Posts tagged ‘Sustainable living’

July 21, 2011

Green heating grants set for UK homes

by Jasmina Nikoloska

From 1st August, green grants up to £1,250 will be available for the householders across Britain¸ to help towards the cost of installing renewable heating systems such as biomass boilers, air and ground source heat pumps and solar thermal panels.

The ‘Renewable Heat Premium Payment’ £15 million scheme will provide funding for 25,000 homes, targeting around 4 million households not heated by mains gas, who have to rely on higher carbon forms of heating which also tend to be more expensive than gas, such as heating oil and electric fires to keep warm.

The Guardian published that Northern Ireland where 70% of households use heating oil is not included in the plans.

Applicants will need to deliver detailed feedback on their experience through a set of surveys which the Government could use to better understand renewable heat technologies. Manufacturers and installers’ information about performance will be monitored with additional meter heating equipment which will be provided for a significant sample of participants.

The grants will be set at £1,250 for a ground source heat pump grant (for homes without mains gas heating); Biomass boiler – £950 grant (for homes without mains gas heating); Air source heat pump – £850 grant (for homes without mains gas heating); Solar thermal hot water panels – £300 grant (available to all households regardless of the type of heating system used) and £3 million will be available for registered social landlords to improve their housing stock.

Energy Saving Trust will run applications and provide all the necessary information, but householders will need to ensure they have basic energy efficiency measures in place before applying.

People who have installed kit under the Premium Payment scheme, until March next year could receive additional funding through the Renewable Heat Incentive, which will be introduced from 30th September and offer financial assistance for industry and business, too.

Energy and Climate Change Minister, Greg Barker said:

“Today starts a new era in home heating because we’re making it more economical for people to go green by providing discounts off the cost of eco heaters. This should be great news for people who are reliant on expensive oil or electric heating as the Premium Payment scheme is really aimed at them.

“Getting money off an eco heater will not just cut carbon emissions, it will also help create a market in developing, selling and installing kit like solar thermal panels or heat pumps.”

According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) currently half of the UK’s carbon emissions come from the energy used to generate heat.   The scheme could provide average savings between now and 2020 of 4.4 million tonnes of carbon per year. That’s equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of 2 typical new gas power stations.

March 10, 2011

Alternative fuel from everyday life could power cars

by Jasmina Nikoloska

Humans face an unprecedented challenge to maintain their standard of living while reducing the environmental impact of fossil fuels. The rapid introduction of new technologies and if possible changing our consumption habits is essential.

Last March I was writing that a sports carmaker Lotus together with Intelligent Energy is developing new technology to make famous black taxi cars in London greener. The idea is to use hydrogen-powered fuel cells in order to reduce CO2 emissions from transport and hopefully, London’s famous black cabs to use hydrogen fuel cells by 2012

Then is August, Scottish scientists recognised the available potential in the £4 billion local whisky industry, in that by using two main by-products of the whisky distillation process – pot ale, or the liquid from the copper stills, and draff, or the spent grains – it could be possible to develop the next generation of biofuel, Biofuel from Scotch whisky could power cars

Recently I discovered that possibly the main difficulty, in using hydrogen power in cars, storing the fuel, have been overcome.

Hydrogen atoms are so small that they can slip between the spaces in molecules of other materials, and the gas escapes it can be a threat.

Therefore, Cella Energy Ltd developed safe, low-cost hydrogen storage materials. The innovation is based on materials using nano-structuring to safely encapsulate hydrogen at ambient temperatures and pressures which sidesteps the requirement for an expensive hydrogen infrastructure.

According to Cella Energy Ltd web site hydrogen fuels for vehicles you can pump like regular gasoline at room temperature and pressure, safer to use than gasoline or diesel but with zero carbon emissions.                                                                                                                                                      

Also, the microbeads could be used in a regular vehicle, with standard combustion engines, with minimal modifications as a fuel additive that could allow vehicle to meet the Euro 6 emission standards, by helping it to burn petrol more cleanly and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

What’s more, Conservation Magazine published yesterday, that scientists develop technology to turn urine into hydrogen fuel. Generating hydrogen fuel from urine is a promising idea.

Gerardine Botte, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio University, recognising that urine contains two compounds that could be a source of hydrogen: ammonia and urea.

He showed that if an electrode is placed in wastewater and apply a gentle current, and voila: hydrogen gas that can be used to power a fuel cell.

In fact, ammonia and urea hold their hydrogen atoms less tightly than water does, so less energy is required to split them off.

Professor Botte’s technology has also the potential to be used in locations where a lot of people come across, for example an office building with 200 to 300 workers could generate 2 kilowatts of power.

Although, that’s not enough to power the building, it is a step forward in finding way to use human wastewater as an effective alternative to fossil fuels.

