Posts Tagged ‘renewable energy’

On our smallholding we are making biodiesel on a small scale, experimenting with a couple of oil drums, a pump, filter, copper pipe and plumbing fittings.

Oil is mixed with alcohol and potassium hydroxide (KOH), which acts as a catalyst. When the mixture settles the biodiesel is poured off the top, leaving a layer of glycerine (which is used to make soap and other useful products). The biodiesel is then finely filtered and de-watered, fueling the tractor and our field generator.

Our biodiesel is only made from used cooking oil. We don’t think it’s a good idea to take up more land to grow crops for vehicles when there are so many people in the world who don’t have enough food.  Some companies are now producing biodiesel from palm oil grown in huge plantations in West Africa or SE Asia. We think that biodiesel from these sources is environmentally damaging where orangutans and other species face extinction as their habitat is destroyed. For more information on this, see Biofuel Watch.

If you make biodiesel in the UK you have a responsibility to declare the usage to HM Revenue and Customs and to pay duty to them. The duty on biodiesel was reduced by 20 pence per litre in April 2002. The government hoped that this reduction will encourage the use of biodiesel on a larger scale. The duty was removed completely for small producers (2500 litres or less per year) from 30 June 2007, thumbs up!


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So we can reduce our electricity cost on the smallholding, we are evaluating some small wind turbines with initial test installation of 800W Falcon wind turbine on the roof of one of our barns located in the valley area of our smallholding.

Many of the small wind turbine suppliers will try and impress you by showing you graphs and videos of their turbine’s voltage, or amperage when the wind gusts, or how fast the blades spin. From our experience there is only one performance metric you need to be concerned with which is power output (watts) vs. wind speed (mph). You need to establish what the average wind speed is in your location and only then can you decide if a wind turbine makes sense. You don’t need gusts of wind, you need steady wind to enjoy free and clean energy.

For more information on this, see green spec small wind turbines.

In the UK, static wind turbines need explicit planning permission so it is advisable to discuss your plans with your local authority before committing to the project. However, in July 2006 the Housing Minister, Yvette Cooper announced that from 2007 changes to planning laws will allow householders to install small scale wind turbines without planning permission – as long as they do not impact on neighbours. It seems that since then, guidelines published through government planning portal for England and Wales is just producing hot air.

It makes sense to develop a certification scheme for micro generation of renewable energy that covers both standards for wind turbine products and their installation but the government needs to step up and create real incentives and not burden the industry with confusing rhetoric.

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