The Anonymous Widower

The Joy Of Physics

On the One Show on BBC television, yesterday there was a report about a man called Ian Tansley, who has invented a vaccine fridge for use in places like Africa, where the electricity is not reliable.

This Wikipedia entry for Sure Chill Technology describes the technology and this report on the BBC, describes how the invention has been backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Physics to many is a dull subject at school, but to me, it’s the key to so many interesting inventions and ideas that will shape our lives in a better way.

October 24, 2017 Posted by | Health, World | , , , | Leave a comment

Is A Cap On Energy Prices A Good Idea?

All political parties including the Motherhood and Apple Pie Tendency think this is a good idea, but I’m not sure.

I changed to OVO Energy, one of the smaller companies a couple of years ago, so I looked up on a comparison site to see if I could make a big saving by changing supplier.

Sixty-three suppliers would give me a saving of up to four pounds a month.

As my solar panels haven’t been installed for a year and I don’t know the full affect on my bill yet and I would be changing with solar panels, I shall not be changing my supplier now.

But the interesting figure is that sixty-three different deals were offered. That says to me that competition is working in the energy field.

An Ideal Energy Market

Most consumers would prefer a fixed low price.

But surely, that is impossible as there has to be an equilibrium between the price energy companies pay for their energy and the price they charge consumers.

What happens if there is a global crisis and energy prices are universally high?

The other problem with a low energy price, is that doesn’t encourage consumers to save energy.

The UK’s Energy System

The energy system and market is a constantly changing dynamic system and since energy privatisation in the UK, there have been massive changes to the generation, supply and use of electricity.

  • A nnetwork of interconnectors is starting to stretch over Western Europe to allow interchange of electricity.
  • Wind and solar power generation are increasing dramatically.
  • Coal is dead for generating electricity.
  • Consumers have invested in low-energy appliances.

There will be more developments in the next few years.

  • A planned interconnector to Iceland could be a game changer.
  • Solar panels and energy storage will increasingly be fitted to homes.
  • Millions of electric cars will be sold.
  • Some high-priced nuclear energy will come on stream.

All of these developments have and will continue to move the energy price up and down.

As a Control Engineer, I know that the best way to get a dynamic system like this to a stable point acceptable to all parties, is to apply as few restrictions as possible.

An energy price cap will impose a condition, that will distort the equilibrium and it might not be in the way that politicians want.

Politicians would be better to concentrate on actions that helped the current system find an equilibrium acceptable to all.

  • Make it as easy as possible for consumers to change energy supplier.
  • Avoid backing high-priced energy generation like Hinckley Point C.
  • Promote lower-cost generation and energy storage systems.
  • Fund energy research at universities.
  • Build more interconnectors.

But above all they should not distort the market.

As an aside here, I don’t object to Nicola Sturgeon setting up a tax-payer funded energy company in Scotland. In a free market, it will only promote more competition and possibly lower prices.

But it might lose Scotland a lot of money!

October 12, 2017 Posted by | World | , | 3 Comments

OVO Offers Solar Panels And A Battery

There are a couple of reports on the Internet, that the smaller energy supplier; Ovo Energy, is now offering deals on solar panels and a battery.

I have been thinking of adding a battery for some time, but I don’t think the time is quite right yet, as the price of batteries is becoming more affordable.

However, I do think that Ovo’s move is the first of many we will see in the next few months and years.

This march towards solar and batteries could have various consequences for the UK.

  • Many house builders will add solar panels and a battery to new houses.
  • Domestic electricity needs will reduce.
  • Solar panels and batteries may have some interesting effects on the property market.

Battery owners could also charge up overnight on low-price electricity, so the daily operation could be something like.

  • Overnight the battery is charged on low-price electricity.
  • Morning ablutions and breakfast, thus uses low-price electricity.
  • Hopefully, the sun charges the battery during the day.
  • Evening electricity would in part be what has been stored during the day.

One overall effect of the battery is to smooth the energy needs of a property.

So as the proportion of houses with batteries increases, the National Grid will see a reduction in the spikes of electricity demand, as evetybody makes a cup of tea in the advert breaks.

But the biggest effect will be on how the UK would generate its electricity.

I am not against nuclear power for any technical or environmental reasons, but I do think that the cost of new nuclear power stations like Hinckley Point C are not good value for money compared with other methods of generation. On the other hand, if we are going to have much smoother electricity needs, then we do need the nuclear power station’s ability to produce a steady baseload of power.

I am against inappropriate on-shore wind in many locations, but I am not against off-shore wind or perhaps a few large turbines in an industrial estate.

I feel that solar, batteries and off-shore wind could give the UK very affordable electricity, but they need to be backed by some form of baseload power stations, which at the moment can only be nuclear.

