Archive for July, 2006

Martin Cronin of ForFas has published some very interesting figures on the Internet regarding Ireland’s dependency on oil.

It seems that in 2004 we imported 9,000,000 tonnes of oil much of it used by ESB for electricity. That figure has probably increased to well over 10 million tonnes by now.

Now please forgive my bone headed attempts at maths in this attempted guess of a figure for the amount of money we send out of Ireland every year for oil.

There are roughly 8 barrels per tonne of oil.
10,000,000 tonnes x 8 barrels per tonne = 80,000,000 barrels of oil.
Todays price for oil is approximately $74 per barrel and rising!!
80,000,000 x $74 = $5,920,000,000 worth of oil.
$5,920,000,000 dollars = €4,640,000,000 Euro per year.

Ireland Gets €3 billion a year Bonus?

We could save up to 65% of our yearly oil bill of €4.64 billion if we got the finger out and rushed in Biomass for heating, electriciity and ethanol, and lots more wind farms for electricity.

What would over €3 Billion every year extra cash Euros floating around in Ireland do for the economy? Plus we would have many thousands of extra sustainable jobs created as an extra bonus.

I stand to be corrected on my figures – but I think I am no too daft in my guess!

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Wood Pellet Problems and Associated Anxieties

The possible problems affecting a wood pellet heating system, from what I have gathered so far, would seem to be based around the following:

1. Pellets jamming in the auger and feed system.
2. Ash building up in the boiler or burner.
3. Poor ignition of the boiler at start up, possibly due to pellets being less than totally bone dry.
4. Problems with poor draught or too much draught from the chimney.
5. Questions on the life expectancy of the stainless steel burner grate, which is approximately €90 plus fitting costs.
6. Questions about the life expectancy of the Igniter Unit priced at €35 plus fitting costs.
7. Problems associated with the quality and storage of wood pellets.

Plus there are of course the unanswered questions leading to worry about the long-term availability, in sufficient quantities and at reasonable cost, of wood pellets.

Problems – Problems
and No Answers from the Agencies!

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How Successful Will the SEI Drive be?

The more people I speak to about investing in alternative energy, the more I pick up a sense of doubt and hesitation. The grants being offered are really fantastic. However, there is a very poor level of real information available to the public which is leading to many people, including myself, having some serious doubts. There are questions which need to be answered like:

1. What systems are good value, (lists with direct price comparisons to other EU countries)?
2. Which are the most reliable systems, (based on independent tests and customer reviews)?
3. Who will sort out the problems with dealers and installers if I have them?
4. Who will guarantee fuel supply?
5. Who will guarantee stability in fuel prices?
6. If I have paid RipOff prices for equipment who will help me get the excess back?

Few, that I have talked to, are in a hurry to fork out several thousand Euro on top of the Grant for un-proven and un-guaranteed systems. Many will wait out most of the 12 months of the Grant period to see what happens. SEI seriously needs to address these question and worries.

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A Biomass Plantation can look Really Nice

How Much Energy Can We Make?

I have been trying to find out how much of our total energy needs we could realistically provide by means of Biomass and Wind. The following is an aggregate of some of the masses of information, indeed some very technical, available on the Internet.

Biomass Energy How Much?

Scientific estimates vary but there seems to be a general indication that Ireland could meet 45% of its entire electricity requirements by planting just 15% of arable land with biomass. We could also be producing ethanol to run cars and other engines from biomass.

Jobs from Biomass Production and Processing?

I wouldn’t have a clue how to go about even looking up that sort of a figure. Maybe some very clever people who read this blog could suggest some estimates? In the meantime here are a few thoughts; for starters 15% of our arable land in full-time production would keep a lot of farmers and farm workers busy and a good steady income.

It would take a hell of a lot of harvesters to crop that many acres, lots of truck drivers to transport it, many workers at processing and drying plants, and then the “New” Irish Electricity Board (which hopefully will replace the present dinasaur) would have several thousand new jobs at all the small ultra-clean, sweet smelling, generating stations around Ireland. All of these jobs would be fully sustainable in the long term, unlike most industries which leave after a few of years when the grant runs out!

Wind Power How Much?

Some estimates suggest that wind could provide as much as 20% of our nations electrical needs. Maybe with more scientific improvements this figure could go even higher in the future?

That’s a total of up to 65% of all our power needs produced by clean, job producing, renewable sources. That is without considering some hydro-electric, geo-thermal, wave and solar power generation.

Money Stays in Ireland!

We would not be sending Billions of Euro to our Arab friends to buy a dirty, finite, and short lived fuel. How much would that benefit the ecomomy?

