Saturday, April 05, 2008

IDEA - Solar & Reuse... what a combo!

I was having a surf around the BBC site to try and find out more on their notions on the efficacy of solar, when I happened upon this:

** Set designer creates solar home **
An inventor in Downpatrick has come up with an efficient way of using the sun to heat his water.

What's not to like? Especially as it seems to work pretty well. What I really liked was the reuse of the radiator and double glazing panel; two items in my 'what the heck, they may yet find a use' pile at the end of the garden. Ok, it's rubbish dump.

Actually, if this has worked as well as the piece indicates, I have a few notions of my own that would possible improve the efficiencies of this set up. There are actually scores on the web, from all over the globe, some a lot more sophisticated, but every bit as easy to make, and from spare 'junk', so maybe this can become a mission.

To the shed!!!!

PROF's POSER - Solar, so long...?

Just watched a series of BBC Brekky slots on solar.

Here's a pretty bald statement: 'It's not going to save your bank balance so you'll just be doing it to save the planet'. That'll have them rushing to sign up at B&Q, for sure.

In fact, in a later piece with two commentators, a chap from the Green Alliance (Pro) and a Prof. James Woudhuysen (less so) the knives were pretty much out for any financial sense involved in advocating the things... at least as good ROIs. The GA guy at least was flying the flag for 'better than nothing', at least in an enviro sense.

So in mitigation the talk turned to subsidies.

It was a pity not to have a government spokesperson present (who are scarcer than hen's teeth on anything these days, as it is all pretty much falling down around them and the bunker boys seem to have decided that absence makes the voter grow forgetful) to actually discuss why the support to help such microgeneration is so woeful.

I had to disagree with the good Prof. on one point, where he said that what we do at home doesn't matter at it all takes place at the power stations. True, but if we are not drawing from the power stations then we are surely acting in some mitigation on an individual level where the big boys seem to be failing at every turn on the big stuff?

But there is still one area that still troubles me. And I can't yet get a handle on it from guys paid, a lot, to deal in this area of expertise.

That is the enviROI. What if the planet doesn't get saved either? I don't know, but before committing to what seems a poor financial choice for sure, I'd certainly like to be more certain it is helping the kids' futures if I choose to take the hit for other reasons.

The point was made that these things currently only pay back over a few decades... but that is also their lifespan. What are the consequences in pure eco terms of their being made, shipped, installed, operated, maintained and then being disposed of, when weighed against the obvious benefits of their producing 'free', clean, solar energy through their lifespans?

Is solar heating sensible on any measure in the UK?


Following Dave's suggestion of where I should go in the comments section, OK, I should clarify, and hence have added the key word heating in the last sentence above.

Because here I am referring to the major rooftop installations that are touted, and were featured in the slot, to heat your water and/or home.

My Solarventi dehumidification system does a pretty good job and today, despite it being chilly, is whirring away in the sun, at least for the last few hours, and with luck, a few hours more. I recall we sat down and figured out beforehand the pros and cons based on the purchase costs and operational logistics in comparison, in this case, to an electric dehumidifier running essentially 24/7, 365/365.

I believe we assessed a payback period of around 3 years, which is way within the lifespan of the unit, and therefore a worthy investment simply on cost grounds. I actually think we may need to extend the time period to account for our rather dire national delivery of sun, and the simple problems of getting it on panel when it shines around trees and neighbours' houses (especially when the angle is lower in the winter months). But even so I consider it well worth it. In addition, thanks to the relative lack of moving parts (though many other solar installations are relatively free as well) the maintenance is essentially zero and the lifespan hence very long.

Hence I am pretty confident that both the ROI and enviROI are in the + column.

But this is my point. Especially with stonking great outlays required on the major efforts, the lack of government support and very vague guidance, householders need to get to these figures quickly, easily and with confidence that they are doing right, if not by their pockets but also by the future, too. Do these exist, and if so where?

If our national broadcaster, who is by no means shy when it comes to green advocacy and often none too challenging to all the considerations pro and con, can pretty much damn 'solar' in all its forms in such a piece with the faint praise of 'only being good for the planet', and tar all beneficial aspects with the near certainty of being a financial negative (probably inaccurately, even for some solar rooftop systems - the Germans seem to be doing OK), it seems clear to me that where these things are worthwhile we need clear means to find out and reply upon.

Hence as this is a Prof's Poser I'd welcome information that can be shared to counter this view.