Archive for ‘Biomass Energy’


13
JUN

Guest Energizer says:
Samsoe – An Energy Island


Category: Biomass Energy, Combined Heat & Power, Energy Efficiency, Green Electricity, Solar Energy, Sustainable Energy Stories, Sustainable Living, Wind Power
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Samsoe – An Energy Island

INTRO: Here is an article by Arthur Blue, a new contributor to our Blog, about an island in Denmark. Arthur is based in Argyll, but the article is highly relevant to Dorset which is also of course rural, with remote areas, and the potential to produce much of its own energy.

So to the article:

An Energy Island

I was in Denmark recently, enjoying herring on rye bread, blethering with old friends, and brushing up my rusty Danish.

Economists of the Anglo-American persuasion are convinced that the Danish economy is far too heavily loaded with taxes and welfare systems to take off and fly, but fly it does and the evidence is in front of your eyes in Copenhagen, where the amount of new investment, both public and private, is impressive, as are the famous open sandwiches.

Yes … a decent one costs about Dkr 100 ( £12.50 ) , but it’s enough for a good meal on its own. But to avoid both cultural and culinary overload we decided to have a long weekend on the island of Samsoe, famous for its early potatoes … in late May these were selling for very high prices in the capital … and for being self-sufficient in electrical power and domestic heating. It’s an island slightly larger than Bute, with around 4,00 permanent inhabitants, with large numbers of visitors during the season, mostly staying in summer houses well hidden amongst the trees.

The background to this is that in the latter half of the last century Samsoe, together with other small islands and remoter areas, was falling behind in development, what with high transport costs, falling population, difficulties for small concerns trying to compete in the larger market, and loss of young people, once they had qualified, to the mainland. It’s all very familiar. Denmark has the usual assistance programmes, but the trends continued. However in 1997 the Ministry of Energy announced a competition …. which local area or island could present the most realistic plan for a transition to 100% self-sufficiency in renewable energy. Small easily-defined communities were chosen since the social effects could thus be more readily monitored. Four islands and a peninsula entered the competition, and Samsoe won, with the objective being to highlight renewable energy and study how high a percentage could be achieved using available technology and ( almost ) without extraordinary grants.

Bearing in mind that most of Samsoe’s electricity comes from wind, the first thing to strike me was that the views are not dominated by turbines, for though you can usually see one or two in the distance if you look really hard, you do have to look for them. There is a large offshore array which exports power to the mainland and which offsets the island’s CO2 emissions from vehicle fuel, this isn’t particularly visible from inland, though the ferry passes close by, and in any case no-one complains about it since it also provides an income for the local energy company. As with other things who owns them affects the way you see them.

Local electrical demand is mostly covered by 11 1-MW ( medium-sized ) turbines across 3 clusters, plus a number of small privately-owned units, and there is an interconnector with Jutland through which power can go both ways, if required.

Demand management … smoothing the peaks …. has been the subject of much thought and consultation, and it’s considered that there is still a great deal to be won in that direction, both on Samsoe and elsewhere. Domestic heating on the island, like many places in Denmark, is based on district heating plants, since its only with industrial-type technology that you can achieve satisfactory combustion when burning waste or biomass. Planners can require the use of district heating for new buildings in urban areas, but in the case of older existing buildings the owners have to be persuaded to convert and there are various grants for this, including special arrangements for pensioners. District heating is not suitable for isolated houses either, and on Samsoe these have their own heating. Around 50% of the isolated year-round houses on the island have now converted to some form of RE, using straw or biomass and solar water panels. On the summer-house front RE is low, though a number have installed air-to-air heat pumps A programme of thorough insulation was of course carried out as an essential first step in all this, for which there was a very good take-up. One old lady in Nordby could only afford to replace her windows one at a time, but she managed it, over about ten years.

