UK to Join the Geothermal Energy Sector

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Let’s start this article by examining exactly what is geothermal energy. Essentially, geothermal energy comes from the heat that the earth naturally produces. It is a clean and sustainable form of energy and is extracted from shallow ground all the way down to the point where magma is formed.

The temperature in shallow ground remains consistently between 10-16 degrees Celsius. This heat can be extracted using geothermal heat pumps and used to heat and cool buildings. Technologies are fast developing to maximise what we can do with geothermal heat.

In the UK, the country’s first geothermal electricity plant has just sprung into action. It is located in the United Downs Industrial Estate in Cornwall, in the south of the country and is expected to provide sufficient energy to power 3,000 homes according to Geothermal Engineering Ltd.

Geothermal has received accolades by those in the know, including the US Department of Energy, which claimed that geothermal power is a vital and clean energy resource. It went on to sing its praises further by explaining that one of the key elements that makes this energy source so promising is its ability to supply power 24/7 without emitting any greenhouse gases.

Currently, geothermal energy is responsible for a mere 0.4% of the energy mix in the United States. However, with more and more research being undertaken in this area, there is little doubt that the US and other countries will try to increase this percentage in the coming years. The UK has already taken its first step to introducing geothermal energy.

Down in Cornwall, there are plans for two geothermal wells, which will be drilled into granite rock. The deeper of the two will plunge a staggering 4.5km below the surface of the earth.  Water will be extracted from the deeper well and will emerge at a temperature of approximately 190 degrees Celsius. This water will then be fed through a heat exchanger when it reaches the surface in order to extract the heat from the water. Then, it will be sent back into the ground where it will heat back up again. This will work in a continuous cycle and the heat that is extracted will be converted into electricity and transmitted to the National Grid.

The managing director of Geothermal Engineering Ltd has high hopes for the geothermal sector in the UK. He explains that the geothermal resources in the country remain largely untapped and that they have the potential to provide up to 20% of the country’s electricity and heat energy in a sustainable and reliable way.

As coal plants are rapidly closing, more energy is needed from somewhere and geothermal seems as good a source as any from which to extract it.

The geothermal plant in Cornwall has received around £18 million in funding from a range of sources, including over £10 million from the European Regional Development Fund. Other sponsors include the British Geological Survey, GeoScience Ltd and the University of Plymouth Sustainable Earth Institute.

 

There is no doubt that the earth has to reform its energy consumption habits and it needs to do so fast. Tapping into yet another clean and sustainable energy resource is excellent news for anyone concerned with the future of our planet as it takes us one step closer to an emissions free future.

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Bigger Means Better for Wind Power

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There are big things going on in the world of wind power – quite literally. Wind turbine manufacturers are quickly understanding that when it comes to wind turbines, bigger is always better. But, what about the turbine needs to be bigger?

 

There are two ways to make a wind turbine bigger in a way that will increase the amount of wind power it can generate. The first is to give it bigger blades. When the blades cover a larger area, the capacity of the turbine is increased. Option number two is to make the turbines taller. This puts the blades higher up in the atmosphere where the wind is steady and more reliable. This will mean that the blades are turning more often.

 

Unfortunately, making wind turbines more efficient is not quite as simple as making everything bigger. When turbines are made bigger, they also need to be made more resilient, without being heavier and less effective. The stress a strong wind can place on a wind turbine can be extreme. There are also a number of non-technical problems that need to be considered, such as loss of view, the effect on big birds, transportation and maintenance issues etc.

 

Wind power is increasingly moving out to sea. Here, very few limitations exist. The land is barely in sight so views and shadows become unimportant. In a way, the sky is the limit so is it up to the engineers to see how big they can make these energy generating machines.

 

It is little surprise that energy companies are trying to capitalise on the idea that bigger is better when it comes to generating wind power. This year, GE Renewable Energy announced their investment of a staggering $400 million into a new mega turbine called the Haliade-X. This turbine is expected to be the biggest and most powerful in the world and should be ready for installation in 2021.

 

To give you some perspective on this new monster turbine, currently, the average height for a wind turbine in the USA is between 142 and 152 metres. The Haliade-X is going to be around 260 metres. On top of that the rotor diameter of the turbine is going to be roughly double the size of the average. This is good news as the greater the diameter of the rotor, the more wind it can harvest. Even the blades are going to be record-breaking, measuring in at about 100 metres in length (that’s around the same length as a football field).

