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Aran drivers go electric

x2 electric car.JPG

Aran islanders are getting the opportunity to skip age of petrol fumes. This week got their first glimpse of the electric car that could pave the way for a total transformation of life as they know it.

The first Mega 'e-City' three-door hatchback arrived on Inis Mór on Tuesday for residents to test drive. One of their most pressing questions for the accompanying boffins was if this brainchild of French engineers could conquer the island's notoriously steep hills without the benefit of petrol or diesel.

One thing they know already is that if the car hits its top speed of 64kph they will almost certainly escape the wrath of the law - the speed limit across the three islands is just 60kph.

The electric car, which is about the same size as a Nissan Micra, is one of ten to be rolled out across the three islands as part of a three-year pilot project to see if the wind and ocean can generate enough energy for electricity, heat and transport for a small community.

The project, which is a collaboration between Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, attracted tenders from 18 companies from around Europe.

From January there will be six cars leased to residents of Inis Mór, two to Inis Meain and two to Inis Oirr, with different households chosen for each year of the project.

Interested motorists must apply to the local co-op, Comharchumann Forbartha Árann Teo, to be accepted, but they must have a clean licence and driving history, they must be under 65 and currently drive a fully taxed vehicle.

According to Fiona Smith of (SEI), successful applicants will have to pay a nominal amount for the lease of the car, around €12, a fee for a connection charge point on the outside of their home, which will be around €330, and then the cost of the electricity to run it. That is likely to be no more than €60 for the year.

The electric car consumes 130 units per km, whereas a similarly sized car such as a Peugeot 107 consumes 520 units per km. Motorists are tipped to save up to 80% in fuel costs.

"It really is a much, much more efficient alternative," explained Ms Smith. "This could become an alternative to shipping in fuel, making the island more self reliant and sustainable."

Dara O'Maoildhia, secretary of the energy community on Inis Mór, said his first impressions of the first bright orange 'e-City' were extremely positive.

"It's roomy in the front, there's no sense you're up against the window. But in the back I would say there's room only for two children. It's got electric windows, reversing sensors, it's comfortable enough. I've no doubt people will be interested in it," he told the Connacht Tribune.

Queries put to the engineers by residents during their day-long visit to the island included how long the car would run before it needed charging, how long it would take for a car to be fixed and how many charging devices were necessary on the island.

These are all issues likely to be ironed out before the launch in early January.

The energy committees on the three islands have been pushing for more energy efficient alternatives for some years. Inis Mór now boasts an electric post van, while tourists can now rent electric bikes to explore the island.

"Our vision for the island is to have no requirement for carbon fuel of any kind, no need for coal, petrol or diesel so that homes are heated and cars are run on alternative energy. We pay more for coal and more for a gallon of diesel than anywhere in the country - at the moment diesel is €1.06, whereas on the island it's €1.20," said Mr O'Maoildhia.

He hopes smart meters will be installed in participating houses within the next three years, which will be attached to the side of the fuse box to monitor the electricity going in and out. Windmills may be built in the gardens and any energy generated will be directed by this smart box into the house to be used in the most efficient way.

"The smart meter will direct the electricity to the battery of the car when the price of electricity is low, but when the price is high, it will be dropped into the electricity grid and you can make a fortune. "At least that's the plan," he said.

More at The Connacht Tribune

Windpower on the Aran islands

windmills on Inis Meain

Al's Big Plan

our_choice_463_2.jpgAl Gore's new book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, is not just a broad overview of the key strategies for preserving a livable climate -- it's also a truly beautiful book, replete with lush photos and simple but powerful charts. In it Big Al spells out the work ahead that An Inconvenient Truth left us a-hankering for. Also, check out the smartest and crankiest responses to the new book.
Read more at Grist

A green roof grows on Inis Meain...

Sean has been busy installing the first living roof on Inis Meaini
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This is how the roof looks with  liitle shoots of Ameria Maritima  - Lady's Pincushion or Sea Thrift - growing in special trays.

Read the whole story here

Our plan to turn a 150 year old dilapidated shed into a low carbon usable space has been given a boost by a visit to the
biannual Solar Decathlon in Washington DC in October.

The students build  5-800 sq ft zero energy houses,
producing as much energy from renewable sources, such as the sun and wind, as it consumes. Even though the home might be connected to a utility grid, it has net-zero energy consumption from the utility provider--usually measured on an annual basis.

Take a virtual tour

The student team from Darmstadt, Germany, won the competition designing, building, and operating the most attractive and efficient solar-powered home.
 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign took second place followed by Team California in third place.

