Friday, 18 July 2014

Are Biomass Boilers worth it?

Photo Credit: Pooja Chaphalkar
Biomass boilers offer a great heating solution that really does pay for itself and then some. Combined with the great savings to be made with biomass fuels and the government’s domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), it really does make sense to look at biomass for your home. It's an exciting bit of tech to get on and I strongly recommend it. As you can see from the picture on the right, it's not as big as you would expect.

First things first

Biomass boiler systems are not suitable for every property, small urban and suburban properties (especially flats) are highly unlikely to be able to accommodate a larger biomass boiler, hopper and buffer vessel, and are therefore better suited to other renewable energy technologies such as solar PV and solar thermal or even a wall mounted air source heat pump. Even with those urban and suburban properties that do have enough space for the biomass installations, there may still be access issues when it comes to taking delivery (and more importantly storage) of the wood fuel, normally delivered on a standard sized pallet.
Photo Credit: St├ęphanie Kilgast
For homes and businesses with the requisite space, however, biomass boilers are likely to be suitable and can provide substantial financial savings, as well as a significantly lower carbon footprint. Biomass systems with an output of 5kW to 500kW can be used in a variety of settings, both residential and commercial, from a small office building to large buildings such as hospitals, schools and prisons. Biomass boilers are also a particularly attractive option for properties with no mains gas supply.

Biomass Boiler

For those off-grid properties, biomass is a much cheaper fuel to run your heating on when compared to heating oil or Calor gas. Even when compared to heat pumps, the closest renewable competition, biomass generally wins.
While you can install a heat pump (air source or ground source), there is a difference when compared to biomass (heat pumps operate at much lower temperatures), which will mean that you will have to slightly change how you distribute your heat – by increasing the size of your radiators and / or consider installing underfloor insulation (the latter is not mandatory).
Therefore the big advantage over heat pumps is that you can install a biomass boiler with your existing radiators and hot water system as they operate at high temperature and do not require as big an output to provide the same volume of useful heat.
Even if you are on grid, you can still benefit from a biomass boiler – as long as you have the space and are not in a clean air zone (it is very restrictive to use in urban areas of London). Even comparing the cost of gas to biomass fuel can be favourable, especially when you factor in the RHI payments.

Insulation isn't as important?

As mentioned, heat pumps are the other way to get RHI funded heating, but because they produce lower grade heat, they don’t tend to work well with a traditional radiator system and you will probably need to install additional insulation to bring the heat demand right down to be worth it.  Insulation is cost effective if you have a cavity wall property, but if it is of solid wall construction then you will need to consider getting expensive insulation, and the costs will start to add-up.
Biomass has the added advantage of not needing a super insulated house – although we advise on always trying to get the best possible insulation. Where heat pumps rely on high quality insulation to function effectively, costing thousands of pounds, biomass will work well in any home, with just your basic loft and cavity wall insulation as always, recommended. In fact, you will actually get more money as part of the RHI when your property requires more heat to warm it – but loft and cavity, if recommended on the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), must be installed!

How much can I earn with Biomass on the RHI payments?

The RHI will pay you 12.2p/kWh and the amount you get will depend on the heat demand on your EPC. A typical property with a heat demand of about 20,000 kWh will receive more than £2,400 a year; or £17,500 over a 7 year period. That’s a lot of money and will cover the cost of the installation well before the end of the life of the boiler.
To demonstrate how the RHI payments can work with real properties out there, we have selected a range of property’s we have assessed and have summarised the typical heat demands and therefore the expected payments.
 In reality to see how much your property will get, you need to look at the last page of your EPC. Look at the heat demand combined with the water heating requirements then multiply by the tariff (12.2p/kWh). Generally speaking, smaller terraced properties are unlikely to have the space required for one of these boilers, but for larger properties, the returns are very generous. 
Free Biomass quotes here:
I bid you adieu my dear Sirs and Madams!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

TOP 5 wacky solar inventions! #4 killed me!

Solar Panels are spreading like wildfire right now, they are EVERYWHERE an in the most oddest of places. Mainly because you can go pretty much anywhere in the day and you'll be under the sun (obviously). The human attraction to solar power is growing by leaps and bounds over the past 4 years because the technology is finally being realised. You nay sayers, blowing down solar panels about their efficiency are stuck in the past. Germany are running on 50% solar power and we all know how efficient they are! Without further adieu here are my top ten solar panel locations, proving how versatile the technology really is.

1. The Solar Power Fan Cap

Probably not the pinnacle of solar power's potential, but wacky indeed. Obviously choosing practicality over fashion this really does make the most of your head space. It's designed to cool the face by using the fan mounted on the ridge, running on the solar panel above the head. It wouldn't be a bad idea too if it didn't look a tad ridiculous. The best thing is these can be bought on Amazon! I enjoy it don't get me wrong. Part of me wants to buy it, but I'm more of a Sombrero 'fan' myself. 

2. Solar Moon

Not to be confused with the popular anime Sailor Moon, this is a project being developed by Japan and the USA and it's not as far fetched as you might think! Tokyo-based Shimizu Corp. wants to lay a belt of solar panels 250 miles wide around the equator of our orbiting neighbour and then relay the constant supply of energy to “receiving stations” on Earth by way of lasers or microwave transmission. 

The “Luna Ring” that is being proposed would be capable of sending 13,000 terawatts of power to Earth. I guess the only appropriate reaction to that is...

It's a massive amount of power seen as in 2011 the USA alone generated 4,100 terawatts. Shimizu have yet to put a price tag on the construction costs involved, but given adequate funding the company believes construction work could get under way as early as 2035.

3. Floating Solar

This floating solar power plant technology was developed last year by a team led by SP Gon Choudhury, Chairman of the Renewable Energy College. With the total estimated cost of Rs 35 lakh ($63,600), the first pilot project is scheduled to be commissioned this year in October at a lake in the outskirts of Kolkata in West Bengal. The funding for the pilot project was provided by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
Solar panels will be installed on floating platforms which will be anchored firmly to avoid undulation of the panels around the surface of the water. Capital cost for this floating installation is approximately $1.18 Million per MW with power generation cost of Rs 7 ($0.13) per unit. 
Enough of the technical malarky, they are odd. No denying it, can you imagine swimming out to sea and see those giant circular monstrosities! I do like the concept though. Make most the space we have, although less of the solar fan cap space saving!

4. Donkey Solar

Now we've all wanted our solar panels portable, but on a little donkey? I'm pretty sure if it had the speed it could take off with those wings! Donkey's are famed for carrying heavy loads, Pregnant women, the unborn messiah now it's renewable technology; I guess the best animal to carry important cargo is a donkey! Its not just this donkey though...
 A 3rd world version of an eco car, a Toyota Pri-asinus?

5. Solar Fashion

Well I'd hardly call it fashion lets face it, it's sort of hideous. It's called 'wearable solar' and it's purpose is mainly to charge your phone and other devices while on the go, guess we know what iPhone users will be wearing... Obviously something like this would never catch on, but still it's a step forward! Lose the 80's shoulder pads and the Tron style look and it could look pretty good! 

Oh, it's not the only wearable solar either, introducing the solartie! Again for charging our phones (seeing a pattern yet?) and again, hideous. Guess we are just solar power mad! Just imagine the get up you will have with a solar fan cap, tron solar suit and a solartie! Would you get beaten up? Probably. But think of the positives, you would be able to taste defeat with a cool face and enough battery to call an ambulance.

I bid you adieu my dear Sirs and Madams!


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