Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review of 2011 Weather + Energy

After the mini-peak in annual heating cost in December 2010, the
curve has been down, down, down ever since.
December 2011: The heating figures above show it, this has been a very mild year, weather-wise. The House consumption for 2011 was 4,662 kWh and for the GHSP was 2,657 kWh.... Both are amazing figures - I thought at one time that 6,000 and 4,000 were as low as consumption could go to! I then 'had a dream' that they could touch 5,000 and 3,000..... but they kept on going! I re-compute these every Sunday, so they are not a surprise. The Sunbox capture was 3,035 kWh which is satisfactory.
   If we have a stiff Winter-Spring, I expect those figures to bounce back a bit - perhaps making 5,000 and 3,000 the new median for future years. We shall see!

The Guardian has two articles reviewing the weather and the environment for the year of 2011. First the article based on a National Trust report describes how confusing it has been for plants and wildlife. The Spring 2011 was an amazingly warm 'bounce-back' after the wintry months of 2010 with the sunniest March and the warmest April on record. After a reasonably warm summer, we have had this recent autumn that had the September-October heatwave (more all time records), the second warmest November in 100 yrs, and in December, the temperature hardly ever went below freezing (in this part of the world). I never once had to get a scraper out for the car windscreen. In our front garden, one of our rose plants has come into flower! Daffodils are already sprouting.

The Environment
The other report, on the wider environmental picture reveals a lot of problems, mostly caused by a British government that promised to be the greenest ever, but seem to have believed that they could have entirely different policies compared to their election promises. 
Quoting from the Guardian article: 2011 was a torrid year for what remains of natural Britain. There was a cold winter, a glorious but very dry spring, an Autumnal heatwave and a late drought, but the government which promised to be the greenest ever, was pilloried for its proposed actions on planning, forests, air quality, climate change, solar energy, sustainable development, biodiversity, nuclear power, badgers, geo-engineering, rivers, shale gas, energy conservation, roads, public transport and a lot more besides. Only a few nuclear industry fans and some optimistic marine conservationists had much to celebrate.
   So they've had fracking proposals for Lancashire, backing out of the Feed in Tariff, increasing support for Nuclear, making it easier for house builders to avoid their energy efficient obligations, attempts to lift regulations that protect the environment from business activities. They've produced things like the Green Deal which are so weak and complex in timetabling that they seem almost custom-designed to avoid people taking up the offer. Carbon emissions from the UK continue to climb, although energy from renewables has been on the increase (something to cheer about... ). Osborne is verging on taking the US view that green action is 'bad for business' (and 'why bother as we are smaller than the Chinese?'). Environmental bodies like Natural England or the Energy Saving Trust has been reduced to the level that any objective observer would regard as closed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

High Court ruling on PV FIT

27 Dec 2011: It seems that the (British) High Court found that the government were wrongful in pressing ahead with major changes to the Feed in Tariff without considering that the consultation process was not completed, and that the deadlines given have caused untold chaos in the solar installation industry.... and we should not forget some of the inevitable job losses or company closures.
Most people assume that Cameron and Osborne (who seems from his actions and sayings to have little regard for the 'Green' revolution) will just carry on regardless of the Court ruling, or of the effects on the Solar industry and customers. The minister is appealing against the ruling.

Why link to Insulation?
When this was first mooted, it was proposed that the higher tariff should apply to houses which meet an Energy Performance Certificate of level "C". Although this sounds at first sight like a good incentive, it reveals, at closer inspection to be just another form of discouragement, and favouring the well off.
   Energy Generation is a different matter from Energy Conservation, and both are excellent, but there is No Reason for them to be so tightly linked, or for one to exclude the other. Should we also make a law that "Only houses with PV panels should be Insulated"? Of course not. That demonstrates the absurdity of the current proposal that "Only houses with Insulation should have PV panels". There are other ways to incentivise insulation, and these are being done.
  Society needs Energy, so why should we not encourage panels to be fixed on garages, barns and old houses that are not easy to insulate? In the same way, there are many buildings than can and should be insulated, but because of chimneys, dormers, trees or hips, they cannot be adapted for photovoltaic. 
    It can cost more to insulate a house up to level C than to fix solar panels. This becomes a charter favouring the rich or the owner occupier, because it requires an expensive operation on the house first, and perhaps a season's delay. 
   What does it do for social housing (especially of older dwellings)? A quick one or two day installation of panels can reduce future fuel poverty for a whole street, but a programme of insulation of a whole street would mean a complex and expensive process of decanting tenants etc. with funds that the local authorities or housing associations do not have.