 Team Germany's winning "Cube House" design produced a surplus of elecrticity back into the grid even during three days of rain. This is the team's second-straight Solar Decathlon victory, after winning the previous competition in 2007.

The 2009 Solar Decathlon challenged 20 university-led teams from the United States and as far away as Spain, Germany, and Canada - sadly none from Ireland or the UK -  to compete in 10 contests, ranging from subjective elements such as architecture, market viability, communications, lighting design, and engineering, to technical measurements of how well the homes provided energy for space heating and cooling, hot water, home entertainment, appliances, and net metering.

New to this year's competition, the Net Metering Contest was worth 150 points towards the final results and was the most heavily weighted contest. It challenged teams to generate surplus energy, above and beyond the power needed to run a house, which they fed into a power grid.

Team Germany earned 908.29 points out of a possible 1,000 to win the competition, followed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with 897.30 points, and Team California with 863.08 points.

Solar Decathlon Individual Contest Winners:

Appliances - In the Appliances Contest, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign earned the most points based on keeping a refrigerators and freezer cold, washing and drying 10 loads of laundry during the contest week, and washing dishes in a dishwasher five times during the competition--all on electricity generated only from sunlight. The team scored 93.53 out of 100 possible points.

Architecture - Team California took first place in the Architecture contest and earned 98 points out of a possible 100. A jury of architects judged homes on the aesthetic and functional elements of the home's design; ease of circulation among the public and private areas; integration of various spaces into a holistic design; generosity and sufficiency of space in the house; and the house's design surprises meant to inspire visitors.

Comfort Zone - Team Germany topped the contestants in the Comfort Zone contest, with 92 out of 100 points for maintaining indoor temperatures between 72 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit and relative humidity between 40 percent and 55 percent.

Communications - Team California's communications efforts, including communications plans, student-led tours, and team Web site, were judged best by the jury of Web site and public relations experts with a score of 69.75 points out of a possible 75 points.

Engineering - The University of Minnesota won the Engineering contest, which was evaluated by a group of prominent engineers, who determined which solar home best exemplified excellence in energy systems design, energy-efficiency savings, creative innovations in design, and reliability of energy systems. The University of Minnesota scored 96 out of a possible 100 points.

Home Entertainment - The Home Entertainment contest required students to use electricity generated by their solar houses to run interior and exterior lights, a TV, a computer, and a kitchen appliance to boil water. Teams were also required to hold two dinner parties and a movie night for neighbors. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign earned 92.62 out of a possible 100 points.

Hot Water - The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign earned the maximum 100 points in the Hot Water contest's "shower tests," which aimed to deliver 15 gallons of hot water in ten minutes or less. Of course, the water was heated by the sun.

Lighting Design - The University of Minnesota was named the winner of the Lighting contest where teams earned points based on an evaluation by a jury of lighting design experts. Jurors toured each house to evaluate the aesthetics, innovations, energy efficiency, user-friendliness, flexibility, and performance of the teams' lighting designs. The University of Minnesota earned 72 points out of a possible 75 points.

Market Viability - The University of Louisiana at Lafayette won the Market Viability contest, which evaluated whether the cost-effective construction and solar technology in a team's design would create a viable product on the open market. Judges gauged market appeal based on three criteria: livability, feasibility of construction, and marketability. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette earned 97 points out of a possible 100 as judged by the professional jury.

Net Metering - Team Germany took the top spot in the crucial, 150-point Net Metering contest. Teams were awarded 100 points if the energy supplied to their home's two-way electrical meter registered zero or less after all of the energy demands of the contest week. Each house in the 2009 Solar Decathlon was connected to a power grid and equipped with a meter that measured both its consumption and production of energy. When a team's meter showed a negative number, the home had generated surplus energy--worth up to 50 additional points. Team Germany scored a perfect 150 points in this contest.

The application process for the next Solar Decathlon, to be held in Autumn 2011, has already begun.


Daily photos from throughout the competition are available at the link below.


A Windmill That Saves a Village

How as scrapyard windmill turned on the lights in Africa


 William Kamkwamba, aka The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

From a small village in central Malawi, William was forced to quit school at age 14 because his family could no longer afford his school fees. Fascinated by science, he decided to continue his education by reading at a nearby library. One day he happened to pick up an old textbook with a picture of a windmill on it. "I was very interested when I saw the windmill could make electricity and pump water," said William. "I thought: That could be a defense against hunger. Maybe I should build one for myself."

