Saturday, 17 May 2008

Steam Power, Water Power and Feed In Tariffs

I was walking near a friends house in Wiltshire a few weeks ago, and came across a rusting old Steam Engine. The nearby Church gave the information that the site was called Wavering Mill, Slaughterford, and gave a date for the mill going back to 1640. Presumably it was water powered then, and became steam powered later.

Wouldn't it be great to see places like this used to generate energy now? We are told there will be a shortage soon, and the Government uses this as an excuse to replace Nuclear Power Stations. Nuclear is a dirty and dangerous industry, and isn't renewable, despite their claims of low carbon. Communities have been badly affected by the nuclear processes from mining, transport, processing and waste. Also without it there wont be nuclear weapons.

I saw a discussion on todays news about feed in Tarriffs, which is how much they are paid by the energy companies for generating electricity. In Germany everyone is encouraged to generate lots, they lead the world in renewables, with solar panels.

German Feed In Tariffs Germany has 200 times as much solar energy as Britain. It generates 12% of its electricity from various renewables, compared with 4.6% in Britain. It has created a quarter of a million jobs in renewables - a number that is growing fast. Britain has only 25,000. Freiburg, a town of 200,000 people (similar to Reading), has almost as much solar photovoltaic (PV) power as the whole of Britain. Anyone generating electricity from solar PV, wind or hydro gets a guaranteed payment of four times the market rate - currently about 35p pence a unit - for 20 years in Germany.

This reduces the payback time on such technologies to less than 10 years and offers a return on investment of 8-9%. The cost is spread by generating companies among all users and has added about one cent/kwh to the average bill, or an extra €1.50 (£1) a month.

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