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Every home a low-carbon home

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 8 April 2009 at 1:55 pm

Every home a low-carbon home

Friends of the Earth reacted to Gordon Brown's promise today that he would set out measures to make Britain a world leader in producing and exporting electric cars in this month's budget with calls for investment in renewable energy. "Gordon Brown's electric dream is commendable but essent…

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Insulation is king - part 2

Posted by Tim Pullen on 3 April 2009 at 8:20 am

Insulation is king - part 2

A question I am often asked at exhibition seminars is should cavity walls have cavity wall insulation. Almost invariably the answer is yes. The typical cavity is 50mm (2 inches) wide and 50mm of foam insulation will reduce the heat loss through the wall by around 75%. As 35 per cent of the total hea…

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Newsletter sign up

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 1 April 2009 at 3:21 pm

To receive our monthly newsletter for installers and other renewable energy professionals, please sign up here: Email: firstname: surname: companyname: …

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Inspiring people to act - or spying on them?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 1 April 2009 at 1:41 pm

Inspiring people to act - or spying on them?

I'm not sure if two councils makes a trend, but last week Exeter City Council and Broadland District Council both reported that they've been taking aerial pictures of homes their areas (of Devon and Norfolk respectively) with thermal imaging equipment. This allows them to see which homes and busines…

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Blueprint for feed-in tariffs proposed by industry

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 30 March 2009 at 11:58 am

Blueprint for feed-in tariffs proposed by industry

The renewable energy industry presented its proposals for how feed-in tariffs could best be introduced to energy minister Mike O’Brien last week. Last year’s Energy Act outlined plans for a feed-in tariff to pay microgenerators for the electricity and heat that they produce from April 2010. The …

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Will feed in tariffs deliver for us?

Posted by Matthew Rhodes on 27 March 2009 at 7:38 am

Will feed in tariffs deliver for us?

I spent most of yesterday at a conference about feed in tariffs, the new incentive mechanism proposed for renewable energy technologies from next April (2010) to replace the existing grant regime. It was organised by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) It is encouraging to see the government …

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Calculators shed light on renewable choices

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 25 March 2009 at 11:16 am

Calculators shed light on renewable choices

Comparing costs of different renewable technologies and working out potential savings in cash and carbon has just got a whole lot easier. Encraft has developed a range of calculators that help you work out all the figures, so that you can see what's best for your house much more easily. Anyone can u…

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Building a new home?

Posted by Barry Nutley on 23 March 2009 at 8:57 am

Building a new home?

Houses are being built, even during these hard, economic times, in particular in the self-build market. These homes tend to be more bespoke, and often the client wants them to achieve higher standards of energy efficiency. So I have put together a brief summary of how rainwater harvesting can help. …

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Maldives to be powered by wind and solar

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 20 March 2009 at 10:35 am

Maldives to be powered by wind and solar

The President of the Maldives has set an example for the world by announcing that his country will be carbon-neutral within a decade. Half a square kilometre of rooftop solar panels, 155 large wind turbines and a biomass plant burning coconut husks will generate the electricity the island country ne…

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PV shipments grow as community grants dry up

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 18 March 2009 at 10:29 am

PV shipments grow as community grants dry up

Shipments of photovoltaic (PV) panels (solar electricity) are growing year on year at a rapid rate around the world. Much of this is driven by multi-MW PV farms or so called Solar Parks. These require large areas of land and are best suited to sunnier climes and places where land is more available. …

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Stupid, or not stupid?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 17 March 2009 at 9:20 am

Stupid, or not stupid?

I went to the premiere of The Age of Stupid on Sunday night. That's a first for me, having never been to a premiere before. But I didn't walk down the green carpet in Leicester Square - just a trip to Exeter Picture House - where we watched what was going on in London, before the simultaneous showin…

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Insulation is king

Posted by Tim Pullen on 13 March 2009 at 11:46 am

Insulation is king

Let’s be clear, the greatest environmental impact of a house is from the fossil fuels it burns for its energy. No amount of eco-certified, recycled bamboo flooring can compensate for the impact of a gas guzzling house. Conserving energy, minimising the energy needs of the house has to be the first…

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First wall-hung micro-CHP unit due this year

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 12 March 2009 at 10:58 am

First wall-hung micro-CHP unit due this year

With approval from British Gas under its belt, the Baxi Ecogen micro-CHP boiler will hit the domestic market later this year. It will be the first wall-hung combined heat and power unit available in the UK. Like the boiler that it is likely to replace, Ecogen will use gas to heat your water and …