Though his fellow villagers were utterly perplexed when they saw William tinkering with spare bicycle parts, a tractor fan blade, and an old shock absorber for months on end (many thought he was smoking marijuana), their confusion turned to amazement when they witnessed the final product: William's first functional windmill. The 16ft tall wooden structure was soon powering light bulbs and charging cell phones throughout the village (an amazing feat considering only 2% of Malawians have access to electricity).

Listen to the radio programme here

Kamkwamba was 14 years old in 2001 when he spotted a photo of a windmill in a U.S. textbook one day and decided to make one, hacking together a contraption from strips of PVC pipe, rusty car and bicycle parts and blue gum trees.

Though he ultimately had big designs for his creation, all he really wanted to do initially was power a small bulb in his bedroom so he could stay up and read past sunset.

But one windmill has turned into three, which now generate enough electricity to light several bulbs in his family's house, power radios and a TV, charge his neighbors' cell phones and pump water for the village's fields and household use.

Now Kamkwamba, 22, wants to build windmills across Malawi and perhaps beyond. Next summer he also plans to construct a drilling machine to bore 40-meter holes for water and pumps. His aim is to help Africans become self-sufficient and resolve their problems without reliance on foreign aid.

"The problem we have is electricity and water problems," he says. "I want to be tackling all of them at once."

In a country steeped in superstition and wracked by crushing hardship and government corruption, Kamkwamba's story is remarkable for its ingenuity and persistence.

Kamkwamba wasn't a natural-born over-achiever. Before windmills, his biggest ambition was to be a car mechanic. But when he was ejected from public school at 14 because his family couldn't afford the $80 tuition, his life seemed destined for the planting fields and back-breaking labor of his father, an impoverished maize and tobacco grower. Even that fate fell into question when drought and severe famine struck Malawi, one of Africa's poorest nations, in 2001 and 2002, whittling away Kamkwamba's already thin frame and killing off neighbors and friends, as he recounts with journalist Bryan Mealer in an engaging and spirited new book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

Rain and crops slowly returned the following season, but Kamkwamba still couldn't afford tuition. So with time on his hands, he began visiting a rural library where he found two textbooks -- Explaining Physicsand Using Energy -- that detailed the marvels of electricity. The cover of the latter book featured a long row of towering windmills planted on brown hills, which "appeared so powerful that they made the photo itself appear to be in motion."

Malawi was short on many resources, but not wind. A windmill, Kamkwamba thought, would solve many problems for his parents and six sisters. Not only could it generate free electricity -- saving his family the economic costs and health hazards of burning kerosene -- but it could also pump deep well water to the family's maize and tobacco crops, releasing them from the tyranny of weather patterns and allowing them to add a second growing season to their harvest year.

SAMSO JOURNAL, (It could be Inis meain)

By JOHN TAGLIABUE of The New York Times

SAMSO, Denmark -- The people of this Danish island have seen the future, and it is dim and smells vaguely of straw.

With no traffic lights on the island and few street lights, driving its roads on a cloudless night is like piercing a black cloud. There is one movie theater, few cars and even fewer buses, except for summer, when thousands of tourists multiply the population.

Yet last year, Samso (pronounced SOME-suh) completed a 10-year experiment to see whether it could become energy self-sufficient. The islanders, with generous amounts of aid from mainland Denmark, busily set themselves about erecting wind turbines, installing nonpolluting straw-burning furnaces to heat their sturdy brick houses and placing panels here and there to create electricity from the island's sparse sunshine.

By their own accounts, the islanders have met the goal. For energy experts, the crucial measurement is called energy density, or the amount of energy produced per unit of area, and it should be at least 2 watts for every square meter, or 11 square feet. "We just met it," said Soren Hermansen, the director of the local Energy Academy, a former farmer who is a consultant to the islanders.

In December, when the United Nations-sponsored summit meeting on climate change convenes in Denmark, many of the delegates will be swept out to visit Samso. They will see its successes, but also how high the hurdles are for exporting the model from this little island, a hilly expanse roughly the size of the Bronx.

On a recent visit, Mr. Hermansen recounted, the Egyptian ambassador to Denmark admired all the energy-creating devices the islanders had installed, then asked how many people lived here. When he was told about 4,000, he replied with exasperation, "That's three city blocks in Cairo!" Undaunted, Mr. Hermansen told him, "That's maybe where you should start, not all of Egypt, take one block at a time."

Jorgen Tranberg, 55, agreed. "If there were no straw, we'd have no fuel, but we have straw," he said, sipping coffee on the 250-acre dairy farm where he milks 150 Holsteins. "Everywhere is different," he said. "Norway has waterfalls, we have wind. The cheapest is oil and coal, that's clear." The farmers, he said, used to burn the straw on their fields, polluting the air. Now, they use it to heat their homes.