Conclusion

Following my logic, I believe, that as more batteries are installed in the UK, the following will happen.

  • Those who install a battery will save money whether they have solar panels or not!
  • Batteries will be allowed to be charged on low-cost overnight electricity.
  • As more batteries are installed in the UK, the UK power needs will be smoother.
  • Overnight off-shore wind could be used to charge all these batteries.

This leads me to the conclusion, that the Government should create incentives for homes to install batteries, which would be charged with low-cost overnight electricity or solar panels.

October 7, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Checking My Electricity Direct Debit

With the news this morning, that there is going to be a price cap on energy tariffs, I thought I’d look at mine.

I was paying £114 a month, but my supplier; OVO were recommended that I pay just £89.

The difference, is probably explained, as this has just been the first summer, when my solar panels have been installed.

So their charge calculating algorithm has only just caught up and I am now saving money.

Do you trust, your energy supplier to give you a an accurate estimate about what you should pay?

Interestingly, this morning, I’ve just found this web page detailing a link-up between OVO and Nissan concening the charging of electric cars.

The electricity market is changing very much for the better.

October 5, 2017 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

BBC Click On Batteries

This weekend’s Click on the BBC is a cracker and it’s all about batteries.

Electric Mountain

It starts with pictures of the UK’s largest battery at Dinorwig Power Station or Electric Mountain, as it is colloquially known.

The pumped storage power station was completed in 1984 and with a peak generating capacity  of 1.6 GW, it was built to satisfy short term demand, such as when people make a cup of tea in advert breaks in television programs. Under Purpose of the Wikipedia entry for Dinorwig Power Station, there is a very good summary of what the station does.

To build Dinorwig was a wonderful piece of foresight by the CEGB, over forty years ago.

Would environmentalists allow Dinorwig Power Station to be built these days?

That is a difficult question to answer!

On the one hand it is a massive development in an outstanding area of natural beauty and on the other Dinorwig and intermittent power sources like solar and wind power, is a marriage made in heaven by quality engineering.

As solar and wind power increase we will need more electric mountains and other ways of storing considerable amounts of electricity.

Close to Electric Mountain, another much smaller pumped storage power station of 100 MW capacity is being proposed in disued slate quarries at Glyn Rhonwy. This article on UK Hillwalking, is entitled Opinion: Glyn Rhonwy Hydro is Causing a Stir.

The article was written in 2015 and it looks like Planning Permission for the new pumped storage power station at Glyn Rhonwy has now been given.

The UK’s particular problem with pumped storage power stations, is mainly one of geography, in that we lack mountains.

However Electric Mountain is in the top ten pumped storage power stations on this list in Wikipedia.

I doubt in today’s economy, Electric Mountain would be built, despite the fact that it is probably needed more than ever with all those intermittent forms of electricity generation.

The Future Of Pumped Storage Technology

But if you read Wikipedia on pumped-storage technology, there are some interesting and downright wacky technologies proposed.

I particular like the idea of underwater storage, which if paired with offshore wind farms could be the power of the future. That idea is a German project called StEnSea.

Better Batteries

Click also talks about work at the Warwick Manufacturing Group about increasing the capacity of existing lithium-ion batteries for transport use by improved design of the battery package. Seventy to eighty percent increases in capacity were mentioned, by a guy who looked serious.

I would reckon that within five years, that electric vehicle range will have doubled, just by increments in chemistry, design and manufacture.

Batteries will also be a lot more affordable.

Intelligent Charging

Warwick Manufacturing Group are also working on research to create an intelligent charging algorithm, as a bad charging regime can reduce battery life and performance.

I rate this as significant, as anything that can improve performance and reduce cost is certainly needed in battery-powered transport.

The program reclons it would improve battery performance by ten percent in cars.

Surely, this would be most applicable to buses or trains, running on a regular route, as predicting energy use would be much easier, especially if the number of passengers were known.

In Technology Doesn’t Have To Be Complex, I discussed how Bombardier were using the suspension to give a good estimate of the weight of passengers on a Class 378 train. I suspect that bus and train manufacturers can use similar techniques to give an estimate.

So a bus or train on a particular route could build a loading profile, which would be able to calculate, when was the optimum time for the battery to be charged.

As an example, the 21 bus, that can be used from Bank station to my house, is serviced by hybrid new Routemasters. It has a very variable passenger load and sometimes after Old Street, it can be surprisingly empty.

Intelligent charging must surely offer advantages on a bus route like this, in terms of battery life and the use of the onboard diesel engine.

But is on trains, where intelligent charging can be of most use.