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Biomass fuels and supply

Posted by Gordon Traill on 9 March 2009 at 10:10 am

Biomass fuels and supply

Biomass fuels encompass a wide variety of products but, not surprisingly, most come from wood. Clean wood is a wonderful fuel, producing up to 5.5kWh per kg dry matter (dm). Wood pellets produce slightly less, at 4.7 to 5kWh per kg. Most suppliers guarantee moisture content to be less than 10…

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Planning for solar panels

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 6 March 2009 at 11:59 am

Planning for solar panels

Living in a listed building or conservation area doesn't mean that you can't have solar panels, as Anne Robbins' experience shows. You may, however, need determination and energy, and money for an appeal, if you want to leap over all the planning hurdles. Anne lives in a conservation area in Gre…

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Bring back pelmets...

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 4 March 2009 at 8:26 am

Pelmets always struck me as a bit old hat; I associate them with big, bold patterns, rich fabrics, swags, tassels and stately homes. But maybe it’s time they were rebranded because pelmets are a key element in making your home more energy efficient. Especially if, like most of us, you haven’t go…

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Efficiency or cost per watt - which is most important?

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 2 March 2009 at 1:56 pm

The development of thin film photovoltaics (PV) is progressing fast. It's still not as efficient as crystalline silicone solar panels, but I have read of projects using thin film technologies from single roofs up to large “solar farms” with capacities in the region of 40 MW. Crystalline…

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Bigger is still best!

Posted by Barry Nutley on 25 February 2009 at 11:24 am

Bigger is still best!

Domestic applications of rainwater harvesting have been the focus of previous blogs. However, there is even more potential in commercial buildings. With current economic conditions, we all need to reduce costs, and/or increase sales. Rainwater harvesting can help both: Rainwater can be used to…

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Scots make renewable energy easier

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 23 February 2009 at 11:06 am

Scots make renewable energy easier

The Scottish Government has made it easier for people to get renewable energy for their home following a consultation on planning reform. The aim of the consultation was to increase renewable energy generation and cut carbon emissions. The result is that anyone living in Scotland will be able to ins…

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Storing your solar heat

Posted by Gabriel Wondrausch on 20 February 2009 at 8:42 am

Storing your solar heat

A vital part of a solar thermal system is storage. The sun is not always shining when you need your hot water! On larger systems molten salt is sometimes used as the storage medium for the heat. Generally however, the heat is stored in water, especially if the purpose of the system is to provi…

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Celebrating passive solar

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 18 February 2009 at 10:11 am

Celebrating passive solar

Sitting at my desk, luxuriating in the warmth of the sun, while the temperature outside is round about zero, made me think that we don't always pay enough attention to the benefits of passive solar heat. By choosing to have my office in a south facing room, with a huge window, I'm sure that I s…

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Creating the green dream

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 16 February 2009 at 9:28 am

Creating the green dream

Converting your house to low-carbon luxury doesn’t come without a lot of hard work, and vast quantities of attention to detail. Last week I wrote about what Sue Harley and Neil Tappenden achieved in turning their Devon farmhouse into a low-carbon dream home. This week I look at how they did…

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Grants for Solar PV projects on community buildings

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 13 February 2009 at 9:22 am

Grants for Solar PV projects on community buildings

Grants are in the news again! The tranche of cash recently added to the Low Carbon Building Programme phase 2 looks likely to be exhausted towards the end of this month. If you have a community project that requires funding from this programme, my advice is to make sure that you get the application …

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Is bigger better?

Posted by Barry Nutley on 11 February 2009 at 9:38 am

Is bigger better?

Renewable energy can be a little confusing. For example, explaining to some people that doubling the size of a solar thermal system isn't necessarily a good thing, but doubling the size of a solar PV system is; doubling the size of a heat pump isn't a good idea, but doubling the size of a wind turbi…

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Living the green dream

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 10 February 2009 at 2:15 pm

Living the green dream

Comfort and beauty don’t have to go out of the window in pursuit of energy efficiency and low carbon living. It is possible to live in beautiful luxury, with barely a fossil fuel involved. Banish all thoughts of The Good Life, I know it’s true, I’ve just seen the evidence. R…

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Who makes wind turbines in the UK?

Posted by Matthew Rhodes on 6 February 2009 at 11:55 am

Who makes wind turbines in the UK?

