The Anonymous Widower

Is Coal In Terminal Decline?

I’m no lover of coal, because of all the pollution and carbon dioxide it creates. I’ve also never met anyone from a coal mining family, who would ever want to work in a mine.

So when I look at the latest freight statistics from the Office of Rial and Road, I am rather pleased to see that in the last year coal traffic on UK railways has fallen over the last twelve months, from 1.66 billion net tonne km to 0.64 billion net tonne km (a drop of 61.2%).

As this is mainly imported coal to be burned in coal-fired power stations, I don’t think it is bad for employment. Power stations may be closing, but new ones must be opening to fill the gap in electricity generation.

September 29, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

A Must Read Article On The Tesla Powerwall

I have a Google Alert set for Tesla Powerwall and usually it just picks up pretty boring stuff, but this article from is better than most. It does state this.

The Tesla Powerwall won’t really make economic sense for most US customers until the price drops – considerably. The people who buy one now will help fund the research and development that needs to take place to drive battery prices down in the future.

So as with a lot of new technology, with my engineer’s hard hat on, I think it will be best to wait until the cost of solar panels, Powerwall-like devices and all the other electronics and control systems needed, have been proven to be reliable and have dropped in price.

My house here has a flat roof, which would be ideal for solar panels, so I’m watching the technology and will buy them, when the payback is less than five years.

Why five years? It’s the length of our fixed term parliament, so hopefully the financial conditions won’t be mucked up too much by a change of governmen.

May 23, 2015 Posted by | World | , , | 2 Comments

The Other Big News Of The Past Few Days

With the election hogging the news, some things haven’t been given full coverage by the  media.

One is Elon Musks idea of the Powerwall, which is a battery storage device for electricity, described in this article in the Guardian and another piece on uSwitch.

This may all look like an expensive toy or gimmick perhaps with a few specialist applications, but I believe it is a technology that could become commonplace in the future.

The flow is with this device and as my trip on a battery-assisted train at Manningtree showed, btteries are no longer something to power milk-floats.

Using a battery in a modern energy-efficient home or business, which perhaps has a roof covered in solar panels is an interesting way of cutting out paid-for electricity, for a hopefully one-off purchase and installation payment.

I wouldn’t buy one now, as although the Powerwall is deliverable now, improvements in battery and solar panel technology will mean that the systems available in a few years will store and generate more electricity in a more affordable manner. I also suspect, we’ll see replacement window glass units, that can either let light through or capture it for electricity.

We will also see much better control systems, although I suspect the the one Powerwall has is pretty sophisticated.

So I’m hanging back now, but I will be looking to put solar panels on my flat roof in anticipation of these better storage systems.

Musk is right, when he says that energy storage is going to revolutionise the world. But I do think that there will be a host of better or improved ways to do it.

But there is work to do, as this image of south-facing roofs in Ipswich shows, solar panels are notable by their absence.

No Solar Panels

No Solar Panels

In a few years time, this image will show lots of solar panels.

It is another case of giving the engineers the money to finish the deveopment and householders the right sort of finance for installation, so everybody can realise the dream of a house that doesn’t use any paid-for electricity.

May 9, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , | 2 Comments

How To Redesign An Everyday Object

Electricity pylons in the UK are generally made to a design that dates from the 1920s. So National Grid, who are responsible decided to have a design competition in partnership with RIBA.

According to this story on the BBC, National Grid are putting up a test line of the winner to teach engineers how to put them up.

They certainly look to be an improvement, but after nearly a hundred years, you’d expect that!

National Grid has also put up a blog.

I like the new pylons and hope to photograph them soon!

April 9, 2015 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Passing Didcot Power Station

On the way back from Oxford, I passed Didcot Power station.

The chimney is very distinctive and there are now only three cooling towers, whereas for a long time there were six.

I’ve never visited the site, but a roommate at Liverpool University; Martin Sykes worked on the building before going to university.

March 25, 2015 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

My Crazy Electricity Meter

My electricity meter is baffling me.

These are my dates and readings.

20-Oct – 37108

14-Oct – 37049

18-Sep – 38777

08-Sep – 38843

15-Aug – 38331

16-Jul – 36764

17-Jun – 35353

I can explain all of the figures until September the 8th, when because of the heat in July and August, I was using the air-conditioning a lot.

But the last few readings indicate to me, that something has gone wrong.

I have phoned my supplier; OVO, and they seem to be worried too. After my previous billing experience with nPower, I’m glad I’ve changed.


October 20, 2014 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Have I Put In Enough Sockets?

We live in an age, where every device we have has a different charger and everything else needs to be connected to the mains.

My phone, broadband and Sky television lines all come in at one end of my living room, whereas the ideal place for the television is at the other end on a bracket that allows  the television to either face the room or be visible from the kitchen.

So I decided to put upwards of a dozen plugs at each end of the room and run three HDMI cables along the wall, so that I could feed the signals to the television. I also ran aerial and Ethernet cables along the wall. Note the two plastic trunkings.

Until now, I’ve just used long HDMI cables, which because they have to go into the back of the Sky and BT boxes, they go round the bend a few times and make everything difficult.

The new layout, has also allowed me to move my laptop, so that when I use it, I face directly at the television, which is much more comfortable.

October 7, 2014 Posted by | Computing, World | , , | Leave a comment

A Safari To The Wilds Of Barking

This morning, I took the bus to Barking Riverside to get a feel of the area, that in a few years time will be served by the Gospel Oak to Barking Line Extension to Barking Riverside.

The Ripple Nature Reserve in the area, is just like some of the industrial wastelands, that I remember from my childhood in London after the Second World War.


September 9, 2014 Posted by | World | , , , , | Leave a comment

Are Electric Cars The Way Forward?

They may well be, but judging by the reports from California about Tessla, it would appear that they are a long way away. This report from the BBC talks about the fires the cars are suffering. This is the first two paragraphs.

Battery fires in Tesla Model S electric cars have prompted an investigation by the US government’s auto safety agency.

Fires broke out in two cars in the US after debris hit the undercarriage, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

But just as with the Boeing Dreamliner, the batteries don’t seem to be up to the job.

As an Electrical Engineer, I believe that electric cars will not be a feasible proposition, until batteries can store several times as much energy safely as they do today.

Electric buses, trams and possibly some trucks are more likely to be commonplace, as their pattern of frequent stops and heavier payloads, may mean that some form of economic electric storage is available soon. Even with hybrid buses, one of the major running costs is the need to replace the batteries every few years or so.

I will be surprised, if electric cards, are little more than what they have been for the last hundred years; an interesting curiosity.

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

More Hot Air For Bunhill

During Open House in September, I visited the Bunhill Energy Centre, which provides heat and power for homes in Islington.

There are now reports like this one on ITV, that they will be taking in the waste heat from the Underground and an electricity sub-station. I would assume the latter is the massive one between the Regent’s Canal and City Road, that provides power to the City of London.

Perhaps they should build a centre like Bunhill close to the Houses of Parliament to heat homes n Westminster!

November 15, 2013 Posted by | News | , , | 2 Comments


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