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Renewable Energy

  • The LDP lacks ambition in terms of Renewable Energy, with the potential for micro and community generation mostly overlooked.
  • The Vale of Glamorgan has excellent solar energy potential - PV panels for example work optimally at about 20 degrees celsius.
  • Self-builders are more inclined to invest in renewable energy than large developers...

The definition of Renewable Energy employed in Planning Policy Wales [Para 12.8.7] is as follows: 
“Renewable energy is the term used to cover those sources of energy, other than fossil fuels  or  nuclear  fuel,  which  are continuously  and  sustainably  available  in  our environment.
This includes wind, water, solar, geothermal energy and plant material 
often referred to as biomass”.

The LDP's Renewable  Energy  Assessment  report  has  found  that  the  percentage of  renewable electricity generation for the Vale of Glamorgan lies at around 27% which is broadly inline with the UK-wide 2020 target for 30% or more of electricity generation from renewable sources. 

The Renewable Energy Assessment fails to include solar energy when stating "The 
majority of this electricity resource potential is from biomass energy crops with generally limited opportunities for other forms of renewable energy such as large-scale wind power as well as limited opportunities for hydro-power and the utilisation of sewage sludge, which is processed in Bridgend and Cardiff."  They also neglect to mention that growing biofuels competes with land for growing food.

At the time of the assessment, renewable energy installations in the Vale were very few, but roofs, especially in and around Dinas Powys are beginning to show this table to be already out of date:

This claim that solar energy at a micro level is so much less effective than micro level biomass for kWh's is hard to support with evidence:

Solar Energy
On a single May 2012 day, Germany produced 22 gigawatts of energy from the sun—half of the world’s total and the equivalent of 20 nuclear power plants.

The “feed-in” laws and subsidies pushed innovation to the point where solar panels are cheap enough to compete on the open market in Germany and elsewhere. The price for solar panels has fallen 66 percent since 2006, and the cost of solar-generated power may be competitive with coal in a few years, according to a study by UBS.

Increasing levels of wind and solar power capacity have been a key factor in driving down wholesale electricity prices in Germany. They fell from over €80 per MWh at peak hours in 2008 to just €38 per MWh in October 2013 and renewable energy now supplies 22% of Germany’s electricity demand on average - note "peak hours".

Solar energy can be directly harnessed in two ways: solar  water  heating, and the use of photovoltaics. Indirectly, solar energy can be taken from the earth via a ground source heat pump.

What we talk about as possibly the future, is the present in parts of Germany and the Netherlands.  The City of Sun, in Heerhugowaard in the Netherlands, claims to be the world's largest carbon-neutral community.

This sustainable housing project has been nominated for the European Urban Planning Award as well as for the Community Sustainability Award from the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) in the USA.

City of the Sun is entirely energy self-sufficient, creating as much energy as it consumes. All of the dwellings are eco-friendly, featuring solar panels, high-efficiency insulation and heat pumps. Wind turbines situated in the vicinity of the community supply some 7MW of energy, whilst the solar panels deliver approximately 2.5MW. Besides the sustainable energy sources, the community also uses natural water filtration systems and all homes have water retrieval tanks outside to make use of rainwater.

The Dutch City of the Sun is part of the European Sun Cities project that is supported by the European Commission. Other sustainable communities are being developed in Germany and the UK. From a coal and gas country the Netherlands is slowly changing into a country of wind, solar and soil energy. The Chinese government has announced its intention to adopt and apply this system in China.

And what does the Vale LDP say?  "With  the  exception  of  biomass  the  Vale  has  limited  capacity  for  the development  of  large renewable technologies."

Solar - PV
Solar electric (Photovoltaic or PV) systems produce electricity according to the amount of sunlight that falls on their surface, For this reason unshaded, preferably south-facing, surfaces are best. The pitched roofs of most houses in the UK are ideal. Flat roofs can be utilised by fitting a frame to hold the PV modules.