One of the nicer things about the wind industry, especially the small wind industry, is that there are still only a relatively small number of manufacturers and distributors in the UK, so you can get a good feel for the market quite quickly. In the sub 10kW range, the most successful companies a…

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Evacuated tubes: make sure you don’t get burnt

Posted by Gabriel Wondrausch on 4 February 2009 at 8:34 am

Evacuated tubes: make sure you donât get burnt

Evacuated tube collectors are the Formula One of the solar thermal world. They are more efficient than other types of collector as they are almost perfectly insulated, and heat cannot pass through a vacuum. As the tubes are cylindrical, they are always perpendicular to the sun reducing the amount of…

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Good Energy rewards renewable heat generators

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 3 February 2009 at 10:42 am

Solar thermal panels to heat your water just got more attractive with the launch of Good Energy's renewable heat incentive, or HotROC, contract. This means that customers who generate heat or hot water from renewable sources are paid for the energy they create. This is a first step towards pu…

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How to store heat in a thermal store

Posted by Gordon Traill on 30 January 2009 at 11:48 am

How to store heat in a thermal store

Only a serious biomass nerd can get excited about thermal stores. Sadly, I count myself as one of those people. First of all what is a thermal store and what does it do? Essentially it’s a large water tank (usually round) which is well insulated with a series of bosses to connect pipes …

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Optimising solar pv siting

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 28 January 2009 at 8:34 am

Optimising solar pv siting

It’s obvious that solar PV systems need as much sunlight as possible – so the ideal is to position them at about 37 degrees to the horizontal (in the UK) and facing due South. Even better, if you can afford one, are tracker systems that ensure the modules follow the sun through the sky – altho…

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How much do you spend on heat and power?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 26 January 2009 at 10:42 am

How much do you spend on heat and power?

Gas and electricity bills gobble up a significant chunk of income for most of us, but do you know how much you're spending week to week? I didn't, until a few months ago, when I discovered imeasure. By just putting a weekly reading into the site, I can find out how much I spent last week on gas…

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It never rains, it pours

Posted by Barry Nutley on 22 January 2009 at 8:54 am

It never rains, it pours

Rainwater harvesting was the focus of my last blog. Today I want to get you thinking about water, and what it means for us in the UK. Keen gardeners and allotment owners, are well aware of the issues with water. While a good bit of rain is great, a torrid downpour isn't. As an allotmenteer …

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Microgeneration high among Tory proposals

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 21 January 2009 at 9:07 am

Microgeneration high among Tory proposals

Large scale use of renewables are part of the Conservative party's plans for a low carbon economy published last week. With a feed-in tariff, they hope homes, businesses, schools and hospitals will contribute the electricity they produce into the national grid, earning money in the process. To m…

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Urban micro-wind doesn't work say new trials

Posted by Matthew Rhodes on 19 January 2009 at 2:14 pm

Urban micro-wind doesn't work say new trials

Urban micro-wind doesn’t work in almost all urban contexts and has, on the whole, been poorly deployed and sold for the best part of the last three years. These are two of the objective facts set out in the report of the Encraft Warwick Wind Trials. On publishing the final report into urban m…

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Renewable energy grants still available

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 15 January 2009 at 9:23 am

Renewable energy grants still available

Homeowners who want to install energy generating equipment such as solar panels, wind turbines or biomass boilers will be able to apply for grants until June 2010. It is anticipated that a feed-in tariff should be in place by then, which will incentivise homeowners and communities to invest in micro…

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Monbiot launches war on Agas

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 13 January 2009 at 10:34 am

Monbiot launches war on Agas

Agas are the antithesis of energy efficiency and renewable energy, so when I heard on the Today programme this morning that George Monbiot has launched a war on Agas in today's Guardian a lightbulb pinged on. Why didn't I use Agas as the ultimate example of the heart winning over head in yester…

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Bring some heart into renewable energy

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 12 January 2009 at 4:31 pm

Bring some heart into renewable energy

I’m fascinated by the psychology of how we spend money. Is it our heads or our hearts that rule? While we probably like to think of ourselves as rational, logical human beings – and we even sometimes spend lots of time researching things to back up our beliefs – my feeling is that the he…

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Solar panels are flexible and easy

Posted by Graham Eastwick on 9 January 2009 at 8:35 am

Solar panels are flexible and easy

Solar PV (photovoltaic) is a great technology because it is so flexible and easy to manage. In most cases, once you have fitted it and connected to the grid you can forget about it, and watch your carbon emissions and energy costs fall and stay down for the next 25 years or so. One of the many p…

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Wind power: accessible yet frustrating

Posted by Matthew Rhodes on 8 January 2009 at 1:57 pm

Wind power: accessible yet frustrating

Wind power is one of the most accessible and yet frustrating renewable technologies. It is accessible because it’s relatively easy to install, cheaper than many other renewables at small scale; you can buy it at any size from laptop to leviathan; it produces electricity – which is a very fl…

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Rainwater harvesting: isn't it just a large water butt?