There are 5 village-based district heating systems on the island, mostly fuelled by biomass ( waste straw and wood chips ). One of the plants has a substantial input from solar water panels, and since the heat is transmitted by water surplus electrical power can easily go into the systems if necessary. Another plant also takes waste heat from a jam factory, and a proposal to use waste heat from the ferry, which could have supplied about 30% of demand at the port, fell through not because it was technically difficult … it wasn’t … but because the ferry service being tendered out there is no guarantee that a future operator would be interested in co-operating. To get everything going it was decided by NRGi ( the island energy company ) that a very low registration fee of Dkr 80 ( £10 ) would be charged for those who signed up before the plants were built. This model is an exception to normal practice since in Denmark those who wish to join an existing district heating scheme can find themselves paying around Dkr 36.000 ( £ 4,000 ). A consequence of the cheap registration is of course slightly higher heating prices, since the payments also have to cover repayment of the initial investment, however if you’re starting from scratch a high take-up significantly reduces distribution costs. In addition some of the larger farmers make their own tractor fuel from rape, the oilseed cake being a useful cattle feed, and the straw going into their heating plant, these, like most Samsinger, are highly practical people, who wear overalls rather than rainbow-coloured jumpers, and who think that it makes economic as well as environmental sense to go renewable. However plans to go further and use more local oil cake to replace imported fodder, and sell the oil, have faltered on account of the government’s fuel taxation policy And an Energy Academy has been set up on the island, using the expertise acquired with the local project. The Academy is the headquarters of Samsoe’s energy and development organisations, with 11 full-time jobs in energy education and world-wide consultancy, one of their current projects being on Mull.

The above is where Samsoe has got to after about fifteen years, but it wasn’t all easy. Mikael Larsen, who heads the Energy Academy, says that the technology is the easy bit, and the bigger the easier, since all you have to do is sell a feasible scheme to one or other of the big players who then bring everything in ( and take most of the profits out again, though a small local share can still be very useful ) And big schemes are usually very high-tech, and well beyond local capabilities. Thus with the Samsoe offshore array. The local projects, on the other hand, are much more low-tech, can use local firms for more of the work, and have a much better social pay-off. The hardest part of the project is not the design and building, or the financing, but persuading people that it is indeed feasible, and obtaining workable consensus on it. There are always those who for various reasons don’t wish to be involved, or are too old or too crabbed to be bothered. Many of the holiday visitors, though they contribute very usefully to the island economy, aren’t particularly interested in going over to electric cars, and the summer houses, being spread out, don’t lend themselves to district heating. So the political side … though not party-political … was by far the biggest challenge. It always is. An ocean of coffee and a mountain of cake was needed to get the plan rolling, and doubtless a fair quantity of the golden brew which comes in green bottles.

So did anything go wrong during all this ? Yes indeed. The ferry heat project fell through, as did another which proposed to use waste heat from the island slaughterhouse, when the latter closed a few years into the project. A methane project is still on the back burner.

And the three electric cars which were given to the district nurses were an absolute disaster owing to unexpected call-outs, unpredictable driving patterns, and the nurses forgetting to recharge the things after a busy day. But the electric car used by the Energy Academy apparently can get to Copenhagen, over 100 miles away, quite easily given a quick top-up at some intermediate coffee stop. In several years use that vehicle has had only one failure … a broken wire. But you learn from the failures, sometimes more than from the successes. So the project rolls on, with one aim being to fuel the ferry with locally-produced biogas ( a ferry has room for quite a big tank ), and possibly the production of hydrogen for vehicular use, as vehicle fuel is now the largest energy import to the island. Local electric car use could also be greatly expanded. It’s all well worth a closer look. You can have a very good cycling holiday on Samsoe, too, while you’re looking.