The example (left) shows Solar PV modules (lighter blue) and Solar Thermal panels (darker blue)

 Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems take energy from the sun and convert it to zero carbon solar electricity.  Installing a solar PV system gives a home building its own roof top power station. 

Under UK’s Feed-in Tariff for Low Carbon Electricity, eligible solar PV installations from Solar Twin Ltd can earn an elevated tariff (based on 100% FIT plus 50% PV power export tariff) averaging 42.5 pence per unit for every unit of solar electricity generated for a period of 25 years. This makes the return on investment for solar PV far better than most bank interest rates.

Solar - Thermal

Solar Thermal (also referred to as solar water heating) works by installing solar panels onto the roof of a property to gather energy from the Sun. This energy is used to heat water which is then used to generate central heating and provide hot water. 

Solar thermal panels are made up of cells containing a liquid. It is this liquid that absorbs energy from the Sun and heats up. The panels are connected to a hot water cylinder via pipes which allow the heat to be transported. The heat gathers in the water cylinder and can then be used by the boiler for distribution around the property.

Solar heating systems use energy from the sun to provide around 40-60% of your hot water requirements throughout the year. Flat plate systems are the most common type of solar heating system - these solar heating panels contain tubes of water which is heated up using energy from the sun. This water is then used to supplement the hot water from your existing boiler to help heat your home. Whilst a solar heating system is unlikely (especially in the winter months) to produce enough hot water for your entire household, it is an excellent way to reduce both your carbon footprint and your fuel bill expenditure. 
Solar Heating System

In fact, solar heating panels can be a great investment as, through the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive, you will receive a payment for each unit of energy your solar heating system generates. This payment is guaranteed whether you use the heat generated by your solar heating panels or not. Solar heating systems can also be used alongside solar PV panels to further reduce your bills and CO2 emissions.

Once installed, however, solar heating systems require very little maintenance and will provide a return on investment sooner than solar photovoltaic panels. 

Solar - Ground Source Heat Pump
A ground source heat pump collects heat from the ground and similarly uses a compressor to raise the temperature for heating a building. The benefit of a GSHP is that the temperature of the ground varies very little over the year, ensuring that efficiency of the system remains fairly constant in all weather conditions, meaning it has an overall higher co-efficient of performance (COP). Ground source heat pump installation from Enviko A ground source heat pump features ground loops, which are loops of pipes that are buried underground. These pipes are typically installed adjacent to the building, and a heat pump is installed inside the building, which replaces the conventional boiler. A water mixture (the mix typically includes antifreeze) is circulated through these pipes. This mixture absorbs heat from the ground and returns to the heat pump. Here the heat is transferred to a refrigerant, which is compressed, increasing the temperature, and then the heat is released into the building.

Wind Energy
The issues with wind turbines are their shadow (flickering light through their moving blades, from a low sun) and the phenomenon of the noise people see with their eyes, but do not hear with their ears.  Wind Turbines have no more of a negative impact on views as roads (and roads generate more noise), electricity pylons, TV masts, modern farm buildings and houses.  Recently, planning applications were submitted and then dropped for single (community) wind turbines at The Downs, by the TV mast, and on Five-Mile Lane, close to where a large, conspicuous drill is expected to start drilling for gas soon.

Solar in the UK
The UK’s first fully solar-powered new-build home has been completed in Great Glen, Leicestershire by sustainability specialists Caplin Homes.

Set to exceed the requirements of the government’s 2016 zero-carbon target, the house is designed to collect enough solar energy to provide heating and hot water, and around twice the electricity needed to run the system. The Solar House uses an innovative combination of existing sustainable technologies to collect and store solar energy for use throughout the year.

The key technologies utilised in the project include an array of hybrid solar panels, which collect both electrical and thermal energy, solar walls to pre-heat the incoming ventilation air, and an Earth Energy Bank (EEB) and heat pump to store and retrieve heat for use in winter. Excess energy collected during warmer months will be stored underneath the house in the EEB and pumped back to heat the home in winter.