Archive for April, 2009

Renewable energy policies

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Recently I have been reading books such as “Six Degrees: our future on a hotter planet,” “The Transition Handbook” and various others as part of my research for an essay I am writing for the Sir Geoffrey Ellis essay prize at Peterhouse, part of the reason I entered was because I wanted to write the essay (geek) and partly because I haven’t written essays recently and I knew that I needed practice (nerd). The title of the essay is: “Surviving Transition: Sustainability in the 21st Century” currently it runs to 5675 words (limit 6000) and it is almost done.

This explains why I am thinking about renewable energy policies. The position I am coming from is that drastic changes need to happen and that they need to happen very very quickly.

This is the policy:

In the first year all new buildings or buildings that are having their roof replaced must have all suitable roof area covered in either solar thermal or photovoltaic solar panels. This would only be mandatory on buildings that had some sort of electricity supply. Architects should be advised to maximise the potential of roof area to capture solar energy.
In the second year this would additionally apply to all buildings being sold or having their tenant changed.
In the third year all public buildings must comply.
In the fourth year all business premises must comply
In the fifth year all suitable buildings must comply.

In the UK this would first start in Cornwall which has the highest sunlight intensity in the UK(and in the 2 that come next in terms of sunlight intensity), the next year it would begin in the three counties with the next highest sunlight intensity and so on.
In Australia this would apply to the top third of states for sunlight intensity, in the second year it would apply to the second third and in the third year to the bottom third.
When this policy has been applied to the whole of England then England would produce 150%[1] of its electricity needs from solar power (though the area used for solar thermal would of course be reducing gas etc. usage rather than electricity) the additional electricity produced during daylight hours would be used to pump water up into reservoirs so that it could be released at night.
In Australia many areas have problems with water shortages, it also has a higher sunlight intensity and so would produce even more electricity than the UK. The excess electricity in daylight hours would be used to desalinate sea water and pump it into reservoirs so that water supplies would be increased and during the night water would be released for irrigation etc. allowing the production of electricity and alleviating drought. I don’t know the specifics of how much water could be produced by this method but I hope that it would be enough to supply most of Australia’s needs as in the future Climate Change may result in significantly lower rainfall in Australia.
I will now go even further out in terms of craziness of ideas with sufficient production of electricity more than enough water would be produced and the extra water could be used not only to irrigate areas of farmland that are currently suffering problems but also to encourage forests that are having difficulties. Forests such as the Amazon are self sustaining in that if they were to disappear as is quite likely to happen as early as 2050 then the area turns completely to desert. My particularly crazy idea is that it might be possible to do the reverse and create large forests (okay probably huge orchards as that would make more money) and that this might then increase rainfall and so cause such forests to become self sustaining and spread. This would help with the decreasing rainfall that Australia is likely to suffer in the future and provide a carbon sink.
Something similar needs to happen in Brazil – which has some very dry areas – but it has the problem of poverty.

There is far more that I have to say on this but I need to do some more real work now.

[1] I am recalling this figure from memory I read it at least 3 years ago it may be inaccurate as solar panels might be more efficient now.