( Further information is available on the web, in English, at www.energiakademiet.dk also, since Samsoe is by no means the only island to have gone down the renewable road, at www.europenreislands.net which is one of the EU’s development arms. )



27
SEP

Lets Get Energized says:
Take a peek at Dorchester’s Eco-Homes


Category: Biomass Energy, Eco Homes DIY & Tourism, Energy Efficiency, Heat Pumps, Solar Energy, Sustainable Living
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Take a look at some of the homes that previously opened their doors to Dorset visitors as part of the Greendor Open EcoHomes Weekend in Dorchester…

 

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Above: The Old House at Home, Dorchester

This former public house dating from about 1750, Grade II Listed, has been retro-fitted with solar PV panels, internal insulation, and low energy technologies, bringing energy use down to under half an average household’s.

 

Above: Streetway Lane, Cheselbourne

A former police house, built in the 1950s complete with cells! The owners were the first in their village to fit solar thermal panels, and now have solar PVs and an Air Source Heat Pump as well. A pioneering rainwater harvesting system with UV filter provides drinking water.

 

Above: Watery Lane, Upwey

Built in 2007 to the owners’ design, this timber framed house has solar PV panels, a ground source heat pump and solar water heating. Local and recycled materials have been extensively used, and rainwater harvesting has been installed.

 

Above: Dorchester Road, Maiden Newton

This terraced house built pre 1840 close to River Frome, had the ground floor re-planned for flood resilience, including removable flood barriers. Renovated using lime mortar, clay paint and lime render.The home is heated by an air source heat pump, wood stove and solar hot water.

 

Above: Manor Road, Dorchester

This 1940s detached house has been adapted for sustainable living with solar hot water and PV panels, poly bead cavity wall insulation, grey water recycling. They keep poultry in their backyard too. They use no car, but electric bikes and bike trailers. Garden loads by electric miniature railway. Newly built solar conservatory helps to heat the house.

 

Above: Chalk Wall House, Dorchester

Completed in 2010, this eco-home was designed and project-managed by the owners’ son whilst he was an architectural student, and built by the family. North and west walls of rammed chalk dug on site help to keep a stable internal temperature. Wall and roof Insulation uses wood fibre and sheep’s wool, and lime render is used in the external finish. The house has a green roof and many other eco-features.

 

Above: St Helens Road, Dorchester

A late Victorian house in a Conservation Area. Planning limitations have ruled out some options, so the owners have fitted their solar thermal panel out of sight at the rear and their solar PV panels in the back garden. They are trialling DIY secondary double glazing as an alternative to new windows on the front of the house, grow food at Dorchester’s community farm, and are pioneering a wood recycling project.

For more information on other Open Eco-Homes Days in Dorset visit http://greendor.wordpress.com

Read more about all your Renewable Energy Options or see more ideas on Saving Energy.



10
DEC

Wendy Pillar says:
Green Energy Our Way at Wendy Pillar’s Home!


Category: Biomass Energy, Solar Energy, Sustainable Living
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When we moved to our house, it was very much with a green lifestyle in mind. It had a good deal going for it, such as enough land to grow most of our own food, and a rainwater harvesting system. It also had two-foot-thick walls and thus excellent insulation, but the heating was a real weak point. There was an old Franco-Belge range that had been DIY converted to run on oil. It was so thirsty that we could barely afford to turn it on, and we shivered through the first couple of winters with lukewarm showers and cold radiators.

A biomass boiler would have been ideal, but it was beyond our budget. The range could be put back to running on wood, but we didn’t want to rely only on that. Our temporary house had been heated only with a wood-burning stove, and getting up to a cold house on a winter’s morning or coming home to the cold after being out all day was not fun. We are not fans of the hair-shirt approach to green living, and I still shiver at the memory of ice on the inside of my childhood bedroom window in the morning!

In the end, we did convert the range back, re-using what you have always being a good green option. This was a labour of love, as it had been thoroughly butchered. A couple of parts had to be remade by the manufacturer in France, apparently when the wind was in the right direction and the planets correctly aligned, judging by the length of time it took. It now heats the hot water, as well as the ground floor and a radiator on each of the other two floors, and so far has run entirely on wood produced from our own hedge-laying and coppiced trees. I am still working out how to be able to use it for cooking, but it is theoretically feasible.

