If someone told you there was a way you could save 2.5 million to 3 million lives a year and simultaneously halt global warming, reduce air and water pollution and develop secure, reliable energy sources — nearly all with existing technology and at costs comparable with what we spend on energy today — why wouldn’t you do it?
According to a new study coauthored by Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson, we could accomplish all that by converting the world to clean, renewable energy sources and forgoing fossil fuels. “Based on our findings, there are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources,” said Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. “It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will.” Jacobson and Mark Delucchi, of the University of California-Davis, have written a two-part paper in Energy Policy in which they assess the costs, technology and material requirements of converting the planet, using a plan they developed.
The world they envision would run largely on electricity. Their plan calls for using wind, water and solar energy to generate power, with wind and solar power contributing 90 percent of the needed energy. Geothermal and hydroelectric sources would each contribute about 4 percent in their plan (70 percent of the hydroelectric is already in place), with the remaining 2 percent from wave and tidal power. Vehicles, ships and trains would be powered by electricity and hydrogen fuel cells. Aircraft would run on liquid hydrogen. Homes would be cooled and warmed with electric heaters — no more natural gas or coal — and water would be preheated by the sun. Commercial processes would be powered by electricity and hydrogen. In all cases, the hydrogen would be produced from electricity. Thus, wind, water and sun would power the world.
The researchers approached the conversion with the goal that by 2030, all new energy generation would come from wind, water and solar, and by 2050, all pre-existing energy production would be converted as well.
A British council is proposing to save money – and combat global warming – by heating a leisure centre and swimming pool using heat generated by the crematorium next door.
Redditch council in Worcestershire says it can save £14,500 a year by warming its new Abbey Stadium sports centre with heat from the crematorium’s incinerators that would otherwise be lost. The council, which says it is the first project of its kind in the UK, is holding briefings later this week with faith groups, funeral directors and members of the public to discuss the scheme.
But some local people are concerned. Simon Thomas, of Thomas Brothers funeral directors, said: “I don’t know how comfortable people would feel about the swimming pool being heated due to the death of a loved one, I think it’s a bit strange and eerie.”
Council leader Carole Gandy defended the plans, saying it would save money and energy. “I’d much rather use the energy rather than just see it going out of the chimney and heating the sky. It will make absolutely no difference to the people who are using the crematorium for services.””It’s only a proposal at the moment but personally I’m supportive of it because I think it will save the authority money and, in the long-term, save energy which is what we’re all being told we should do.”
Gordon Hull, from the Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities, said: “From an environmental view it makes sense.”
Body heat is not an energy source that normally springs to mind when companies want to keep down soaring energy costs. But it did spring to the mind of one Swedish company, which decided the warmth that everybody generates naturally was in fact a resource that was going to waste.
Jernhusen, a real estate company in Stockholm, has found a way to channel the body heat from the hordes of commuters passing through Stockholm’s Central Station to warm another building that is just across the road. “This is old technology being used in a new way. The only difference here is that we’ve shifted energy between two different buildings,” says Klas Johnasson, who is one of the creators of the system and head of Jernhusen’s environmental division. “There are about 250,000 people a day who pass through Stockholm Central Station. They in themselves generate a bit of heat. But they also do a lot of activities. They buy food, they buy drinks, they buy newspapers and they buy books. All this energy generates an enormous amount of heat. So why shouldn’t we use this heat. It’s there. If we don’t use it then it will just be ventilated away to no avail.”
So how does the system work in practice?
Heat exchangers in the Central Station’s ventilation system convert the excess body heat into hot water. That is then pumped to the heating system in the nearby building to keep it warm. Not only is the system environmentally friendly but it also lowers the energy costs of the office block by as much as 25%.
“This is generally good business,” says Mr Johansson. “We save money in energy costs and so the building becomes worth more.
Stockholm’s Central Statiom Stockholm’s Central Station is one building reusing heat from passengers passing through “People are now starting to think about urban heat distribution networks everywhere,” says Doug King, a consultant specialising in design innovation and sustainable development in construction.
“But the financial costs and the benefits will depend very much on the climate and the pricing of energy in a particular country.” He explains that harnessing body heat works particularly well in Sweden because of their low winter temperatures and high gas prices. “It means a low-grade waste heat source, like body heat, can be used advantageously. It’s worth them spending a little bit of money on electricity to move heat from building to building, rather than spending a lot on heating with gas.”Mr Johansson is hoping there will be a lot of spin offs from their idea at Stockholm Central Station: ” To get energy usage down in buildings what we need to do is use the energy that is being produced all around us.
He also advocates sustainability. “It’s important in Sweden. But it should be important everywhere. Sustainability is the key ingredient to the future of mankind. We need to get sustainable with energy if we are supposed to live on this planet for a long time to come.”
In the current economic climate investing in solar panels may appear costly but UK-residents can now, thanks to a government scheme, profit from producing their own energy.
The government’s Feed-In Tariffs (FITs) are designed to make it worth your while to produce renewable electricity. Essentially the FIT system is designed as an incentive for energy producers to move away from conventional fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
Basically, it is government legislation which guarantees a fixed, premium rate for renewable electricity fed into the national grid. The power companies are obliged by government legislation to buy the renewable electricity, with additional costs passed onto the customers.
As many as half of Britain’s homes could earn around £600 a year from roof top solar panels and some as much as £1000, according to Britain’s biggest energy supplier, British Gas. Research carried out by the company suggests that over 12m households have roofs that could benefit from solar panels, which use photovoltaic (PV) cells to capture and convert the sun’s energy into electricity, and could produce enough electricity for up to half their household needs.
The UK is on course to meet its 2020 renewables target. A new report from the National Grid has published these exciting findings and statistics on the proposed uptake of microgeneration, with people producing their own power using technology such as solar panels. A capacity of 31,950 megawatts of existing and proposed renewable energy generation will be connected over the next ten years. Around 4,950 megawatts of renewable generation capacity is already connected to the transmission network, with proposed projects this year totalling a further 27,000 megawatts.
This means there would be enough to power more than 20m homes and would surpass the 29,000 megawatts estimated by the National Grid that would be needed to meet the 2020 target of 15% of the country’s total energy demand through renewable energy. However, the report cautions that the figures are only a step in the right direction and a complete reform of the market is the only way to ensure the right conditions for investment in future projects.
But if Solar PV panels turn the sun’s abundant, clean energy into electricity that you can use for free in your home, then by installing solar panels you can significantly reduce your electricity bill and even generate a worthwhile income thanks to the FIT scheme. And if you buy a solar PV system you will be paid for all the electricity you generate, whether you use it yourself or sell any excess to the National Grid. For a typical household installing a 4kwp system the annual savings and income can be worth well over £1,700.