Counting only the wind turbines on the island, but not those that the islanders have parked offshore in the Kattegat Strait, the island produces just enough electricity for its needs. (With the offshore turbines it can even export some.) However, its heating plants, burning wheat and rye straw grown by its farmers, cover only about 75 percent of the island's heating needs, continuing its reliance on imported oil and gas.

The islanders have been inventive. Mr. Tranberg uses a special pump to extract the heat from his cows' milk, then uses the warmth to heat his house. He has even invested in wind turbines. He purchased one outright for $1.2 million, with a bank loan; it now stands in a row of five just behind his brick farmhouse. He later bought a 50 percent stake in another turbine.

But all that spins is not gold, he soon found out. When a gearbox burned out in one mill three years ago, the repair cost more than $150,000. He did not say how much he makes from selling the electricity.

Energy experts emphasize that it is crucial for the islanders to squeeze energy out of their island without relying heavily on sea-based turbines. Not every region of the world is blessed with an expanse of thousands of miles of ocean at its doorstep.

Please read the full story here

Mental Health break

Try Blowing on it:
This cartoon, from Alex Gregory at "The New Yorker" (May 11, 2009), is a pause for fresh air. windturbines.jpg

The green green roof of Aran

The Aran Green roof project......
Thatch is traditionally used to roof Aran cottages,  but we are now building the first living green roof on the island. Watch the progress as Sean restores a dilapidated shed using locally sourced materials to make a snug environmentally friendly room that one day soon will be a studio, library, retreat and low carbon hideaway.
Our thanks to one of Ireland's  foremost environmental and conservation specialists David Brickenden for his valuable  advice on this project
Watch the green roof grow here

Ireland's 'clean oil fields' to benefit from grid upgrade

Ireland's western region has 40% of the country's renewable wind power generating capacity, according to a plan to double the electricity transmission network.

Eirgrid, the independent electricity transmission system operator, launched its Euro 4bn Grid25 plan to develop the grid infrastructure of which Euro 1bn is to be invested in the west.

Ireland's transmission network could be doubled by the year 2050, boosting current capacity and supporting renewable energy development, according to the operator.

Gillian Buckley, chief executive officer of the Western Development Commission, told the Mayo News: "The western region has about 40% of the entire country's renewable capacity, making it a key natural resource for the region.

"It may be fair to say that wind and ocean energy are the western region's own clean sustainable oil-fields."

She added that existing transmission systems is inadequate to support future renewable power as well as current needs and praised the Grid25 plan, saying it would stimulate investment in renewables.

Ireland has 6,000 kilometres of overhead transmissions, 4,000 of which are set to be upgraded and 1,000 more constructed to meet a predicted 60% growth in electricity demand in a decade.

Aran Islands 'could be 100% renewable'

Islands off the coast of Ireland could be powered completely by renewable resources from their environment, a minister has claimed.

A feasibility study is being carried out to determine whether wind and wave power and other renewables could provide islands with their electricity, heat and transport needs.

The study is to be conducted on the Aran Islands, which rely on the mainland for energy, but with an eye to extending the lessons to other islands.

It has been commissioned by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI).

Minister for communications, energy and natural resources Eamon Ryan said: "The development of an integrated wind and ocean-powered energy system could make the islands self-sufficient in terms of energy supply, would create jobs, boost tourism and could even provide models for improved use of natural resources for the whole island of Ireland."

Last month, Mr Ryan said that Ireland aims to generate 40% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Speaking to an Economist Business Roundtable he said that part of the answer to problems of climate change and energy independence was the development of clean energy. 

Wave energy for Donegal islands?

Donegal Post Logo

It's been claimed that offshore islands like Tory and Arranmore could be entirely powered by wind and wave energy in the future.
The government is to fund a feasibility study to investigate whether electricity, heat and transport needs can be supplied by renewable energy.
A 12-month pilot project, which is jointly commissioned by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Sustainable Energy Ireland, is to focus on Inis Mor, Inis Meain and Inis Oirr in the Aran Islands.
The initiative will also investigate how the technologies may be extended to other offshore islands.
The government-commissioned study will review current energy usage on the Aran Islands and estimate the accessible wind, wave and tidal resources.
It will also look at developing potential models of wind and ocean energy to produce green power at minimal cost.
The employment opportunities of each model and how they could be replicated to other offshore islands like Arranmore and Tory Island will also be studied.