Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Renewable solar pains

Why, with all that’s sane are we told that once more we will be gouged, but as it happens to be aimed towards the wonderful rainbow of reducing greenhouse gases by embracing renewable boundless sources; we’re to accept it – or else!

Tax airline fuel.  That might help levelling out the carbon expenditure playing field; adding that little bit extra to the greenhouse-gases-plant-a-tree-reduction pot.

Subsidise self-generation by having long term (and that's greater than four years for politicians and one year for bankers) plans:

  • so as many buildings as possible have solar panelling, wind, water wheels installed,
  • sensible and meaningful energy conservation measures introduced,
  • improve the efficiency of industry, manufacturing and products produced,
  • retrofit older buildings to be more energy efficient beyond the silly mantra of “loft installation” and “fill those cavity walls” which have been treading the boards for more than 30 years. 

All those billions made by energy companies could instead be used by politicians to ensure their constituents (all of them) have life's which are contentedly happy, enjoyably fulfilled and fulsomely long.  Although after experiencing ‘hi-jinks’ on the way home from a good cinematic experience - but they’re poor kids so relabelled ‘ferals’, some would probably call for life shortening not extending.

Instead of spending trillions on armaments, governments could spend trillions on radically improving the education, the health, the well-being of their citizens.  Ensuring "everyone" is fed, educated, and housed; there'd be no need to see people on street corners homeless.  But that, no doubt, to the many unadulterated believers out there could be deemed to be the most cardinal of sins - socialism!  Gasp, horror, shock.  Where is that soft spot waiting to catch me should I fall!  Well if that's so, so be it.  Because unfettered capitalism's gotten us precisely where exactly? 

But it's neither socialism nor communism because they too have proven to be busted flushes – those leading the charge strangely having a remarkably materially contented lives whilst the many governed queued for hours for  loafs of mouldy bread, wizened carrots and if it happened to be their lucky day a slightly moist dried prune.  All 'isms' have proved wanting, as all ‘isms’ failed.

Now that little rant’s over, back to solar pains.

We should be well beyond that.  Most major cities - within seven years - should be able to produce as much energy as they consume, if it’s done correctly they could even be net exporters of energy.  30%+ food sufficiency - that'd help with jobs, cut down debt and make people feel more communal without the need to emigrate or immigrate.  Already companies around the world, have developed or close to independently developing thin film solar modules and constantly improving on the 10% conversion factor; which although poor is, considering the short time in production still quite a feat, which can only get better especially with current prices 30% cheaper than ordinary models in the wild.

After briefly hearing, whilst in the dozing position, about companies banding together to build solar power plants in the sahara which would provide all the power europe needed, my first thought was “what's taken you so long?”  My second was, “oh really?”  Then before i realised it, a timeline popped up.


Not long after a couple more thoughts drifted before finally deciding to coalesce.  This then set me wondering how the spatial availability of flat-roofs would look like over London.  So with the aid of google earth, and bits of shady green, a few ideas for further imagery dumped themselves into my cell.

Were to start?  How much space?  I quickly decided on a patch of london roof not to far away, drew a border with yellow lines & red squares and used that as my base roof. 

The measurement for that particular patch (not forgetting this is done using a satellite imagery, dodgy mouse and googles earth measurement tool) came out to 103.9 meters, which - with some bad basic mathematics – gives a potential coverable area of around 860m². 

I’m estimating 18 flats for this particular block.  Namely three floors, each comprising of six flats.  


(map images courtesy of google earth)

So far, not to bad. 

Before zooming out (and i’m sure that some clever person will write an algorithm that works out - in an instant, those areas which are flat or south-facing slanted roofs and not roads, nor parks, nor oceans, and create layers in either google or bing)  we can see how many flat roofs are in the image by giving them a slight green tint, like…


(map images courtesy of google earth, fizzy green bits me)

Which brings the flat surface area of the roofs of a small number of properties to a little over 3,472.5m².  If that 3,472m² was covered with panels of only 10% efficiency, it would provide about 138.88 kW/hr.  My average daily usage per month (with washing machine, dishwasher, fridge, computer etc.,) is  4.6321 kW/day.  Which means, that taking a potentially totally sunny blue-skied six hour period that the installation would be chugging away for, could provide 833.28 kW.  Or, using my usage as a benchmark, the installation could sluice through enough power to juice 180 flats, let alone the miserly 72 which are indicated in the picture above.  If, my sums are correct.

Things look even more amazing at a height of 488m,


(map images courtesy of google earth, fizzy green bits me)

at 805m,


(map images courtesy of google earth, fizzy green bits me)

at 1.63km,


(map images courtesy of google earth, fizzy green bits me)

and look at all those empty flat roofs, doing empty flat nothings, not even including slanted roofs with south facing exposures.  Just imagine whether its water or electricity how much could be saved.  But no, lets build really out of the way huge windmills at the cost of billions and not really bother about the estate immediately usable on our doorstep – well rooftops.

Then at 3.23km,


(map images courtesy of google earth, fizzy green bits me)

Finally way up and out there at the dizzying distance of 71.360km (or from here to calais), the little red dot is all that remains of those roof tops in the expanse that is greater london. 

Just imagine how much energy could be generated and how much money saved by residents and businesses alike, if a 10th of those roofs had some sort of solar, wind  or - if over westminster - hot air capture!


(map images courtesy of google earth, green bits me)


On a slightly different note, mid-july has now louched past, and all seven horse-chestnut saplings are still growing and growing strongly.  


With a couple hopefully headed for open prairies over the next few weeks, all that’s now required is to divide and replant the remainder into individual pots; some gift wrapping and the perfect instant environmental present that provides years of conkers or roasted fun is only four short months away, unless the blight finally gets them.

Pak Choi


The pak choi sliced top I saved and stuffed into water then soil, has brightly flowered (or bolted), and will hopefully produce some seeds since i undertook bee duty using a cocktail stick; and increase my self-sufficiency levels to a full 0.01% approx.  Sadly the thyme twig (which can just be seen on the far left) seems to have mimicked the bonsai, turning into a dead dried twig, which will see the bin in a couple of weeks  if its still minus growth shoots.

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