GF Blog 22 – Week 50

2nd DECEMBER    

Thoughts on Solar Orientation plus another ‘Dear Sir’. Small events and the big one – Earthshot

Meadow Barns solar is back on, hurrah

On Monday, after almost a month off, we finally achieved the hoped-for outcome with our re-positioned solar panels. The process of cutting out rotten wood, treating remaining posts, adding metal scaffold poles sunk into concrete, then positioning new rails higher up, moving the panels and finally using steel rope to anchor the new trellis behind … all of this was seriously challenging.

We were held up by lack of clamps, brackets, bolts etc., which is happening across the sector, as demand for new installations is at an all time high. Lucky for me, David – my engineering guru – was willing and able to hunt on e-bay and eventually collected everything we needed. He also excelled himself in helping with the assembly, many hours up and down a ladder, in and out of the frame, whilst I was crawling around back behind the panels, only able to reach the clamps by sliding in on my bottom! 

Performance-wise, the result is a clear improvement compared with the other set of flatter-laying panels on the garage roof. As you would expect, I re-visited the whole matter of solar panel orientation and studied it carefully. This included exchanges by phone and a few emails with a recently established business called ‘Cornish Rockers Ltd’. You can see from their picture that the more upright set is best for winter, so that may explain the better results for my new set up.  

Description on Cornish Rocker website

Another consideration, as well as angles, is any inadvertent shading. My picture bottom left shows how I could see the shadow of my cottage looming over the panels this morning, followed by a later time. The raised position of panels helps to lift more panel area out of the shade.

This was 10.50 a.m.
This, one hour later

We were trying to achieve a flatter position for the middle section, to bring the optimum performance in summer, but the structural change of the frame would have been too difficult.

Celebrating over a cuppa yesterday, with a visiting ‘Hearts of Green’ supporter, I heard that the company proposing to install panels on her mum’s bungalow had said they will put them only on the east-facing roof, then the power goes into a battery and can be used the rest of the day. This felt a bit wrong to me, so I contacted my very best expert and had a chat with him. He agreed with me, 50% East and 50% West is the right plan, but it can add quite a bit of cost for scaffolding.

Some companies are choosing to cut corners and save money for scaffolding with their proposed east-orientation. Unfortunately, however – as I feared – the immoral ones do not lower their charges for east-facing installations. In fact, rank profiteering is becoming almost the norm.

The value of East – West is that the peak summer midday sun, which you would receive from due South, can never be fully used, because all solar inverters are set to cut back. This cut back is only for a typical 4KW domestic array peaking at a maximum of c 3.68KW, so it is better to have the solar gain spread more evenly through the day, east in the morning and west later.

Here are a few further comments from the expert: –

Lack of integrity in the Solar Business

Dear Sir

I have worked in the solar industry for 12 years, which – at the outset – was a very rewarding and stimulating career opportunity for an engineer like myself. I loved explaining things, inspiring customers and seeing some great results. But the effect of our current energy crisis has been to increase demand for solar PV exponentially and unfortunately a few companies with greedy managing directors saw the chance and pretty much doubled their charges in an instant.

My initial response, about 6 months ago, was to move out of domestic into a more commercial environment. But I have really missed the interaction with ‘Joe Public’, so hope to be back and available as an adviser next year. Please keep asking your questions and referring customers to me!

Thank you.  A. N. Other. Carrick area.  

If you need advice from this source, please send me an email and explain your situation. I will pass on your queries.

Events, big and small, past & future, local & world-wide

Despite some very nasty weather, last Saturday I made the effort to drive to a little north coast village called St. Agnes, for a Green Planet event in their Miner’s Institute (just the name was enough of a draw for me!). There were 3 different rooms here, a corridor into an entrance hall, a large long room left and another with a bar and a table of really lovely Vegan treats and hot drinks on the right. It was packed with people and the atmosphere was very upbeat and collaborative. Impressive for such a small community!

I picked up flyers for various green organisations, of which the most unexpected and unusual was for a Wiki house! I had never heard of this, so I took quite a few pictures.

Here is a table-top model in cardboard:-

Pre-fabricated panels, designed to slot together with minimal fuss

The idea of this is to help people build their own place, very small and very basic really, slotting together pre-fab panels a bit like building flat-pack furniture! Seems to me this would only work for those who are used to building and have some experience of working within a limited budget. They would also need to embrace a lifestyle that minimises impact on the planet … that’s the ethos.

These are the photos I took to share with you. Not great quality sorry!

It was tempting simply to drop in these pics and leave it at that, but I wanted to find a personal story of how it has been to try making such a property. I did find a blog, more about the philosophy than the practical side of things, which you may find by searching Pioneer Alastair Parvin, as i was unable to embed the link for you.

Then I tracked down some real-life projects, but in all honesty the cardboard model is more impressive than the sheds I saw here. Am I being harsh?  Anyone with more/better experience please write in.

This coming weekend

December has arrived and with it some much dryer, wintry weather.

Red sky this morning, happily led to a sunny day. The 2nd set of solar panels are on this roof.