 

If all goes well, this is a trend we should see continuing in the long term. The Haliade-X is more than just a vanity project. Bigger turbines means a steadier and more reliable harvest of energy, which means easier integration into the grid.

 

So, what does this mean for the future of wind power? ONe of the main problems with wind power is that it is not reliable. It is often subsidised with the use of natural gas plants or other sources of energy. When we have giant wind turbines that produce a steady flow of reliable energy we are going to be able to reduce our dependence on other energy sources. In the near future, wind power could crush all of its competitors as turbines keep getting bigger and bigger.

 

7 Simple Things You Can Do For the Environment

 

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It came out recently in a UN report that the world has a mere 12 years to change its behaviour and prevent an irreversible climate change catastrophe. While the announcement caused a lot of stir in the media, it is going to need to do more than that if we want our children to enjoy the earth like we have. We are going to have to seriously reconfigure the way we treat the planet if we want it to have a future. So, starting from right now, what can you do to make a difference to the environment?

 

Stop Using Plastic

 

Take your own bags to the supermarket and kick up a fuss when they put a plastic straw in your drink. Reducing our plastic usage will help clear the seas of debris and give the creatures that live within them a new lease on life. It also reduces emissions from the plants that make plastic products.

 

Switch Your Lights Off

 

In fact, switch everything off if you’re not using it. Leaving things idling on standby uses up unnecessary energy and this is a destructive habit of ours we need to combat. The demand for energy is growing and this means more digging and more pollution. Anything you can do to lower that demand is invaluable.

 

Start a Compost Heap

 

If you have a garden, start throwing all of your leftover food into a compost heap. This will reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill and return the food to its natural state. If you don’t have a garden, you can use a small tub with a lid to create one in your kitchen or utility room. When it gets full, empty it into your green bin.

 

Switch Your Bulbs for Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs

 

If you are going to leave your lights on all the time, make sure you are using the most energy efficient bulbs you can. Compact fluorescent light bulbs using a fraction of the energy normal bulbs use and they last roughly eight times as long – saving you both energy and money!

 

Avoid Solo Car Travel

 

If you can cycle or take public transport instead of driving yourself to work, do it. It might be a little less convenient but it will go a long way to saving the planet if everyone adopts this behaviour. If there is no public transport available, try carpooling with people you know who live nearby and are going the same way as you.

 

Buy Low Sulphate Washing Products

 

Sulphates are commonly found in washing powder and washing up liquids. When they are released into the water they stimulate the growth of algae, which in turn harms fish and pollutes their environment. This is a really simple action but it makes a big difference.

 

Only Wash Your Clothes When You Have a Full Load

 

Try to fill up your washing machine before your switch it on. This way, you will be saving water and energy – both of which we are in desperate need to reduce our usage. If you live with other people, see if they want to wash their clothes with yours so you can fill up the washing machine quicker.

What will Britain’s carbon reduction plans look like post-Brexit?

 

 

As all eyes turn to Britain in the final months before it leaves the EU, the question on many people’s lips is: “what is Britain going to do to keep its emissions under control?” Until now, the EU has been the driving force behind many of the nation’s carbon reduction policies, but once the UK has left the union, it is unclear how the country will move forward in this department.

Currently, the plan is to implement a green watchdog that will hold the government to account for its environmental policies and ensure ministers stick to their promises. Theresa May said this would be a world leading, independent, statutory body that would be similar in its powers to the European commission. The only problem is that the UK government seems to be deliberately weakening its powers before it has even got off the ground. Already, ministers have excluded climate change from the remit of the watchdog’s powers despite it being one of the most pressing issues in this area.

Elsewhere within Whitehall, Alistair Darling and Michael Howard are backing a cross-party campaign that will see a carbon tax implemented for any companies selling fossil fuels in Britain. This heightened tax should act as a deterrent to selling fossil fuels and will steadily increase in the hopes of phasing out the polluting energy source as much as possible over the coming years. This, they believe, will ensure the government sticks to its commitment to continue cutting carbon emissions post-Brexit.