Payback thoughts
    It also makes nonsense of the "Payback" argument. It annoys me that people always ask about the Payback of PV when they don't ask the same thing of a change of car, of buying christmas presents, of going on holiday. "Payback" with Insulation is much harder. For me, it is an obvious benefit, in the immediate improvement in comfort levels. In terms of Payback, the reduction of heating bills could take many many years to pay back, and the big unknowns are the future of energy prices and how long you will live there - even more unknown than with PV.
   What about the cost of funding BOTH? If you have to fund BOTH insulation to level C AND a Photovoltaic roof.... then most people in older houses will be alienated from the whole process.

BDPV PV Website

27 Dec 2011: I recently discovered the website  which is a French site, providing a geographical database of PV systems installed all over Europe.  Each user is trusted to supply their own data for each month, and have that compared with others near them, and with the classic PVGIS calculation for that same Lat, Long, Orientation and Roofpitch.

Above is the display for my PV system for the most recent year (2011) with an estimate for the final figure for December 2011 (which is already well ahead of the previous year. The chart shows comparisons with the previous two years.
 It is easy to register with BDPV and there seems no charge for using it. I am surprised at how many are using it already, including quite a lot within a short distance of my home. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

December 2011 Reports

For those just arrived, I do a computation of the ANNUAL performance every Sunday, by subtracting this evening's meter reading from the same one, exactly a year ago.

A Diamond was a girl's best friend here!
26 Dec 2011: Well the last reading of the year has been taken, and we have continued to create all-time records for the energy consumption. But what of the news? 2011 has been a very eventful year, too much for some people - Tsunamis and Earthquakes.... several dictators ended or dead, and one created. This week, it has been 'Goodbye dear leader' Kim Jong Il, and 'Hello! to the great successor' a pudgy faced brat called Kim Jong Un... where will all that lead to? More personality cult I guess. Sorry to hear about Bombs in Damascus, Baghdad and Kabul. The Brazilian economy overtook the British one (do they have 'cuts' too?) not surprisingly, and the government were criticised by the High Court for unjustly changing the Photovoltaic Feed In Tariff. Of course, they will ignore that. [Report] Not really the 'greenest government ever'.... On the good side, a woman finally got justice from the husband who tried to murder her and bury her in a cardboard coffin. Her engagement ring was remarkably effective at cutting her way out [Comment]. And then we had Christmas, so a merry one to all who visit this blog!
  • All time Records Falling: House 4,733 kWh, GSHP 2,734 kWh, GSHP clock 1,255 hrs. (A year ago, annual was: House 6,290 kWh, GSHP 4,216 kWh).  
  • PV 3,371 kWh (Very high! I'm happy if it is above 3,300, it was 3,288 a year ago) 
  • Sunbox energy 3,010kWh (I'm happy as long as it is above 3,000). SB clock 2,444 hrs. 
  • Deep ground temperature is 11.1ºC. A year ago it was 10.0ºC. 2 yrs ago it was 7.5ºC. 
The House meter and the GSHP meter
follow each other with a gap of 2,000 kWh
The higher than expected deep ground temperature is partially explained by us being away for christmas for two days, and for those day, there was some sunshine, but the heating was only on for 3 hours per day. So the ground recovered surprisingly well after its Low of last weekend. I measured it a couple of evenings later, and measured it at midnight after a cold rainy day, and it was 10.7ºC, more realistic.
   There is something uncanny with how the House and GSHP meter readings remain so close to 2,000 different, they are now only ONE kWh away from that exact gap. It must show how consistent our other energy demands are, for power, lighting and cooking. See the graph>

