lease one for upwards of £250 a month. Unfortunately, the only hydrogen fuel station in Britain is in Hornchurch, east London, (20p a litre) meaning that Honda's green machine may never take to the roads in its present form, but the engine technology could become commonplace, perhaps within a decade.

My contribution was not to crash the concept car.

full article

Will wind turbines ever work in cities? one pioneering new building may prove they can

In Dalston, in London's East End, builders are about to go on site to start constructing what could be a crucial step towards making urban wind-turbines a feasible source of renewable energy. The Metropolitan Housing Trust has commissioned the architects Waugh Thistleton to build a new block of social-housing flats that incorporates four stunning large, vertical-axis wind-turbines.

The success, to date, of domestic wind-turbines in cities has not been extensive. About 18 months ago, I became the first person in London to get planning permission to attach one to my house. And the output to date has been pathetic. My wood-burner produces more energy in an hour than the turbine did in three months. I have yet to hear of anyone producing worthwhile amounts of electricity from any micro building-attached wind-turbines.

But that does not mean that experimentation should not carry on, nor that I regret being part of an experiment to see if they can be made to work in the inner city. While many experts say it is impossible, I would love to see them proved wrong.

The developer Waugh Thistleton has included two innovations in the Dalston project. It is using vertical-axis, helix-shaped turbines (costing about £30,000 from the UK firm Quiet Revolution) and, more creatively, they have designed the building to maximise wind-flow to the turbines – the building acts like a wing, whipping past it on one side. It will be fascinating to see if Quiet Revolution and Waugh Thornton can pull this off. There is no doubt the prize is great. If successful, each turbine could produce enough energy to save up to 4 tons of CO2 a year – or power a 20-person office.

I contacted Sundog Renewables, which is based in Cumbria and is one of the leading renewable energy installers in the UK, with long experience in the installation of both solar electric panels and wind-turbines, to gather opinions on building-attached wind turbines. Their advice was that there were very few urban areas where building attached turbines will work on domestic homes, due to the lack of good-quality wind speeds at low enough heights.

But they were positive about larger turbines placed in windy locations on major buildings. They have had good experiences with the installation of Proven 6kw turbines in Blackpool and Liverpool. They said the sea-fronts on these west-coast cities were ideal locations for turbines, and I admit some jealousy when they waxed lyrical about the wind available to those living in the English Pennines or on Scotland's west coast.

A 2.5kw turbine costs about £11,000, and a good site provides about 2,500-5,000kWh a year. That is about £500 worth of electricity. The average home uses about £300 worth in a year. A 6kw system produces about 9,000kw and costs about £18,000. Grants – unfortunately – were slashed by the Chancellor in the recent budget and are nowabout £2,500.

There is no doubt that cutting energy wastage is a far more efficient way of cutting a building's CO2 emissions, but we still need people to take risks if we are to replace fossil fuels with effective alternatives. The Metropolitan Housing Trust, Waugh Thistleton and Quiet Revolution are three such pioneers.

full article
vertical helix wind turbine

BP and D1 Oils launch jatropha joint venture to produce biofuel

Oil giant BP and AIM-listed UK biofuels company D1 Oils said they’ve agreed to establish a ‘global’ joint venture to grow jatropha for use in biofuels.
Jatropha, an oilseed tree found in tropical and sub-tropical regions, grows well in poor conditions and therefore doesn’t need to compete with food crops for good agricultural land, the companies said in statements on Friday.
The 50/50 jatropha joint venture will be called D1-BP Fuel Crops Ltd and aims to plant one million hectares of the plant over four years. The joint venture’s total funding requirement over five years is expected to be £80 million, the companies said.
D1 will contribute its existing jatropha planting business and its expertise to the joint venture, while BP will provide working capital of £31.75 million through equity in the operation, the companies said.
D1 Oils currently has 172,000 hectares of jatropha, or rights to that amount of plantings, in India, Southern Africa and Southeast Asia.
Based in Middlesbrough, D1 Oils first floated its shares in October 2004 for 160p each. Interviews with D1 Oils chief executive Elliott Mannis and BP head of biofuels Philip New can be seen at D1 Oils’s website,
The BP/D1 joint venture announcement comes three days after Associated British Foods announced that it was entering into a joint venture with BP and DuPont to build and operate a major biofuel plant at BP’s chemicals site at Saltend, Hull.
The deal will enable ABF to find a use for surplus low-quality grain its food and beverages operations. These include British Sugar, the sole processor of the UK’s sugar beet crop.
British Sugar is already developing a bioethanol plant at Wissington, Norfolk, which will use sugar beet as feedstock and is expected to begin production next month.
Also in the past week, another UK biofuels company, Teeside refinery owner Biofuels Corp, said it was hoping to prevent insolvency by adopting a restructuring plan that would involve handing over assets to its bank and de-listing its AIM-listed shares. The proposed restructuring must be approved by Biofuels’ shareholders.
The push for biofuels comes as fuel refiners face new UK regulations that will force them to blend 5% ethanol with their petrol, beginning in 2009.