The range is backed up with a modern, efficient oil boiler. It is a simple system. The central heating comes on for an hour in the morning and on a timer late afternoon – if the house is already warm from the range, it doesn’t fire up at all or does so for only a short time. If we’ve been out, though, and the fire has not been lit, the central heating comes on fully so we come home to a warm house.

The hot water cylinder has a third coil ready for solar thermal, which will heat the water in the summer months, meaning that the hot water switch on the boiler should be permanently off. At the time the budget didn’t run to the solar thermal, but it is now booked to be done for the spring. This should cut our oil bill further, to less than 500 litres per year, and if oil ever became prohibitively expensive, we could manage entirely without it.

It’s not the kind of high-tech system that Kevin McCloud would be interested in for Grand Designs, but it is simple, user-friendly and was not too expensive. It reduces our consumption of heating oil by about two-thirds, reducing our carbon footprint accordingly, while giving a lovely warm house and ample hot water, which is very welcome now in the depths of winter!

To find out more about your Wood Energy options see: www.letsgetenergized.co.uk/energy/wood-energy and for more information on Solar Energy see: www.letsgetenergized.co.uk/energy/solar-energy



18
MAY

Anna Celeste Watson says:
New Eco Holiday Cottage in Wool, Dorset


Category: Biomass Energy, Eco Homes DIY & Tourism, Energy Efficiency, Green Electricity, Solar Energy, Sustainable Living
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Fresh from the excitement of launching the Dorset Energized website, I am also very excited about another renewable energy website I have just created for the new Railway Eco Cottage in Dorset…

Catherine Fisher from Swanage (who now lives in Scotland but frequently visits Dorset) has lovingly renovated her old family terraced cottage in Wool, in an eco-conscious way, and I am very impressed by her commitment to making it as green as possible simply because she feels it is the right thing to do!

Here’s how she has made this 100 year old end of terrace into a practical, contemporary and beautifully presented eco-home:

SOLAR THERMAL PANELS on the roof heat all the water, of which there is always an abundant supply (but of course she encourages her guests to be mindful of their water usage).

All appliances are electric (no gas) and powered by Good Energy’s 100% RENEWABLE ELECTRICITY upon Dorset Energized’s recommendation (and she respectfully asks visitors to be mindful of their energy usage and to switch off appliances and lights when not in use).

UNDERFLOOR HEATING is more energy efficient. The WOODEN FLOORS are also an eco-friendly product designed to retain heat and are also very hardwearing so shouldn’t need to be replaced.

A WOODBURNER is more energy efficient and uses carefully sourced wood logs as fuel.

ENERGY EFFICIENT LIGHTBULBS are used on all light fittings throughout the whole cottage.

The kitchen table was made from RECLAIMED WOOD and both beds and mattresses made from SUSTAINABLE SOURCES.

ECOVER products are provided for her guests convenience and the cleaners Dust & Shine also use ECO-FRIENDLY products. There is deliberately no tumble dryer to encourage guests to use the WASHING LINE to save energy.

She encourages her guests to take advantage of PUBLIC TRANSPORT especially with Wool train station situated next door, or to explore Dorset by walking or cycling. Guests can keep their bikes in the undercover porch or shed but she is also currently building a special area just for bikes.

The garden shed has a WOOD STORAGE area and she makes RECYCLING and COMPOSTING easy with specially fitted bins in the kitchen cupboard doors.

Even during the renovation, Catherine was very careful not to waste any materials that could be RECYCLED and used ECO-FRIENDLY PAINTS.

The cottage is a perfect base to explore Dorset for anyone who loves simple holidays and nature, especially with it being right by the River Frome, and is ideal for eco-conscious travellers.

Catherine would be delighted to offer you advice on your own eco home renovations, or installing solar thermal panels or woodburners – email her on info@railwayecocottagedorset.co.uk

Check out the website for photos and more inspiration, and make sure you recommend your friends! www.railwayecocottagedorset.co.uk



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