Illustration: Corbis Images

March 3, 2011

Shale gas drilling a controversial energy alternative

by Jasmina Nikoloska

In my article Could shale gas become a new energy source for Britain’s energy needs? I’ am writing about UK plans to investigate and introducing shale gas drilling techniques, in a field near Blackpool in Lancashire.

Shale gas is nothing uncommon for the energy industry; it is the actual methodology and techniques for its extraction and use that are new. A US engineer, George Mitchell, developed the current technique, known as “hydraulic fracturing”.
To access shale gas, drilling must be downwards into the gas-bearing rock more than 3 kilometres below the surface, and then horizontally for thousands of metres more with a mixture of water, chemicals and sand being pumped in under high pressure to fracture the rock.

The water opens up cracks in the rock in which the sand grains then lodge, keeping them open and creating space for the gas to travel up and be collected at the surface.

While shale gas extraction in Britain is still in developing stage, the technique has already revolutionised US energy market.
But, environmental concerns have been raised in US related to several pollution incidents and potential contamination of water with methane, all of which were supposedly caused by shale gas drilling.

Also the quantities of water that would be needed during the process can’t be ignored.

The Tyndall Centre, a climate change research body, estimates about 2,500-3,000 horizontal wells spread over some 140-400 square kilometres would need to be drilled using some 27 to 113m tonnes of water in order to sustain production levels equivalent to 10% of UK gas consumption.

Mark Miller, chief executive at Cuadrilla Resources, the company responsible for shale drilling in UK, told MPs at the select committee hearing into shale gas that 99.8% of this is pure water bought from local supplier United Utilities. The rest is made up of two chemicals: a fluid to reduce friction inside the pipe and an unspecified additive, the Guardian wrote on Tuesday 1 March.

Miller also confirmed that only about a third of the water mix is recovered during the initial period, with at least half remaining underground and he believes that the solid rock in top of the aquifer would prevent the water mix contaminating it.

On top of it, the Guardian reveal that the results of the first attempt to extract shale gas in the UK using a controversial technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, will be kept secret for four years.

It was confirmed by the Government that according to the oil and gas practise it is not unusual for the industry to keep some information confidential for a period, in these case till 2015.

Energy companies are very much interested in exploring Europe’s potential for shale gas, because any kind of gas is a relatively carbon-friendly alternative to oil, and it could significantly affect the energy market.


Written by: Jasmina Nikoloska

February 24, 2011

Brazilian scientists see new source of renewable energy in atmospheric humidity

by Jasmina Nikoloska

Believing that electricity could be generated from the air, Brazilian scientists are working to discover the processes involved in the formation and release of electricity from water in the atmosphere.

Contrary to the previous belief that water droplets in the atmosphere were electrically neutral and remained so even after coming into contact with the electrical charges on dust particles and droplets of other liquids, the latest evidence has shown that water in the atmosphere really does pick up an electrical charge, Wired UK reported on 27 August 2010.

The research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston by study leader Fernando Galembeck, PhD, from the University of Campinas (Brazil), who confirmed that laboratory experiments had proven “hygroelectricity”, or humidity, which meant that “water in the atmosphere can accumulate electrical charges and transfer them to other materials it comes into contact with”.

It might sound hard to believe, but a team of scientists from the university is working to develop suitable devices to capture electricity from the air, and then eventually to use it to power houses and businesses.

Although the research is still in its early stages, Galembeck presented…

See more: Brazilian scientists see new source of renewable energy in atmospheric.

February 18, 2011

Generating energy from nuclear fusion – Is it possible?

by Jasmina Nikoloska
Nuclear fusion is the natural process of converting hydrogen into helium at temperatures of 10-15 million Kelvin, providing enough energy to power the Sun and stars.

This almost endless process has inspired a vigorous world-wide research programme, aimed at harnessing fusion energy for human needs.

Seemingly a perfect energy source to supply the world’s energy needs for millions of years to come, nuclear fusion in and of itself generates no carbon dioxide emissions or harmful waste, and poses no threat to a surrounding human population.

But to exploit this energy from nuclear fusion on Earth is different and more difficult; much more efficient fusion reactions than those at work on the Sun would have to be selected, in this case, those between the two heavy forms of hydrogen: deuterium (D) and tritium (T).

Despite the progress achieved in fusion experiments, no device has yet made more energy than it consumes: Fusion has only been achieved by putting far more energy into a system than the fusion itself produces.

Fusion on Earth occurs under specific conditions at very high temperatures, greater than 100 million Kelvin, from a very hot gas or plasma of hydrogen in a controlled environment using a powerful magnetic field.

In order to harness fusion energy, scientists and engineers are learning how to control very high temperature plasmas.

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Research Reactor (ITER), in southern France, is a multinational research and engineering project designed to prove the scientific and technological feasibility of a full-scale fusion power reactor. It is an experimental step between today’s studies of plasma physics and future electricity-producing fusion power plants.

