Low Carbon homes, EVs and the case for a “supergrid”

Jason Ford

News editor

Temperatures in the UK are finally starting to feel seasonally wintry, which means many of us are reaching for the thermostat and warming our homes.

Some of us may even have to turn the dial up a notch or two to compensate for poor insulation, which is likely to make further demands on our energy suppliers and this doesn’t fit particularly well with other domestic low-carbon practices.

Looking forward, new housing stock is likely to improve on this scenario and this Wednesday Dr. Leslie Campbell is set to deliver an afternoon talk on the subject of low carbon homes.

Taking place at Napier University, Edinburgh, Dr Campbell will look at the challenges that stand in the way of the government’s aim for all new houses to be zero carbon rated by 2016.

The event’s publicity material states that to be zero carbon a house must generate all the household energy, including energy for heating, hot water, lighting and appliances.

It adds that to make a home completely zero carbon, equivalent to level 6 in the new code, means roughly 4000kWh of generation, which could cost anything from £5,000 to £50,000, for say photovoltaics.

A typical 100m2 home built to these new standards will likely need to produce about 15,000kWh.

Campbell invites attendees to explore how today’s homes and those of tomorrow can become carbon neutral and, importantly, a place people would want to live in.

Over in Germany the International Congress on Electric Vehicles is currently taking place in Berlin

From now until Wednesday the event will include a series of workshops looking at many practical challenges that facing the industry.

One workshop – Raising efficiency of the whole system and the different aggregates – will look at the technical, economic and standardization barriers to overcome before the true mass production of electric vehicles can begin.

The organizers say that technologies need to be developed and optimized to reduce the losses and inefficiencies of vehicle systems to maximize range and running time of electric vehicles. Intelligent energy management of different aggregates and the whole system have to be optimized too.

The question posed at the workshop asks: what are the technical functions with the highest potential of energy saving and can these goals be met to achieve economies of scale for the electric vehicles?

Attendees will be able to discuss future scenarios for EV usage and the need for standardization to assist in electric vehicles implementation and efficiency goals

Similarly, they will learn how to increase EV range and consequently accelerate mass production, and identify the key challenges in optimization of thermal management to reduce power need of the battery

Another workshop will address electrical safety in electric vehicles and during charging, with an element considering national differences, particular during charging.

Meanwhile today marks the launch of an electric car hire scheme in Paris.

The Autolib scheme will see 250 electric cars initially available from 250 self-service stations across the city, rising in time to 3,000 across 1,000 stations.

Users will be able to hire the Bolloré Group’s Bluecar, which features LMP (Lithium Metal Polymer) batteries and has a range of approximately 250km per charge.

The Clarion Hotel Copenhagen this week hosts Grid Integration of Offshore Wind Energy.

The organizers say the connection of offshore wind farms and the integration of energy from large-scale wind projects are posing numerous technical, economical and political challenges.

Fundamental questions and concepts regarding a secure future transmission system, which can incorporate large amounts of renewable energies whilst securing constant energy supply, are being discussed widely.

For example, will Europe establish a ‘supergrid’ for a new, low-carbon era? Are the available and arising technologies capable of supporting this fundamental change in energy transmission systems?

A workshop on the subject of a supergrid will look at the growing movement of companies pushing to build a pan-European offshore power network that could help cut carbon emissions and secure energy supply.

Finally, nuclear is on the agenda tomorrow in Sheffield.

The 59th annual Hatfield Memorial Lecture taking place at Sheffield University will ask: How safe is that nuclear reactor?

Despite Chernobyl and Fukushima the issues associated with the performance of the materials used in the reactors have gone unreported.

With the evolving requirements to construct civil nuclear reactors with a safe operating lifetime of sixty years or more, materials issues need to be brought to the forefront once again.

The organizers say that Britain needs to be sure that the structural materials used in new build will retain their integrity over such periods of time. Without 60 years in which to experiment the question of how best to proceed will be addressed.