All fingers are crossed for this kind of forecast continuing into the weekend as we will be running another Green Story Walk Adventure on Sunday. Even I am surprised by how varied and colourful these Tales have turned out to be, very dark at times but sprinkled also with hilarity! If you can get to Par Track, by bus, train, bike or (if you must) car we would love to see you at the café. We start at 10.15 and go through til lunch at the Royal pub. Full details are on Par and St Blazey community & local history FB pages and Meadow Barns website. Or message me by phone 07967 65334.

One of the story stops = St Blazey station, home of the Thomas the Tank twin engines, Bill and Ben.
Also here we see one of the many historic brick chimney stacks around Par.

At the end of Sunday, apart from most likely needing a long hot bath, I shall have an ‘appointment’ to watch the award ceremony of the Earthshot Prize, from Boston USA. It starts at 17.35 on BBC1.

As in 2021, there are 3 finalists in each of the 5 categories. I really hope the programme will include some updates on how the 5 winners from last year have progressed, otherwise what is the point of having invested in their operations?

Here I have copied the shortlist info for you, with occasional added explanations. The full details are available using the following link –

The Earthshot Prize to Protect and Restore Nature

  1. Desert Agricultural Transformation, China: A team developing cutting-edge agricultural breakthroughs to turn barren desert landscapes into lush, green ones. Soilization mixes a water-based paste with sand and applies it to the desert surface, giving it the same physical and ecological properties as soil – with the same capacity for water and fertiliser retention and ventilation.
  2. Hutan, Malaysia: An inspiring conservation model that protects orangutans, supports local jobs and livelihoods, and restores forests to their former greatness.
  3. Kheyti, India: A pioneering solution of small greenhouse for local smallholder farmers to reduce costs, increase yields and protect livelihoods in a country on the frontlines of climate change.

The Earthshot Prize to Clean Our Air

  1. The Ampd Enertainer, Hong Kong: An emission-free electric battery system to power construction and reduce pollution. Every switch from a diesel generator to an Enertainer curbs 130 tonnes of CO2 a year, in addition to removing the equivalent of three hundred cars of air pollution. 
  2. Mukuru Clean Stoves, Kenya: A start-up providing cleaner-burning stoves to women in Kenya to reduce unhealthy indoor pollution and provide a safer way to cook. charcoal, wood and sugarcane together burns cleaner, creating 90 percent less pollution than an open fire and 70 percent less than a traditional cookstove. They are cheaper too, costing just $10 and halving ongoing fuel costs.
  3. Roam, Kenya: An organisation building lower emission vehicles, making clean transportation accessible and affordable for urban cities on the African continent. designing everything locally with 40% female employees in all areas, the company builds electric motorcycles and buses tailored to this market with affordability and reliability at the forefront. 

The Earthshot Prize to Revive Our Oceans

  1. The Great Bubble Barrier, Netherlands: Inventive and ingenious technique to intercept plastics before they reach oceans by creating a curtain of bubbles.
  2. Indigenous Women of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia: An inspiring women-led programme that combines 60,000 years of indigenous knowledge with digital technologies to protect land and sea.
  3. SeaForester, Portugal: A truly cutting-edge breakthrough in seaweed farming that can restore the ocean’s forgotten forests and store CO2 in the process. The team at SeaForester utilise an ingenious solution: “green gravel”. Seaweed spores are seeded onto small stones and scattered into the ocean. The stones latch on to the underlying reef, the seaweed grows and multiplies, spreading across the ocean floor. The seaweed forest returns.

The Earthshot Prize to Build A Waste-Free World

  1. City of Amsterdam Circular Economy, Netherlands: A city-wide initiative to establish a fully circular economy by 2050, wasting nothing and recycling everything.
  2. Fleather, India: An innovative and regenerative approach to creating leather out of floral waste.
  3. Notpla, United Kingdom: A circular solution creating an alternative to plastic packaging from seaweed, to replace over 100 million plastic coated containers in Europe in the future. 

The Earthshot Prize to Fix Our Climate

  1. LanzaTech, USA: A circular solution that recycles carbon waste into sustainable fuels and everyday products. Gas fermentation technology traps pollution and turns it into something useful, by targeting CO2, as well as industrial, municipal and agricultural waste.
  2. Low Carbon Materials, United Kingdom: A new and innovative material that uses unrecyclable plastic waste to make traditional concrete blocks carbon zero. OSTO, a carbon-negative alternative to traditional aggregate, one of concrete’s main ingredients. Today, LCM is working with the industry to create a new zero carbon concrete block with OSTO making up 10 percent of its overall weight.
  3. 44.01, Oman: Childhood friends who have developed an innovative technique to turn CO2 into rock, and permanently store it underground. It can take many years to mineralise even a small amount of CO2. 44.01 accelerates the process by pumping carbonated water into seams of peridotite rock deep underground.

Finally, I have copied again the image of last week, just to re-inforce that the date given there is the time of the live event in America. As mentioned above, we get to see it on TV this SUNDAY 4th December.

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