full article

Sigma taps giant wave farm

AIM-listed Sigma Capital Group, an asset management and advisory group with offices in London and Edinburgh, is giving investors access to a company that will help deliver the world’s largest wave-farm.
Edinburgh-based Ocean Power Delivery, a private company, has developed an offshore wave energy converter called Pelamis.
Four of its machines, with a combined output of three megawatts, are to be used in a scheme starting in 2008 by ScottishPower, which will receive £4 million in funding from the Scottish Executive.
According to Ocean Power, an eventual typical 30MW installation would take up one square kilometre of ocean and provide enough electricity for 20,000. It estimates that 20 such farms could power Edinburgh.
Mark Hogarth, investment director of Sigma Capital Group, said: ‘Ocean Power Delivery has got its first commercial deployment off the coast of Portugal and secured the UK’s first wave farm project in Orkney, so it’s attractive due to its stage of development.’
Ocean Power Delivery is the largest holding in the Sigma Sustainable Energies fund, with £500,000 invested.
Sigma, which boasts Artemis New Enterprises fund as a 5.46% stakeholder, has also announced the first closing of its Sustainable Energy Fund II at £35 million.
The fund, which has limited partner contributions from Scottish and Southern Energy, Bank of Scotland Corporate, West Coast Capital and Sigma Technology Investments, is Sigma’s fourth fund and second sustainable energy fund.
Sigma, which has a market capitalisation of £24 million, reported a turnover for 2006 of £7.9 million, up from £3.3 million in 2005. Its pre-tax profit was £1.8 million, compared with a loss of £0.4 million in the previous year.
Last week its shares were trading at 63.25p, down from a 52-week high of 66.5p on 19 June but well ahead of its year-low of 25.25p recorded last July.

full article

Friday, 29 June 2007

Charity attacks rush for biofuels

A furious attack on the drive to grow more biofuels has been launched by a charity supporting poor farmers in developing countries.

The charity - called Grain - says their research shows the rush for biofuels is causing much more environmental and social damage than previously realised.

full article

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

A milestone on the road to green fuel

BP is leading a project to make ethanol from wheat at a £200m plant in Hull that may fulfil a third of Britain's requirements from 2009. Sean O'Grady looks at the future for biofuels

full article

World's first floating wind farm to be built in North Sea

The world's first floating wind turbine could be up and running in under two years after the German engineering giant Siemens teamed up with a Norwegian energy group yesterday to try to generate electricity in the middle of the North Sea.

full article

Monday, 25 June 2007

Biofuels to blame as beer prices soar 40 per cent in Germany

Published: 24 June 2007

Biofuels may be good for the environment, but they are bad news for German beer drinkers. Prices in the country's pubs look set to rise by 40 per cent this year, because Germany's farmers are growing less barley for beer production and more crops for biodiesel and bioethanol.

full article

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Galapagos experiment sparks alarm

A US company plans to dump iron filings into the sea off the Galapagos Islands in an experiment to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

full article

Informed opinion says IT screens are not glowing green

IT accounts for about 2 per cent of CO2 emissions, according to Gartner, the analysts – the same proportion as the aviation industry. PCs account for 40 per cent of that.
full article

Icebergs are 'ecological hotspot'

Drifting icebergs are "ecological hotspots" that enable the surrounding waters to absorb an increased volume of carbon dioxide, a study suggests.

full article

Solar bin in anti-rubbish drive

Devon resort Torbay is testing a solar-powered rubbish bin.
The bin stores energy from the sun to compact rubbish inside, which means it can hold up to five times the normal amount of waste.

full article

Wednesday, 20 June 2007





The greenhouse effect is the natural process by which the atmosphere traps some of the Sun's energy, warming the Earth enough to support life.
Most mainstream scientists believe a human-driven increase in "greenhouse gases" is increasing the effect artificially.
These gases include carbon dioxide, emitted by fossil fuel burning and deforestation, and methane, released from rice paddies and landfill sites


Monday, 18 June 2007


Collecting energy from the sun to heat water will reduce energy requirements by upto 70% on an annual basis but during the summer you could expect the reduction to be 100%. The saving would then reflect 10%-20% on your annual fuel bill. The saving in actual money would be £80-£160 on an average uk fuel bill nice, but to balance the equation the cost of installation could be around £4000 which at best would give a payback period of 25 years . Not a very good prospect but that would be a lot less greenhouse gases ,so a good moral choice but no incentive.