It is designed to produce approximately 500 MW of fusion power sustained for more than 400 seconds. ITER will be the first fusion experiment with an output power higher than the input power.

The ITER project faces funding problems; a shortfall of building costs in 2012-2013 of 1.4 billion euro is expected to be covered by European Union research funds. This raises concerns among scientists working on other research programmes, who argue that the proposal could “rob researchers of vital funds”.

The original plan was to build the bones of the experiment in 10 years for a budget of 5 billion euro. Many now expect it to be in the region of 15 billion euro, Time’s Ecocentric published recently.

The Joint European Torus (JET), at Culham Science Centre, Oxfordshire, UK, investigates the potential of fusion power as a safe, clean and virtually limitless energy source for future generations. The largest tokamak in the world, it is the only operational fusion experiment capable of producing fusion energy.

While JET represents a pure scientific experiment, the reactor-scale experiment ITER is designed to deliver 10 times the power it consumes. The next foreseen device, DEMO, is expected to be the first fusion plant to reliably provide electricity to the grid.

If successful, this will offer a viable alternative energy supply within the next 30 to 40 years.

Written by: Jasmina Nikoloska for Energetika.NET
February 9, 2011

By changing our consumption habits towards more sustainable future

by Jasmina Nikoloska

The population growth is inseparably related to human consumption habits, but we have to understand that a rapid rise in consumption is our most pressing environmental issue not the number of people.

In some societies there is a political, religious or cultural norms that has impact on the family planning.

But, I will agree with the Professor Paul Ehrlich from Stanford University in California on his view that “we would like to see a gradual decline in population, but a rapid decline in consumption habits”.

I think if we start to use our resources wisely and reasonably, we could think our way out in favour of the environment and manage to sustain successfully.

Could we control our consumption needs and is it possible each of us to achieve a sustainable life for sustainable future?

The temptations are at every corner, the life still that we present shape our place in the society.

The consumption rate in developed courtiers is several time higher than in the developing word.

But financial poorer nations aim to increase its living standard and often that is by emigrating elsewhere.

Each such relocation of a person to a country with high consumption raises world consumption rates.

Fred Pearce made a good point in his article Consumption dwarfs population as main environmental threat (Article history)Even if we could today achieve zero population growth, that would barely touch the climate problem — where we need to cut emissions by 50 to 80 percent by mid-century. Given existing income inequalities, it is inescapable that overconsumption by the rich few is the key problem, rather than overpopulation of the poor many”.

Maybe thinking and hopping that focusing on new technologies could save us from ourselves, prevent us to see the bigger picture!?

February 7, 2011

Controversial plans to relax the EU’s zero-tolerance on GM food

by Jasmina Nikoloska

According to the E.U.’s zero-tolerance policy any imported food of animal feed must be GMO free from the substances that have not been approved by the E.U. Council.

Currently only several varieties of GM soy, corn, cotton, potato, sugar beet, and canola (rape seed), are approved for planting and use in the E.U.

The EU plans for elimination of the zero-tolerance policy alarmed many environmentalist and GMO sceptics.

There is a possibility for permitting import of animal feed that could contain traces of unauthorised GM crops.

Although GM supporters argue that it zero-tolerance policy could result with a shortage of feed for livestock and GM traces does not jeopardise food security, campaigners against GM food think that GM industry only wants to push its products and technology and by relaxing GM zero-tolerance policy they are opening it’s gates for imported GMO in EU.

The push for Europe to drop its zero-tolerance policy began in 2009 after EU authorities found traces of GM maize in soy shipments from the US and refused to allow its entry. Such recalls are expensive and those affected are unlikely to receive compensation, the Guardian published on 6th of February 2011.

Written by Jasmina Nikoloska

February 5, 2011

First GM chickens resistant to bird flu created

by Jasmina Nikoloska

The journal Science published a study of genetically modified [GM] chickens that are resistant to bird flu.

According to the researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, this achievement could stop bird flu from spreading and possibly reduce the risk of bird flu epidemics that could lead to flu virus epidemics in humans.

The researchers believe that the technology has the potential to create a variety of GM farm animals resistant to viral diseases.

They think that the genetic modification they have introduced is harmless to the chickens as well to people who might eat the birds and possibly it could an alternative to vaccination.
As the researchers explained, they inserted an artificial gene into chickens, which diverts an enzyme crucial for transmitting the H5N1 strain. Still the birds get sick and eventually die but they didn’t pass on that virus to other chickens.

Although the technology offers a benefit, British public is sceptical over GM food and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) should conduct a full detailed safety evaluation before any of this GM produce could enter the market.
And Tim Elsdale, who is an organic farmer in East Sussex, told BBC News that it was better to adopt good farming practices to avoid animals getting diseases in the first place than to create GM farm animals.

On the other hand human population is growing rapidly and eventually feeding the world is going to be a real problem.

Written By Jasmina Nikoloska