Why we need it – and how hard it is
I mentioned in my recent IET talk that the supply of electricity to the grid is likely to become increasingly variable as wind generation grows, and because as net energy importers we are increasingly dependent on foreign energy outside of our control. We don’t worry about this problem too much with gas because we can store it relatively easily in giant gasometers. If we could store electricity too that would be a huge help in de-stressing our electricity grid (and its engineers!).
[I ran out of room to include this topic in my recent IET talk]
As late as the 1880’s a debate was raging about whether to distribute electricity to our homes by Direct Current (DC), where the current always flows in one direction as from a battery, or Alternating Current (AC), where the current reverses direction many times a second. The prolific American inventor Edison advocated DC, while European genius Tesla advocated AC. It was called the War of the Currents (what is it with all these “war” analogies? Enough already!).
I cut my teeth in the computer industry, where for decades Moore’s Law has pretty accurately described the way that year by year computers become more and more powerful for a given price. Or put another way, that every year transistors become cheaper and cheaper. Is this perhaps due to some magical property of transistors? No – as the picture below shows, it was happening before transistors were even invented, and it will surely continue to happen even after we abandon silicon for optical or quantum computing:
Phew! After months of thought and planning, our home Solar Electricity (PV) Panels are finally up and running – just days before the government halves the FIT (Feed-In Tariff) subsidy.
Choosing what to fit… and who to fit it
There are plenty of good online guides about choosing and siting your solar panels. To receive the maximum subsidy you can fit up to 4kWp of panels (about 20) – enough to fill the roof of a largish house. Obviously they have to be largely south-facing and unshaded for much of the day!
and save £410/year!
Even as I have taken successive steps to reduce my bills and my carbon footprint, a remaining guilty pleasure is my good long soak in the shower every morning. Somehow it’s essential to wake up slowly. So I have tried various low-flow shower-heads, and after a couple of appalling “cold mist” experiences, finally found an aerating shower head (the EcoCamel) that still felt good and claimed to reduce flow substantially. But just how much was it really saving us?