Planet Debian has been a trove of green discussion today. Russell Coker and MJ both linked to a story about Spain getting most of its energy from wind, for the first time. 27% of their energy came from wind, 22% came from nucular power and 16% from coal power (where the other third came from, I’m not totally clear on – possibly imported?). Overall, in the last year, almost 10% of their energy has come from wind. I think that’s pretty amazing, especially since it meant for that small time, almost 50% of their power was coming from relatively carbon-clean sources.
Spain is one of the few places I “boycott” for environmental reasons (along with Kenya and a few other places, I refuse to buy products which require large amounts of water to create – for example, salad crops), but it seems we could learn a lot from them. I do wonder, though, if the large amount of wind power is somehow related to the more relaxed planning process over there, as that’s not something I would want to copy in many ways.
MJ also mentioned water temperature again, which has been a discussion on there recently. It’s also something I’ve thought a lot about, because our house has amazing heat potential in the roof (we actually have a hell of a time cooling our house in any kind of warmth – it’s easily comfortable at this time of year, and by April/May will start to get slightly uncomfortably warm). However, we don’t store hot water at all – our system is powered by a combi boiler, which is virtually impossible to integrate into solar heating systems, and is too new to be replaced (we think the previous owners had it installed maybe two years before we moved in just over a year ago).
I was thinking about the temperature controlled valves that are now mandated in various places (I think the US, and also Australia?), but there are issues associated with them. The basic types of valve are simple pressure balancers, which work ok, but means that the water takes a while to warm up. If it takes 5 seconds for the water to come hot from cold, and the valve mixes 60:40, it will take up to 10 seconds for the water to come to temperature because it’s mixing in much more cold water – that’s almost double the waste. The posher thermostatic non-balancing types are much more expensive, require servicing, and have similar wastage issues. I think it’s better to do it manually at the moment (though I wish there was a better way), especially if your hot water has to travel a reasonable distance.
Standby switches, mentioned by Adrian, are also something I looked into recently. In an ideal world, I would like to have remote control sockets: by allowing me to power off entire four-ways, we could keep some of the convenience (the sockets behind the TV are especially inaccessible, so it’s difficult to turn things off properly), but save a good amount of energy (the sat box in particular doesn’t seem to “turn off”). However, the stuff to do the job doesn’t seem to be available.
I don’t know whether it’s because switching mains in general requires physical switches to cope with high currents (most equipment turns off the DC parts, leaving the power supply more or less on – just consuming a lot less power), or whether demand just isn’t there. It seems to me, though, high time that equipment and mains sockets started talking to each other so that standby functionality can be delegated elsewhere.