23 Jan 2017
New skyscrapers are being built in London and other major cities all the time, with rooftop solar panels now being included as standard – excellent news for anyone concerned about the environment. If solar panels could be integrated into entire buildings however, the amount of energy that could be generated, and the consequent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, could be a giant leap forward in the battle against climate change. In this blog, we look at how close we are to achieving that goal.
Cambridge-based startup Polysolar is developing see-through panels that can be designed into buildings, greenhouses and canopies. It has already utilised the new technology at two Sainsbury’s petrol stations and a canopy at the Barbican Centre in London, and its latest installations include a transparent solar bus shelter in the centre of London’s Canary Wharf. However, research funding and green subsidy levels will dictate how quickly these panels become a widespread mainstream commodity.
To make this technology more affordable, government subsidies and investment in green technologies are necessary. Despite breakthrough innovations in creating a clear solar panel, production on a large scale is restricted by technological limitations and high costs.
The UK government could help by investing in greater research and development, with the result that once a mass production technique is achieved, it could be sold to other countries and companies around the world. Widespread uptake of the technology would further drive down costs and could make this practice an industry standard in the not too distant future.
However, such a radical transformation of energy generation is unlikely to go unchallenged by existing fossil fuel energy companies. Businesses with a focus on centralised distribution may increase funding of political lobbying to stop or restrain government support for such innovation for their own self-preservation.
Regardless of the challenges, once ‘clear solar panels’ can be readily integrated into the windows of our houses, workplaces, and leisure centres, our capacity to generate clean energy will be enormous. Clear solar panels will bring a huge change not only to local communities but also to our planet by massively reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from our buildings .
06 Dec 2013
The autumn statement was released with grand plans for reducing our energy bills by transferring the energy company’s obligation (ECO) to the taxpayer. Energy companies have succeeded in lowering their liability to finance the cost of providing insulation, new boilers and draught-proofing for struggling families and vulnerable people in communities across the country.
The question is whether this important support for the fuel poor and vulnerable people now considered to be too expensive will be reduced. Last year, 30,000 people died from winter cold related illness, one of the highest levels in Europe. Taxpayers will be financing shale gas extraction (fracking) that will be offset by less support for solar generated electricity and onshore wind. The net result is not beneficial to the taxpayer, nor to the energy consumer, creating less value for money from an economic standpoint.
The claim is that too much of the energy cost is spent on environmental measures. In fact all environmental charges comprise 9% of the average household energy bill of £1,350. These charges are for various services, including support for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Energy companies do not have a track record of success in rolling out programmes like the ECO on a government mandate. ECO replaced CERT and CESP, which were not considered successful programmes because the energy suppliers didn’t meet the government’s targets. Lots of money has been poured into ECO with little result. It’s just counterintuitive that a company whose obligation is to maximize profits for their shareholders is going to invest its resources in lowering its sales volumes by proactively investing in energy savings.
The taxpayer will not benefit from investments in shale gas extraction, for which many professionals predict will not bring down energy prices. We must focus our attention on making the infrastructural investments in the distribution network, including battery storage, and in distributed low cost generation like solar electricity and onshore wind bringing longer term value to our communities.