The much used photo of the Hadron Collider
18 Dec 2011: Well, I sometimes think my set-up here is a bit complicated, but compared with CERN's Hadron Collider, in which they believe they may have identified a Higgs Boson, it is very very small, simple and a lot cheaper! Europe seems to rumble on week after week. The writer, polemicist and prominent atheist Christopher Hitchens dies in Houston, and Vaclav Havel, first president of free Czechoslovakia also dies. Quite a lot of people die in Liege thanks to a madman with a gun, and we hope there will be less dying in Iraq now that the US forces pull out entirely after 8.5 years of occupation. Climate change wise, the Philippines are suffering the latest of a series of major tropical storms, this latest one being the most destructive. Meanwhile, I am doing my tiny bit to reduce CO2 emissions from this building, and delay climate change by a three billionth (of the number of buildings on the planet). Yet again, we are breaking all-time records (because December 2010 was so severe).
  • All time Records Falling: House 4,814 kWh, GSHP 2,819 kWh, GSHP clock 1,303 hrs. (A year ago, annual was: House 6,302 kWh, GSHP 4,245 kWh).  
  • PV 3,375 kWh (I'm happy if it is above 3,300, it was precisely 3,296 a year ago) 
  • SB clock 2,448 hrs. Sunbox energy 3,020kWh (I'm happy as long as it is above 3,000). 
  • Deep ground temperature is 10.0ºC. A year ago it was 10.3ºC. 2 yrs ago it was 7.1ºC. 

Diagram of Kepler 22b released to
news agencies by NASA
11 Dec 2011: The news seems to be dominated by Europe and for the UK, Cameron's veto.... further afield, the Durban Climate Change COP17 conference seemed to end in some form of success and agreement, thanks to the efforts of the Danish EU delegate who kept everybody working through the night. It was a bad week for Shias in Kabul (grim event), and for Ferrari owners in Japan (ha-ha). If you don't like it here, there's Kepler 22b, a planet just like ours, with similar atmosphere and temperatures - providing you can find transport to get 600 light years from here. I wonder if they have a socio-economic culture with energy requirements and solar panels, like ours, and even a little guy in a house who records his weekly meter readings like these.
  • All time Records Falling: House 4,846 kWh, GSHP 2,849 kWh, GSHP clock 1,322 hrs. (A year ago, annual was: House 6,302 kWh, GSHP 4,235 kWh).  
  • PV 3,368 kWh (I'm happy if it is above 3,300, it was precisely 3,300 a year ago) 
  • SB clock 2,439 hrs. Sunbox 3,005 kWh (I'm happy as long as it is above 3,000). 
  • Deep ground temperature is 11.0ºC. A year ago it was 10.4ºC. 2 yrs ago it was 7.2ºC. 
I hope the 'all-time record' process continues to the next few sundays of December. That has become something of a target. It is somewhat astonishing how closely the House and GSHP follow each other with a 2,000 kWh difference. We have only had two days this winter where the GSHP edged above 20kWh, and none where the house went above 30kWh.
  I modified the Sunbox thermostat so that it needs a delta-T of 7.0 degs to operate, or an absolute temperature of 17ºC, meaning that it will come on for fewer hours, but be more heat-delivering when it does come on (i.e. higher kilowatts). I suspect the Supercal energy meter has difficulty detecting very small temperature differences between flow and return, so a larger one makes it run more accurately.

Ken Russell 1927-2011
4 Dec 2011: OK, so this week Ken Russell died, Osborne made a speech on Tuesday confirming that the government has turned against the green agenda big-time. The public sector unions had a strike on Wednesday. Jeremy Clarkson made his sick joke about shooting all the strikers. The Leveson Enquiry and the Euro crisis continue. What's going to happen in Durban with the climate change conference? Not much it seems. Herman Cain decided not to be a Reptilian candidate, and returned to the girls in his Pizza parlour. The British Embassy in Tehran is sacked, the Iranian embassy in London is closed. So with the death of Brazilian footballer, Socrates, I have to turn back to the infinitely more humble matter of the Peveril house meters..... The autumnal weather continues another week and so the House and GSHP break records yet again. I can sense that colder weather is coming, and when that happens, I expect the figures to level off or bounce up a bit in the next few weeks. With the colder weather, there is also a drop in the ground temperature, bringing it to the same as for last year :(
  • All time Records Falling: House 4,892 kWh, GSHP 2,900 kWh, GSHP clock 1,344 hrs. (A year ago, annual was: House 6,247 kWh, GSHP 4,185 kWh).  
  • PV 3,373 kWh (I'm happy if it is above 3,300, it was 3,296 a year ago) 
  • SB clock 2,427 hrs. Sunbox 3,045 kWh (I'm happy as long as it is above 3,000). 
  • Deep ground temperature is 10.8ºC. A year ago it was 10.8ºC. 2 yrs ago it was 7.5ºC. Groan...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Active House case study