At the moment, Britain is part of the European Union’s emissions trading system (ETS). After it leaves the union, the nation will need to decide whether it will keep close links with the system or build its own. If Britain manages to negotiate a soft Brexit then there is a possibility of staying in the ETS until the next trading period ends, in 2030. This option is preferable for many big businesses and climate change activists. Unfortunately, to date negotiations have not looked promising and the chances of a soft Brexit seem to be dwindling. However, if Britain does build its own system for monitoring emissions it will need to build one that satisfies the needs of the three devolved governments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

If the UK leaves the EU and does not have a sensible ETS replacement, it could have severe consequences for the health of the planet and could bring about the collapse of the EU’s primary carbon-cutting tool. It could allow the UK to have free reign over its emissions policies and potentially prevent British factories, airlines, and power generators from having to pay for their emissions. This would essentially undo a lot of the good work that the EU has been working towards.

A carbon tax seems simple in the first instance but it is far more complex than just laying down a blanket tax on companies. Is it limited to power generators or will it affect all areas of industry? These are important questions to be decided. The tax would also have to satisfy the devolved governments mentioned above, which could be quite the bureaucratic extravaganza.

Overall, the future of the UK is unclear and that is causing huge amounts of panic and confusion for relevant stakeholders. The country has until March to sort itself out, let’s see how it does.

There is a Lot to Gain From Energy Efficiency

There-is-a-Lot-to-Gain-From-Energy-Efficiency.jpgThe global population is expanding and with it grows our demand for energy. Unfortunately, there is very little we can do to stop this increase in demand. However, what we can do is curb it by finding ways to use our energy more efficiently. Energy efficiency is a hot topic at the moment, not just because of the positive impact it has on the environment, but also because of its cost-saving and job-creating potential. Both individually and as a nation we are able to save serious amounts of money simply by improving our energy efficiency.

 

But, why else is energy efficiency so important? There is very little capacity to produce energy. In fact, Belgium is facing the threat of a serious power shortage over the month of November as six of its nuclear reactors will be offline for maintenance. The energy minister is scrambling for alternative energy sources but is unable to reassure the nation that they will be able to access all the power they need during that month. With this looming in the near future, it is in the best interest of every Belgian resident to be as efficient with their energy as possible so there will be enough to go around.

 

Belgium is not the only country that is facing the possibility of serious power outages. Many countries are facing energy shortfalls as they simply do not have the capacity to meet demand. While energy rationing might not seem ideal, nor even necessary in a developed country such as Belgium, it is strongly recommended and could even become crucial very soon. In order to ration energy consumption, better energy management systems need to be put into place. Replacing regular bulbs with LED lights for example, or purchasing energy efficient electrical appliances can all have an impact on how much energy is left to go around.

 

Over in Central Alberta, Canada, the province has already upped the tempo when it comes to working on energy efficiency. Red Deer, a town in Central Alberta, has seen enormous progress in this area, with hundreds of residents opting in to the No-Charge Energy Savings Program. This enabled households to upgrade with more energy efficient products such as smart thermostats and low-power light bulbs. Furthermore, individuals took it upon themselves to insulate their homes better, replace windows, and install tankless water heaters, all in a bid to make their homes as efficient as possible with the energy it consumes. In turn, the boost in the use of renewable energy has created 2,300 new jobs for the people of Alberta.

 

The social, economic, and environmental benefits of a high level of energy efficiency are crystal clear. The challenge is persuading people to change their way of living to become more energy efficient. It is neither easy nor cheap to install solar panels on your home or to replace your electronics. However, these small things are investments in the future of both yourself as an individual and of your country as a whole.

 

What’s Driving Oil Prices Up?

What’s-Driving-Oil-Prices-Up.jpgThere have been some big smiles in the oil world of late thanks to the recent surge in oil prices. The price of oil has fluctuated massively over the past decade but the current surge is promising for the industry, despite the US having just had its largest weekly rise of the year in crude inventories. Oil prices soared to a four year high. So, what exactly is the reason for this surge in oil prices. The answer is that there are a number of factors that are driving up oil prices.

