With news that Saudi Arabia is planning to build solar plants capable of providing enough electricity to supply the Middle East perhaps it is worth looking back at a project first mooted back in the 1980s
Peter Kruger's blog
Those who remembered how the first renewable energy boom ended knew the recent upsurge in interest in alternatives to carbon fuels would be a race against time. The challenge always was to achieve scale before the high price of fossil fuels, that stoked the interest in the first place, started to damage economies and, at the same time, the oil and gas industries’ massive exploration programs started to bear fruit. This is, of course, where we are today. A new word, ‘fracking’ has entered the energy market lexicon and now the US is a net energy producer once more.
As DECC's Green Deal stutters to a halt the construction industry has been left wondering where it will go next. The answer could lay in the need to ensure our cities cope better during extreme weather conditions.
If they are to remain sustainable cities must exhale warm air throughout the summer and breathe it back in during the winter. Cambridge UK based Steinkrug believes its large scale heat energy storage system will provide respiratory systems for cites and also put construction companies on a growth path that will last for the next one and a half decades. The company also believes the system will make cities more ‘age friendly’ as Europe’s urban boomer generation becomes increasingly climate sensitive.
Some businesses use computer software to work out the risk they are exposed to – however for most it is a back of the envelope calculation. The magic figure is 33% - as in try to avoid having one particular customer responsible for more than a third of your business. If you are a builder having more than three jobs on the go at once is safer than living hand to mouth and moving from one job to the next. The theory is that if one customer fails you can absorb the loss if the other two will remain sound.
”Free electricity,” Said the householders for the sixth time. The phrase was being repeated like a mantra throughout the testimonial for their PV solar installer. “It was up and running in just one day, and now we can enjoy ‘free electricity’” (seventh time.) There was no mention of the feed in tariff subsidy: perhaps the deal they got involved the installer keeping the government handout. In that case the householder was left with just their ‘free electricity’ and this, after all, is how solar PV will be marketed post government subsidy.
We have had a few laughs in the past at the expense of the PV installation industry. Solar panels on the north wall of a multi-story car park (wrong on so many levels) being one such example. And there are plenty of real life cases of inappropriately placed panels. However this year quite a few installers installed panels in an extremely shady place – the UK. According to the Met Office this summer has been the second wettest on record, which has cast a long shadow over the country’s rooftop power station.
The use of renewable energy in the building sector is currently dominated by the application of solar domestic hot water and PV systems in single-family houses. This project, which as it has no UK partners is less well known here, is aimed at buildings with a small roof area compared to the floor area (“high-rise buildings”) and for existing buildings that generally have a higher energy demand than new buildings. The project addresses some of the issues that need to be addressed if urban heat islands are to be illuminated; for example:-
Gable ends are usually the least attractive aspect of a building - they are also an underused source of renewable energy. Now we have teamed up with architects Sharman and Knowles to address both these issues. A series of designs have been drawn up that turn our passive solar energy system into a feature that will be suitable for both new build houses and house extensions. more...
Enough solar energy falls on built urban infrastructure to make it sustainable with respect to energy use. The construction industry is well placed to deliver that technology, the main component of which is a glass structure over concrete and other built infrastructure.