Posted by Barry Nutley on 8 January 2009 at 11:40 am

Rainwater harvesting: isn't it just a large water butt?

For many people, the idea of collecting rainwater, doesn't seem as sexy as, say, solar, and I know from personal experience, it's not a conversation for a first date. But it is just as important as solar and other renewable energy technologies. For my first blog, rather than write an essay on ra…

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Microgeneration makes you feel good

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 7 January 2009 at 10:55 am

Microgeneration makes you feel good

What makes you feel good? For me, the sun is one of many things. When it pops it's head out on a cloudy day life just perks up. When it streams through my office window on a winter's afternoon, not only am I warmer, but I feel better, and I think I get more done. Watching it light up the hills as i…

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Low-carbon living = improved quality of life

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 2 January 2009 at 4:21 pm

Low-carbon living = improved quality of life

Part of the difficulty of encouraging people to invest in low-carbon living is the difficulty of imagining what it will be like. Too much of the media coverage paints a picture of deprivation and hair shirts, leaving us shivering at the thought, and tempted to stick our heads in the sand. Now a…

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Insulating every home relatively cheap says Stern

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 31 December 2008 at 12:26 pm

Insulating every home relatively cheap says Stern

Insulating every home in the UK would be relatively cheap compared to what the Government has spent shoring up the banking system, according to Lord Stern. In a festive change to the normal BBC Radio 4's Today programme agenda of haranguing politicians, guest editor Jarvis Cocker took a look at how …

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Government fails to lead on energy efficiency

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 23 December 2008 at 2:36 pm

Energy efficiency is the main way that we can cut carbon emissions fast (also saving us money while we stay cosy and warm). So it's a big disappointment to read in this morning's Guardian that, despite the government's ambitious plans and positive rhetoric, energy efficiency in public buildings is d…

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Five ways to recognise a solar shark ... and make sure they don't eat you

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 19 December 2008 at 10:51 am

Five ways to recognise a solar shark ... and make sure they don't eat you

It used to be double glazing that was renowned for dodgy salesman. Now some of the techniques they used are being kept alive by companies selling solar thermal panels, heat pumps and wind turbines. The BBC and the Mail on Sunday are just two of the media who have been watching out for fins. T…

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Getting the best out of solar panels

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 16 December 2008 at 4:20 pm

Get a few people with solar panels together (as happened this weekend) and inevitably there's discussion about how to get the most out of your solar thermal system. This is probably because the amount of hot water generated by solar thermal systems is dependent on how we use the system (as was confi…

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How much of my hot water can I get from the sun?

Posted by Gabriel Wondrausch on 13 December 2008 at 9:01 am

Have you ever wondered how much energy falls on your roof each year? Well probably not, but it is really quite interesting. The average UK house with a south facing roof of 30m² will be exposed to around 30,000KwH of the sun’s radiation every year. When you compare that to the amou…

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Welcome to YouGen

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 12 December 2008 at 5:29 pm

This is a great week for YouGen to go live, as renewable energy is high on the international agenda. On Tuesday EU leaders agreed that a fifth of Europe’s energy mix should come from renewable sources by 2020. Politicians and green campaigners alike welcomed the decision (“a ray of hope admidst …

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Why you don’t want biomass!

Posted by Gordon Traill on 11 December 2008 at 9:51 am

Well this is my first attempt at writing a blog, so please be patient and don’t expect too high a standard. To start with I find the term ‘expert’ slightly inappropriate. However, as I’ve been involved with TRECO from its inception I have become aware of many pitfalls whic…

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Feed-in tariff likely to boost microgeneration

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 10 November 2008 at 10:44 am

How lovely (and how rare) to be applauding an announcement from the Government. Not only has the newly appointed energy and climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, just committed the UK to the 80 per cent cuts in greenhouse gases by 2050 that scientists say we need, but he’s also promised a feed-…

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