23 Dec 2011: I have added the Peveril Solar house to the Active House website as a case study. I would welcome more people linking to here from there, sharing in the knowledge. Although I am teaching the principles of the Passivhaus at the Uni, I feel sure that the Active House definition is more practical as a more workable solution for the majority of houses, especially for retrofit of ones already built.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Solstice thoughts

22 Dec 2011: This year the Solstice falls on the 22nd Dec, and we've been rewarded with a lovely SUNNY warm day. The solar panels are doing well, both PV and thermal.
   The shadows are the longest they will be all year, and from now, the days will gradually get longer and the shadows shorter. The weather may get colder in Jan and Feb, but the PV figures will improve, as long as it doesn't snow. The difference in day length at this time of year is but a few seconds, because the solar altitude follows a SIN curve, and the Solstice is the flattest part of the curve. In 2010, the Solstice day was a grumbly cloudy affair, but in 2009 and this year, we are given a special dose of Sunshine!
   2011 has been a better year for sunshine. December 2011 has already gained more PV power than all of December 2010. Our computed 'annual' figure consistently exceeds 3,300 kWh.
Oct 2010  173 kWh    Oct 2011 207 kWh

Nov 2010 96.6 kWh    Nov 2011  79 kWh
Dec 2010 49.5 kWh    Dec 2011 ? kWh
December 2011 has made 52.7 kWh so far and there are nine days to go, and some of the long range forecast includes sunny days.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Greenest Campus in the World!

22 Dec 2011: Greenest Campus
I'm happy to report that my workplace, the University of Nottingham is ranked Greenest University in the world - on a wide range of indices. In 2010, it was ranked 2nd, behind Berkeley. This year, it is top of the league!
   Oddly, this ranking began as a research project at the University of Indonesia, but it is world wide now and quite highly respected. The ranking is based on geographic data, number of courses and amount of research into sustainability, energy efficiency of buildings, waste, water and transport management, and suchlike.
See the page on Criteria for detail.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Metering comment

18 Dec 2011: With just two weeks to the start of the Olympic year of 2012, the house and GSHP meters have been breaking records almost every week of the year. The figures remain remarkably close, with only about 5kWh variation on a 2,000 kWh difference. A year ago the two figures were over 6,000 and 4,000 respectively, then recently they were down to 5,000 and 3,000 respectively, and this week they are down to 4,800 and 2,800 respectively. If current weekly consumption continues, the figures will continue moving towards 4,700 and 2,700 respectively. Next spring, we should see a levelling out or an upward bounce if the weather gets colder.
The PV meter. This has just passed the 7,000kWh mark
just 27.5 months after installing
   So far, it hasn't been cold enough to need more heat in the evenings than a little top up heat with the pilot light on the gas fire in the evenings (to keep Mrs N-C happy.)

Mind the Gap!
This gap of 2,000 kWh does not mean that we use precisely 2,000 kWh for cooking, lighting power.  The GSHP meter is an absolute measured amount going to the GSHP, whereas the House meter has days of stasis due to the PV roof in the summer, sending reverse current through the meter. The amount that we are using is perhaps 60% of the PV generated, so as we generate 3,300 kWh, 1,320 is exported and 1,980 is used, so our House meter annual total would be perhaps 5,000 + 1,980 = 6,980 kWh. That still compares well with the regular amount of 8,500kWh/annum that we were using in 2007 and 2008.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gas versus HP

18 Dec 2011: Cooking with Gas
 I really feel that this solar augmentation is a beneficial technology, but for me the problem in the UK is that most of the efforts are directed towards the use of more efficient condensing gas boilers - prolonging the burning of fossil fuel for another 20-25 years. People won't take out boilers that they have only just fitted!
  With Retrofit, people are put off heat pumps by the added cost of modifying radiators or installing floor heating. With the tendency to fill in urban brown field sites, and to restrict scattered development in rural areas, it is extremely unusual for new houses to be off the Gas grid. There is an almost religious faith in the warmth, reliability and cheapness of gas heating, and the ease of cooking with gas (they haven't tried the wonderful controllability of the electric induction hob).
     Only when gas begins to suffer cuts or intermittencies, Ukrainian-style, will people think otherwise. Vladimir Putin, I am waiting for you!