The cost of fuel bills is set to rise because fossil fuels are only a finite resource notably north sea gas. Now the goverment have stepped in with a grant of £2500 to every household provided you have planning permission so the money is yours. The goverment will relax planning regulations so that providing the solar panels do not protrude more than 150mm and do not cover more than 60% of the roof area ther will be no need for planning permission.

Now lets do our calculation again, well the payback will come in at 9.3 years without any provision for the unpredictable price of energy and your saving the planet its a no brainer.

installation manual pdf

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Renwable energy


Renwable energy describes all the ways of producing energy for the home and industry from a source that cannot be depleted and do not add to the green house gases . To a lesser degree it will also include transport on land, sea and air because they are more demanding due to higher consumption levels and required for an on demand basis. An example of this would be the wind for sail power although extremely efficient by its very nature is unpredictable.

The source of renewable energy is mainly from the sun the exception being geothermal sources which are used to heat water from the earths core. Energy is collected in a variety of ways and stored for future use, the problem is that the technology requires innovation and can be prohibitively expensive and until the realization of imminent global warming, due to the burning of fossil fuels and massive deforestation it was thought to be the domain of eccentrics and political activists.

The awareness is now being heightened by the media and incentives sponsored by the government and the rising cost of home energy bills.

Renewable resources can be categorized as follows:-

Solar power which can be used to produce hot water using solar panels or electricity utilizing photo-electric cells.

Wind power with the use of wind turbines producing electricity.

Tidal and wave power used for larger scale power stations.

Hydro power from damming rivers or watermills.

Heat pumps either using the air or ground to recover heat.

Bio fuels made from crops extracting oil or sugar and refining them. (unmodified diesel engines will run on vegetable oil something the chancellor knows about because there is a tax on oil of 40 pence a litre still making it cheaper than diesel oil).

Bio mass generating energy from woodchip harvested from sustainable woodlands.

The balance of carbon dioxide being introduced into the atmosphere should be equal to that being taken out and locked in the earths crust.

Fossil fuels are the result of ancient forests locking in carbon in the form of carbon dioxide using energy from the sun in a process called photosynthesis thus storing the suns energy and then releasing it when combusted.

The simple answer to this would be to find a natural way to to collect carbon from the atmosphere

and lock it away. One answer was to use the pacific ocean to create a large plankton pond to absorb the carbon dioxide, when the the plankton died it would sink to the oceans floor out o harms way. However the reason there is no life in pacific ocean is because it is devoid of minerals essential for plant growth. Of course the most obvious way would be to plant more trees and stop the destruction of the forest now left. While research is going on to find away to remove carbon from the atmosphere we must try to find was to reduce our polluting ways.

Now we can all think of ways to lower our carbon footprint from turning appliances off when not in use ,walking instead of using the car to choosing more efficient consumer products .

Friday, 15 June 2007


After suffering from declining sales for the last 50 years, clothes peg seems to be making a comeback, ASDA report that in the last 5 months they sold over 1.6 million pegs - an increase of over 1,200 percent on the same period last year.
This is probably due to the corresponding hike in enrergy prices .

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

The EU's carbon trading scheme - deemed a key to tackling climate change - is set to "fail" yet again, says the WWF.

The European Trading Scheme (ETS) was launched in 2005 to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, but its success was limited, partly due to lax limits.

The wildlife charity is worried that the ETS' next phase will also "fail to deliver" significant emissions cuts.

Failure to cut carbon dioxide levels could cause irreversibly damaging climate change, scientists fear.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Currys boss calls for greener TVs

The boss of the UK's biggest electrical retailer has called on manufacturers to phase out the stand-by function on goods such as TVs to help save energy.
John Clare, the chief executive of DSG International, which owns Curry's and PC World, said that companies had to react to changes in customer behaviour.
Analysts have claimed that the average British household spends £37 a year by leaving appliances on stand-by.

uk grants

Grants are available upto the value of £2700.00 for anyone over the age of 60 and familys on benefit or tax credits, ranging from loft insulation to a high efficiency condensing boiler.


The aim of this blog is to explore ways to improve existing buildings

sPlans have been unveiled for one of the UK's first 'zero-carbon' homes. Eco-friendly features of the house include an energy-producing wind turbine and solar panels on the roof.

The claim for this house is the annual energy bill will be £37.00 uk against £700.00 for the average house

zero carbon house