Can it be Done – or am I only dreaming?

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BioMass Cropping

Renewable Energy

I was so depressed writing the last Blog – I just had to get into this one to break the state of mind.

Wind farms are sprouting up all over Ireland, and it is great to see this trend towards clean renewable energy. However wind farms while great, only produce electricity. Biomass for power generation will additionally produce lots of jobs and improve the countryside.

I don’t know if the ‘powers that be’ actually take the time to consider the additional benefits of Biomass when calculating the investment. It is true to say that, watt for watt, biomass energy is dearer than oil or gas, even at today high prices. But with gas or oil we are sending our money away from the country, and the money provides no investment, no jobs and no sustainability.

Growing Jobs as well as Power

If we switched to biomass energy, for a modest increase in price per watt of power, we would generate thousands of long-term 100% sustainable jobs, improve the environment, and beautify the countryside into the bargain. In addition to burning biomass to generate electricity, it can also be used to produce methanol, which can be used to run cars etc. Additionally some forms of biomass, especially hemp can be effectively used to produce methane gas.

We need to make the decisions NOW. In a few years the energy crisis will be fully upon us and it will be difficult if not impossible to achieve much then.

A BioMass Electricity Plant Clean Energy no Smells

We need:
1. Many thousands of acres put to biomass production. Needs lots of Government incentives.
2. Localised cropping, processing and storage facilities. Again it won’t happen without the BIG plan and incentives.
3. Lots of locally sited small electricity generating units, which will produce almost no pollution and can be made to look OK in urban settings. Won’t happen if left up the outdated dinosaur the ESB!

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A Chernobyl child victim

An Irish Insane Answer to the Energy Crisis

A new Nuclear Energy Campaign group has been launched. It comprises a group of (MAD) scientists, moneymen and (ODD) bods. They are going to launch the Republic’s first campaign group in favour of nuclear energy.

They are calling themselves Better Environment with Nuclear Energy (BENE). Their aim is to persuade the Government, industry and the public that a Chernoble future is good for us.

Chernobyl County Tipperary

They are saying that there are risks with nuclear power but claim they are ‘manageable and acceptable’.

With Irish ways of doing things, and us Irish the inventors of “Murphy’s Law” I know it would end up with Chenobyl looking like picnic. Ireland is rife with corruption and lazy ways of doing things, plus the political back-handers and brown envelopes.

Chernobyl Workers Most Now Dead from Radiation
Oh God,
they are stark raving mad.

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The more I learn about Irelands wood pellet marketplace, the more unsure I become about investing in a home heating system based on such an ill-informed and unregulated situation.

I have spent over 4 month carefully investigating the following:

1. The types of heater available,
2. The prices, the “Special Irish Prices” or “Rip-Off Republic Specials”, also know as “Post Grant Prices” which are between 33% and 100% higher than other EU countries.
3. The extraordinary cowboy and price gouger attitude of some SEI “Approved Installers”
4. The supply situation and prices of wood pellet fuel.
5. The storage and handling of wood pellets.
6. The reliability of wood pellet heating.

My Conclusions at this Time.

I have concluded so far that to invest at this time is not wise because:

1. There is no conclusive price information available for many manufacturers on their systems – some even prefer the gougers to set the price. However, the prices are starting to come down under the pressure of publicity.
2. The supply situation in Ireland for wood pellet fuel is anything but secure as yet.
3. Installation costs are still at the ridiculous stage. However, installers are multiplying and this will bring the installation price down in time.
4. The is no conclusive information on the long term reliability and value of the various heating systems.

I Will Wait and See

I will wait a bit longer and see some more before proceeding. I just cannot trust the Rip-Off Republic to do this good thing the right way. The Gombeen Men are thick on the ground taking advantage of every possible situation, not least the lack of clear information and unambiguous pricing.

What should happen?

SEI or another appointed agency should:

1. Demand that all manufacturers publish a recommended selling price. Also oversee spare-part availability and warranty arrangements.
2. SEI should publish it’s own scale of recommended realistically based fees for installers. This to be done only after SEI consults some experts and gets it right. (Not like the sort of prices that SEI put out originally as being typical wood pellet heater prices of €7000 to €12000, whereas we all now know you can get a perfectly good system for under €5000)
3. SEI take on board a “price watch” and a “quality watch” and punish offenders by blacklisting.
4. SEI take on board a supply and price watch for wood pellets and inform the public on a weekly basis of the price and availability of the fuel.

Bottom Line?
Poor Information and No Regulation!

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