Choosing a heat pump
   Even with a new build and the decision to use a Heat Pump, people are put off by the cost of laying a ground loop or borehole, the GSHP and the underfloor heating. They tend to finish with Air Source heat pumps. It may be a decade or even two before enough people have the circumstances to appreciate the combination of solar charging with ground source heat - longer than I expect to be here.
   I don't know anybody with an ASHP well enough to expect them to monitor it and record daily meter readings and temperatures - so I cannot compare directly. However, at this time of year, with no warmth in the air, I feel glad that we have a GSHP working from a warm mass of earth below the house.
   So, Please, Please, if you read this, promote the principle of Solar Earth Charging, and get in touch with me if you have a real building situation where a GSHP might be included.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

October 2011 Powerpoint

5 Dec 2011: I recently discovered the website - wonderful place to deposit PDF documents, and they are organised rather like one does on an iPad - easy! It is possible to provide viewers with a link, or provide html code that can be embedded, as below. I tried uploading my October 2011 lecture about the Peveril Surya Sunbox system.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

PV, going into the winter

3 Dec 2011: The Sunpath is moving to its winter pattern, which is to be behind Sharp Hill, and for the Sun to rise a whole hour later than it does down in the plains... and to set earlier behind Wilford Hill. The change is seen in the last two winters that we have had, with a massive drop in November (being less than half of October's harvest). There's a miserably dour Dec, Jan and Feb, followed by a colossal rise in March, after which the Sunrise comes from further in the east where it is not behind the hill.
We have to be philosophical about this. We can't move Sharp Hill out of the way, and we can't move or rotate the house. I am just happy that we get what we get. My friend just down the hill a bit from here, with a purely south facing roof has managed more than 3,800 kWh in the last year, whereas I am glad if I can get 3,330 kWh in a year. The chart above shows that the summer of 2011 has been better than that of 2010. It means that the target we have to set for the GSHP is 3,330, not as much as my friend's house.
  This doesn't affect the Sunboxes much, as they take longer to warm up after sunrise and don't really get going in the winter unless the GSHP is demanding heat by driving cold glycol at them. I have increased the Trigger-Delts-T to 6.0 degrees to make sure that it only works if there is a distinct advantage. This reduces the hours of working, but increases the efficiency when it does work.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Active House versus Passivhaus

1 Dec 2011: Following a lecture by Architect Julian Marsh, I recently registered with the website - this seems to be one place for pooling knowledge on the concept of the 'Active House' . Read this page on the 'Vision' to get the full definition.
Julian's house is in the Meadows, Nottingham, and is termed by him an Active House - there are abundant ecodesign ideas in the house, and it is better than Carbon Zero, but he has not straitjacketed himself with the rigid rules of the Passivhaus Institute. It has variations in shape and materials, uses hemp insulation, parallam frame, composting toilets, PV panels, polycarbonate sunspace, micro farming of fruit and vegetables, rain and grey water collection and many such ideas that are not in Passivhaus. A Passivhaus can be lived in by occupants who ignore the rules, leave windows open, take too many baths etc. Active House implies not only that the house is actively using technology to close the gap, but the occupants are living the lifestyle too, making sure that it operates efficiently.
   The Active House website has a number of case studies and invites more to join in.... so this is a target for the future. I need to read some of the existing ones to get used to the format and level of detail. Although this site seems to have been started by people who worked for VELUX windows and roof lights (whenever a Velux is mentioned, it is quoted in upper case), but there are a number of case studies not using Velux. Anyway, I have three Veluxes in this house, and had three in my last house, and had some in the house before that. Every house I have ever designed has used them. I am now wondering if they are available in triple glazed form.

Thoughts on Retrofit
The Active house idea gives hope to retrofitters, and for those who fit renewable energy technology. The classic Passivhaus is a new build to very strict standards. The Passivhausers I know are a cliquey group and have a contempt for renewable energy technology, despite the paradox of their total attachment to MVHR systems. They try to make people who fit PV feel guilty, as if we are trying to find a quick fix short cut to being more eco-friendly. (They are correct about people who do it only for the Tariff).
   Retrofit of an existing house to Passivhaus standard can be very expensive near to impossible due to architectural limitations of the existing building. So I am open to the idea that a bit of technology can be used to compensate - if you can't reduce your heating by 3,000 kWh, you can at least generate more than that amount and feed it to the grid. For the 98% who live in existing houses, there are technologies we can add to make them work better.

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