I believe that modern trains like Aventras and Hitachi’s Class 800 trains are designed to use batteries to handle regenerative braking.

If you take a Class 345 train running on Crossrail, the battery philosophy might be something like this.

  • Enough energy is stored in the battery at all times, so that the train can be moved to a safe place for passenger evacuation in case of a complete power failure.
  • Enough spare capacity is left in the battery, so that at the next stop, the regnerative braking energy can be stored on the train.
  • Battery power would be used where appropriate to reduce energy consumption.
  • The control algorithm would take inputs from route profile and passenger loading.

It may sound complicated, but philosophies like this have been used on aircraft for around forty years.

Reusing Vehicle Batteries In Homes

Click also had detailed coverage about how vehicles batteries could be remanufactured and used in homes. Especially, when solar panels are fitted.

Other Batteries

On the on-line version, the program goes on to look at alternative new ideas for batteries.

Inside Electric Mountain

The on-line version, also gives a tour of Electric Mountain.

Conclusion

The future’s electric, with batteries.

 

 

 

 

October 1, 2017 Posted by | Travel, World | , , , | Leave a comment

Why People Don’t Change To Cheaper And Smaller Energy Suppliers

This news item on the Money Saving Expert web site is entitled Energy users don’t switch because they haven’t heard of cheapest firms, MSE poll finds.

If you’re thinking of changing read it and you might learn something to guide you to a more affordable supplier.

I swapped to OVO Energy a couple of years ago, and I’ve had no serious issues and they now have allowed me to connect my solar panels to the electrocity network.

The only problem, I had with swapping was getting nPower to pay me the money they owed.

September 8, 2017 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Major District Heating Scheme to Connect £6bn Meridian Water Development

The title of this post is the same as a press release from Vital Energi.

This is the first three paragraphs.

London’s latest £85m district heating infrastructure is taking shape in Enfield and will be delivered by Vital Energi on behalf of energetik, the energy company owned by Enfield Council.

The new district heating network will accommodate up to 30,000 homes and businesses, including the £6bn Meridian Water development. energetik want to revolutionise the local energy market and improve the reputation of district heating, in a currently unregulated market, to ensure customers receive a quality service.

Vital Energi will design, build, operate and maintain the main energy centre for Meridian Water and install the district heating network over the next 12 years, under a contract worth £15m. This heat network is part of an integrated energy and regeneration strategy in Enfield that will interconnect with energetik’s other networks at Arnos Grove and Ponders End.

The Meridian Water development is certainly going about things in an impressive way.

August 23, 2017 Posted by | World | , | 1 Comment

Conn By Name, Con Artist By Nature

I have just seen the Chief Executive of Centrica; Ian Conn, giving the most unfeasible explanation, why despite the fact that electricity prices are going down, British Gas will be putting them up by 12.5% from September 11th.

This article on the BBC gives more details.

Now is the time to give British Gas a good kicking by moving to an alternative smaller supplier.

I moved to OVO over two years ago and have had no trouble except.

  • Changing from my old Bog Six supplier was a pain, due to the original company’s incompetence. Was that real or deliberate?
  • OVO have still not fitted me with a smart meter. But I’m not sure I need one!

OVO have also handled my solar panels without trouble.

August 1, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Electricity Shake-Up Could Save Consumers ‘up to £40bn’

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in the BBC.

The electricity shake-up was forecast in yesterday’s Sunday Times and I wrote about it in Giant Batteries To Store Green Energy.

In We Need More Electricity, I talked about what RWE are doing to create an all-purpose Energy Centre at Tilbury.

The Tilbury Energy Centre will feature.

  • Efficient energy generation from natural gas.
  • Substantial energy storage.
  • Peak energy production from natural gas.
  • Load balancing of wind power with storage and generation from natural gas.

But I suspect, it will get involved in other advanced techniques, like using carbon dioxide to get greenhouse fruit and vegetables to grow quicker.

The electricity market is changing.

July 24, 2017 Posted by | News, World | , , , | Leave a comment

Giant Batteries To Store Green Energy

In today’s Sunday Times, there is a small article with this title.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Britain could soon be relying on battery power under plans to create a network of electrical storage facilities around the national grid.

Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, is expected to announce plans this week for giant rechargeable battery facilities to be installed near wind and solar farms to store the energy generated when demand is low. It can then be released when demand rises.

The article also says that householders will be encouraged to use batteries alongside solar panels.

I think this is only the start.

Imagine an estate of new houses, an office development, a factory estate or a business park.

  • Solar panels would be everywhere.
  • Wind turbines could be strategically placed.
  • A central CHP system would provide heating and some electricity.

Everything would be backed up by a suitably-sized battery.

 

July 23, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | 3 Comments