Category Archives: Climate Change

Geothermal Energy in Cornwall

Plans are unfolding to create the UK’s first geothermal power project near Redruth Cornwall. United Downs Deep Geothermal Power aims to be in operation by 2020. 99.9% of the planet is at a temperature greater than 100 degrees Centigrade. The geothermal gradient (temperature increase with depth) in Cornwall is higher than other areas of the UK and extensive research from the mid-70s has pin-pointed opportunities for geothermal energy.

The proposed power plant will be built and operated by Geothermal Engineering Ltd. Initially the plant will supply up to 3.15MW of electricity to the grid. In November 2011, Geothermal Engineering was awarded a grant of £6m from the European Regional Development Fund towards the cost of the project and drilling of the first well was expected to begin in late 2012. However in April 2013, the grant was withdrawn due to the company’s failure to attract private funding for the project. In 2017, sufficient capital was raised by renewable energy crowdfunding specialists Abundance Investment and the project is now going ahead.

Two wells will be drilled into fractured granite. Drilling should begin in the first quarter of 2018 and take around five months to drill a well 2.5km down. This will be followed by a deeper well of 4.5km, creating a circuit for water to be pumped down the shorter well and return up the deeper well. The very hot pressurised water will be converted into electricity using a steam turbine. The water for charging the reservoir will come from flooded mines, not from the local water supply. If all goes as planned, the Redruth operation could be operational in 2020. Ultimately, geothermal could provide as much as 1,000 megawatts of capacity in Cornwall.

Unfortunately the complicated structure of the rocks in Cornwall make this a risky project and as this is new technology to investors finding funding has been extremely difficult.

Another geothermal project that Geothermal Engineering hopes to complete is to provide geothermally heated water for the open air Jubilee Pool in Penzance, Cornwall.

The Eden Project in Cornwall was has also put forward a proposal for a geothermal engergy plant to provide all it’s power requirements and enough power for 40,000 local homes, but it is struggling to find funding.

Drones – a mixed blessing!

Drones worry me. Recently whilst walking up a hill in the Lake District we were followed by a drone videoing our progress. Not only did I feel this was a disruption of the solitude we had come to the Lake District to enjoy, but the sound of the drone, like a hive of angry bees, destroyed the ambience of the surrounding countryside, smothering the bird song and other tunes of nature. And now that we have Amazon trialing delivery by drone and other companies seeking to exploit this technology I worry that what little peace and quite we can find in our countryside will soon be lost.

However, the drone is a fascinating and disruptive piece of technology and some bright minds are finding innovative and beneficial applications. For example, BioCarbon Engineering are developing drones that can scatter tree seeds over an enormous area, re-foresting depleted lands on a scale not believed possible with conventional technologies. Watch this fascinating video for an explanation. The company envisages swarms of these drones re-planting many billions of trees!

USA 100% renewable by 2050!

Royal Society of Chemistry logo
Royal Society of Chemistry logo

A team of Stanford University researchers have generated a plan for converting existing US energy infrastructure to run entirely on renewable energy by 2050. The study illustrates how existing renewable technologies such as solar, wind and geothermal could realistically replace fossil fuels.

The complex study examined the current and future energy needs of every state for four main categories – residential, commercial, industrial and transportation. It then examined how all these energy needs could be met purely by using electricity and what renewables infrastructure would be needed to meet this.

Not only does converting to electricity allow full use of renewables but due to greater efficiency could produce an energy saving of 39% by 2050.

Some states are already well down the road of converting to renewables. Washington State produces 70 percent of its electricity from hydroelectric, and both Iowa and South Dakota use wind power for around 30 percent of their electricity needs.

The cost of conversion to all renewables would be substantial, but once established the electricity generated is almost free, returning invested capital over time. Other benefits would be less air and ground pollution, energy cost stability, energy independence and substantial new employment and business opportunities to replace those lost in the fossil fuel industries.

All that is needed now is the political will to execute the plan. A republican win in this year’s presidential election would see the plan thrown to the back of a very dark cupboard!

100% clean and renewable wind, water, and sunlight (WWS) all-sector energy roadmaps for the 50 United States

Who needs a 3rd runway?

“There is already airport capacity for families taking their yearly holiday. New runways only benefit the 15% of flyers who take 70% of our flights, cooking our planet. These are rich frequent leisure flyers. The most reliable predictors of frequent flyer status are a household income over £115,000 and owning a second home abroad, but it’s the poorest people who suffer most from climate change.” Plane Stupid

Failing UK Renewables

The UK still ranks close to the bottom of the European Union in its use of renewables. In 2014, it used fossil fuels to produce more than 60 percent of its electricity, half again as much as the E.U. average. The Conservative government plans an 87 percent reduction in subsidies for solar power despite promising after the May election to “unleash a new solar revolution”. Washington Post

Asian Glaciers at Risk

Researchers have found Himalayan glaciers could be very sensitive to future warming, and that sustained ice loss through the 21st century is likely. The model used by the team shows that glacier volume could be reduced between 70% and 99% by 2100.

Increased temperatures will not only increase the rates of snow and ice melt, but can also result in a change of precipitation from snow to rain at critical elevations, where glaciers are concentrated. Together, these act to reduce glacier growth and increase the area exposed to melt.

Glaciers in High Mountain Asia, which includes the Himalayas, contain the largest volume of ice outside the polar regions.

Changes in glacier volume can impact the availability of water, affecting agriculture and hydro-power generation. Initially water flows increase but ongoing retreat leads to reduced melt-water in the warmer months when rainfall is scarce. Glacier retreat can also result in lakes dammed by glacial debris. These dams can collapse causing catastrophic floods.

European Geosciences Union

Solar Road Excites!

A 70 metre test track in Amsterdam embedded with solar panels has generated more than 3000kwh, enough to power a house for a whole year. The result is much better than expected.

The road is made up of rows of crystalline silicon solar cells, encased within concrete and with a translucent layer of tempered glass overlaid. The top layer is dirt-repellent to guarantee maximum exposure to sunlight by keeping the surface clean.

The solar panels are connected to smart meters, which optimise their output and feed the electricity either to street lighting or to the grid.

So far, approximately 150,000 cyclists have ridden over the road and, if trials go well, the companies working on the project are thinking of developing solar panels that could withstand large buses and vehicles.

There is a similar initiative in the  US, the Solar Roadways project.