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 .
21 Dec 2016
The last twelve months have witnessed incredible expansion and change here at BHESCo. Our team has doubled in size compared to this time last year, prompting a recent relocation to a larger office space within the Brighton Eco Centre. We raised £270,000, which we continue to plough into new community energy projects.
We have completed eight clean energy projects this year, including our largest project to date at the Montessori Place school in Uckfield.
Our Energy Saving Service that was launched in January 2016 has now completed over 200 domestic and commercial energy surveys. We are now authorised to issue Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) and our application for a consumer credit licence was approved by the FCA.
It is always nice to be recognised for the work we do and we were humbled to receive several awards for our work in the community, which included a day out at the Houses of Parliament.
Being a relatively small team, there is no way we could possibly have achieved so much this year without the invaluable contributions of our many dedicated volunteers, and of course without the belief and community spirit of our members. Thank you everyone who has helped make BHESCo’s dream a reality – we wish you all a wonderful Christmas, and look forward to reporting again soon on the exciting new projects and programmes we have lined up for 2017!
Fabrica Art Gallery, situated in the heart of Brighton’s charismatic Laines shopping district, is one of the most iconic and recognisable buildings in the city. With an adventurous philosophy rooted in pushing boundaries and supporting innovative new ideas, Fabrica is an organisation very much in the same mould as BHESCo. There is a long history of close links between the art world and environmental conservation, and Fabrica has been continuing this tradition by working with BHESCo to lower their carbon emissions, as well as featuring exhibits which provoke discussion and contemplation about our relationship with the natural world.
To reduce the energy usage of the gallery, BHESCo was engaged by Fabrica to design and install a brand new cutting edge energy saving light installation. The lighting rig was custom built to the specific requirements of the gallery space, and consists of 50 LED lights which can be remotely controlled to suit each individual exhibition. BHESCo estimates that the installation will help Fabrica to save around 13,185kWh of energy a year, which is the equivalent of keeping 2.7 tonnes of harmful CO2 out of our atmosphere. And of course, a major benefit of using less energy is that the gallery will enjoy significantly reduced energy bills; we estimate annual savings to be £1,970!
All of this fits perfectly with the themes surrounding the summer events programme, led by Artist in Residence Lorenza Ippolito, which explores Brighton & Hove as a sustainable city and asks how artists and sustainable companies can work together to create places of enduring value. Fabrica’s current featured exhibition, The Third Paradise by Michelangelo Pistoletto, ‘seeks to reconcile the conflict between the first and second paradises of nature and human artifice. This conflict is leading toward global destruction but the third paradise offers a solution, a resolution that will save the planet and humanity’. The exhibition is on now and runs right through to the 29th August 2016.
Our government claims that we need fracking in order to provide long-term energy security. They are using fear to convince us that we need to drill beneath our homes and areas of outstanding natural beauty in order to ‘keep the lights on’. This is special interest politics in its most malicious and dangerous form.
Fracking makes zero economic sense for the taxpayer. Climate activist and author of The Winning of the Carbon War, Jeremy Leggett said that it costs $3 to buy $1 worth of gas produced by fracking companies in America.
Lessons from America
You don’t have to be George Osborne to understand that this is not a winning economic model for Britain. Fracking is creating uninhabitable ghost towns all along the Marcellus shale, ground-zero for fracking in Ohio. The water is not fit to drink, you can’t grow anything healthy in the soil, animals can no longer graze without ingesting toxins from the grass, and the air is not fit to breathe. There are reports of increasing numbers of people in the US and Australia who live around fracking sites who are becoming gravely ill.
Fracking also uses a lot of water. The State of California decided that there is no reasonable way of dumping the waste water from offshore drilling, so they decided to dump the 8 billion gallons of contaminated fracking water into the Pacific Ocean. This water becomes poisoned by harmful chemicals such as benzene and chlorine. Fracking companies are not required to disclose the chemical composition of the fluids they use.
Hope Not Lost
We are living in an amazing time with incredible technological capabilities. Today in the UK, there are new business models being developed through partnerships between community energy groups, progressively thinking energy suppliers, renewable energy project developers, and local councils. These business models strive to create local energy generation to serve the communities where they are based, as was the case in the UK in the early 1900s.
For a small island nation the UK is lucky to have such an abundance of alternative energy sources available to us; we have Wind, Solar, Ground Source Heat Pumps, Tidal, Wave, and Anaerobic Digestion, to name a few. Additionally, we have new technologies that can improve the ways that we consume energy, like demand response systems, smart grids and energy efficiency measures.
Community Energy = Real Energy Security
BHESCo is part of a network of 20 Community Energy groups across Sussex and Kent that are devoted to creating local energy generation to provide REAL ENERGY SECURITY. We need to end the idea of short term thinking in our energy network and consider that energy generation projects can provide reliable energy sources for 25 to 30 years and longer.
We need to invest in our electricity grid to create the new distributed energy system that is needed to offer the taxpayer REAL ENERGY SECURITY. Fracking most certainly is not going to provide this in the long term, nor will it reduce prices for the 15,000 people in Brighton & Hove who cannot afford to heat their homes.
The current Government’s energy strategy makes no economic or environmental sense, and we say loud and clear No to Fracking! We want to leave behind a long-term legacy of clean, locally owned renewable energy that serves the community and preserves the environment.