 

One pressing issue is the supply fear that is sweeping the globe. The main reason for these fears stems from the US sanctions on Iran. Importing nations are unclear how the deficit will be made up. Indeed, other geopolitical uncertainties and unrests have caused panic in the market. In addition to Iran, the disturbances in Venezuela and various countries in the Middle East have also affected the market. With this uncertainty in mind, oil is being purchased in larger quantities to prevent any potential shortages in the future.

 

While the US sanctions on Iran are certainly a cause for concern, they alone are not responsible for the uptick in oil prices. Another main issue is simply the growing demand for the commodity. The population is growing and with it comes and increased need for energy. Countries are having to supply more and more energy for their citizens, which means importing increasingly large amounts. This higher demand looks set to continue growing in line with the global population and while there is a more concerted effort going into energy efficiency, it is not enough to reduce demand in any meaningful way.

 

Another issue is the uncertainty this winter will bring to countries around the world. The summer of 2018 saw record temperatures reached in a number of places around the world. There are fears that the winter will be as cold as the summer was hot and governments need to be prepared to supply more energy than usual to heat the homes of their people. Naturally, this means stockpiling oil now to make sure there is plenty to hand when the time comes. Particularly, this is important because when the weather is especially bad, importing oil can be a logistical challenge.

 

A further factor is the production cuts agreed between Russia and Saudi Arabia on behalf of OPEC. By slowing down the production of oil, this team of countries has brought supply and demand back into balance, despite the influx of oil from US fracking. Now, the glut of oil has been significantly diminished and the market is able to stabilise. The production cut is expected to continue until the end of 2018, by which time the over supply should be thoroughly resolved.

 

Finally, the economy is in a good place right now and when this happens the price of oil can rise accordingly. However, crude oil has now reached a point where it is so expensive it may start begin to slump soon as demand tapers off. But, at least for now, the price of oil is healthy, which is good news for exporting countries and bad news for motorists.

 

 

Oil Production Expected to Skyrocket over Next Five Years Says Opec

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A report from Opec has shown that over the next five years the production of oil will soar to new records due to a drastic rise in demand from airlines. The increase in production is likely to offset the reductions expected from the arrival of electric cars.

The forecast comes as a disappointment to environmentalists who were counting on the advent of electric cars to help propel the world towards a completely clean future.

The increase in demand is coming primarily from China and India and the production will come from countries outside of Opec. Explosive growth in fracking in the United States is just one of the boom areas for production.

By 2040, Opec believes that the global oil demand will hit 112 million barrels per day, a huge increase from the current level of almost 100 million. The demand will be driven in large part by the transportation and petrochemicals sector.

Despite prominent figures and large swathes of the public voicing their concerns about the impact of burning coal on the environment, coal will continue to be burned in record amounts. While coal usage in OECD countries is predicted to go down by about a third by 2040, it is going to increase by about 20% in developing countries.

Meanwhile, airlines will become the fastest growing user of oil and will increase its consumption by about 2.2% year on year. The largest absolute growth will come from road transport.

The current number of vehicles on our roads is about 1.1 billion, but this number is expected to more than double to a whopping 2.4 billion by 2040. Opec estimates that only 320 million of these cars will be electric, unless battery-powered cars take off rapidly, in which case the number could reach 720 million.

However, even if the higher figure for electric cars is achieved, the demand for oil will only drop to 109 million barrels per day.

Projections in the report also showed a less promising future for renewable energy. The forecast showed that by 2040 renewable energy will only supply 20% of the global energy demand.

The Opec report evaded making any price predictions. However, motorists are unlikely to see fuel prices falling anytime soon as the International Energy Agency stated that there is a strong risk that oil prices will rise over the next few months.

Oil companies are anticipating peak oil demand to occur in the 2030s, but the possibility of it arriving in the 2020s has not been eliminated.

Opec has identified the US as a key player in production growth over the next decade and believes it will soak up most of the growth. The US’s tight oil production projection is strong and Opec admitted it will outperform the organisation. However, it believes that this production will peak in the second half of the 2020s, at which point Opec will be able to regain its stronghold. Ultimately, Opec hopes to increase its share of world oil supply from 34% to 40% by 2040.

Finally, the report was sceptical as to whether Trump’s pro-fossil fuel pushes will actually help the US oil industry. Particularly as production flourished under Obama’s far more onerous regulations.