I’ve been interested in the potential for micro-hydro for ages but never been able to find a suitable system that would work with the large head, small flow streams that many smallholdings would have. A couple of weeks ago I was working at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show as part of my role with the Horticulture Wales project, imagine my surprise then when I saw this in the same tent as our stand!

It’s a 7kW system, put together by a really interesting not-for-profit group called The Green Valleys. They spend their time helping landowners to install micro-hydro and have a range of systems from 1.5kW  upwards.

There are a lot of challenges – the cost of pipes and grid connections amongst them – but the economics are really very interesting.

If you consider a turbine like this, and assuming your stream never dries out, here’s how much money you’d bring in from the Feed-In-Tariff:

7kW x 24 hours x 365 days x 20p per kWh = £12,264 / year

Not bad! And when you consider that a simple installation would start from £25k, it could be a fantastic investment.

And that’s before you even consider the environmental benefits that come from producing 61.3 MW of green electricity each year!

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Now we’re into Summer, our Carbon Footprint results are well overdue:

Our Energy Consumption: 2559 kWh

Our Carbon Footprint: 648 kg of CO2

And, as we’re still with Good Energy, who only supply electricity from renewable sources,  we can remove electricity from our carbon footprint:

Our carbon footprint with 100% renewable electricity: 550 kg

So there we go – going down, albeit affected by the driving from our recent holiday. We need to work on getting the gas down further though.

It’s been a while since I posted our Carbon Footprint results, and what better time to do so than just after such a brutally cold spell. This really highlights the difference between the light, warmer months and the dark cold winter.

Our Energy Consumption: 4478 kWh

That’s a major difference from our starting month (August) of 1396 kWh – and all the increase is due to gas used for heating.

Interestingly, there was not a significant change in electricity consumption, even though the aquaponics system is now running and we did use an electric heater in the polytunnel on several occasions.

Our Carbon Footprint: 994 kg of CO2

We just scraped in under 1 tonne, mainly thanks to an extremely low mileage this month (thanks to being snowbound mainly).

And, as we’re still with Good Energy, who only supply electricity from renewable sources,  we can remove electricity from our carbon footprint:

Our carbon footprint with 100% renewable electricity: 781 kg

So there we go – still going up rather than down! Very interesting going through our first winter in the house, let’s hope the consumption is down from here.

Our second full month in the eco-house, the figures this month are affected by the 12-day holiday we took this month. It was a serious driving holiday – Trafford to Central Germany. We could have flown, but decided to take the “eco” option – we’ll have a look at how green that was later. This month saw the heating start to come on – albeit on a very occasional basis, and we’re using the lights a lot more in the evening.

Our Energy Consumption: 2718 kWh

That’s a pretty big number compared to last month’s 1396 kWh – and almost all the increase is due to the car:

Carbon Footprint Sep 09 Energy

That’s the difference you see when you drive 2154 miles instead of the 830 in August. Interestingly, there was not a large drop in electricity consumption, even though we were away for more than a third of the month.

Our Carbon Footprint: 722 kg of CO2

Carbon Footprint Sep 09 C02

And, as we’re still with Good Energy, who only supply electricity from renewable sources,  we can remove electricity from our carbon footprint:

Our carbon footprint with 100% renewable electricity: 597 kg

Carbon Footprint Sep 09 NoElec

So there we go – going up rather than down! Not a great start to the monitoring, but mostly due to the one-off impact of that 1800 mile across-Europe driving holiday. We’ll see how we go in October, now that the heating is on and the lighting is getting good use too.

We’ve had our first full month in the Eco-House, so here’s our monthly report – our Carbon Footprint for August. We’ll be plotting these each month on a graph to see how we go. I’m anticipating that this’ll be one of our lowest months – the lights have hardly been on, and there’s been no heating used. It’ll be interestiung to see how we go through the winter, and then how next year’s figures compare.

Our Energy Consumption: 1396 kWh

Carbon Footprint Aug 09 Energy Comsumption

As you can see, the majority of our energy came from using the car – 830 miles at an average 49.9 MPG . That’s significantly higer than previous months – not helped by a 300-mile round trip on the bank holiday weekend. Now lets convert this into our Carbon Emissions:

Our Carbon Footprint: 412kg of CO2

Carbon Footprint August 09

What’s interesting to see here is how the electricity we use has a much higher impact on our Carbon Footprint than it should for the energy we use. With that in mind we’ve changed electricity supplier to Good Energy. Good Energy only supply electricity from renewable sources, so we can remove electricity from our carbon footprint.

Our carbon footprint with 100% renewable electricity: 258 kg

Carbon Footprint Aug 09 Good Energy

So that’s a significant reduction – 37% off our carbon footprint in one go. If every month was the same as August we’d be on track for an annual carbon footprint of just over three tonnes. Not bad for the four of us. Unfortunately not every month will be like August – so we’ll see how we go!

Our initial target is to come in well under the nine tonnes of CO2 per adult that is the average Mark Lynas quotes in the Guardian. To make the comparison fair though we need to include a couple of other things on the graphs – water consumption and public transport use. I’ll try and get some of those on the September figures.

As part of our Energy Descent Plan we’re trying to progressively reduce our energy consumption – fuel for the car, electricity and gas in the house. This’ll save us significant money but also will reduce our carbon footprint and dependance on Fossil Fuels.

The first thing is to work out how much energy we’re using, and to that end we’ve started measuring it monthly. We’ve just finished the second month of monitoring our car usage, although they have been two crazy months (due to moving in to the eco-house) so the results may not be typical of our normal lifestyle. We’re converting all our energy use to kWh/day so that we can compare fuel/electricity/gas on an equal basis:

Month Miles MPG Litres Used kWh kWh/day
June 429 46 42.4 454 15.12
July 423 47.2 40.74 436 14.06

So we’ve already seen a significant drop in our daily energy consumption from the car 😀

I’d have to say that is a bit of a fluke – we haven’t tried particularly hard to reduce our consumption yet. It’ll be interesting to see how our consumption changes as we settle into our new routines here.

As it’s the first of the month I’ve just taken the first Gas and Electric readings in the eco-house so we can work out our standard consumption for those next month too – it’ll be interesting reading and will give us a base to measure our changes.

One of the first learning  points from this is that if we had a plug-in electric car we’d have to have at least 15 kWp of solar panels installed – that is a LOT of solar panels. It makes you realise how big an impact the car has on our energy consumption.

Steadily firming up the shopping list for our new house – here’s the latest list, with links. 

Kitchen

Dining Room

  • Expandable table

Playroom

  • Instant-heat to stand in front of (Gas?)

Lounge

  • Wood-fired stove
  • Central Pendant light in diffusing shade – 12v CFL?
  • Two Standard/Reading Lamps – 12v CFL?

Garden

  • Kitchen Scraps Compost: Black Soldier Fly Composter / Worm Farm 
  • Firewood store, and at least 12m³ of wood
  • Greenhouse with Aquaponics system

Heating & Hot Water

Power & Light

Water