Monthly Archives: January 2014

Naked Energy

Naked energy Virtu panel

Naked Energy has developed a ground-breaking new type of solar panel that combines both solar photovoltaic electricity and solar thermal hot water production into one panel. This has many benefits. It means more useful energy can be harvested per square metre of roof space, and also represents a better return on the energy invested in the manufacture of the panel components. Usually as pv panels get hotter their performance declines, but with Naked Energy’s Virtu panel the solar cells are water cooled, so these panels will produce more electricity per unit area than a normal pv panel, and into the bargain will produce large amounts of hot water that can be used for a variety of uses from domestic hot water to industrial process heat or drive solar powered desalination.

Naked Energy was founded in 2009 and is based at Guildford in Surrey. In November they went on a trade mission to Saudi Arabia, which recently has announced very ambitious plans to deploy a lot of solar power, and where the scope for this kind of technology to be linked into large scale solar desalination is vast.

Fracking, tar sands and Arctic oil are fossil technologies. For them there is an ever declining ‘energy-in to energy-out’ ratio, whereas the best of the new clean green technologies have an ever better ‘energy-in to energy-out’ ratio. This Virtu panel developed by Naked Energy is one example of the best new clean-tech energy technology. This is just the kind of product that the British government should be doing all it can to assist.

Naked Energy website and company brochure

Fracking Folly


The news headlines today are of David Cameron pushing for an all-out drive to promote fracking. He and the current UK government are now offering financial inducements to local authorities in an attempt to bribe them to join him in this risky and unnecessary venture. In August and September I wrote a couple of blogs about fracking and alternatives. I hoped I would not have to write again about this topic, it is too awful and depressing a prospect, so as last time I’ll contrast it with some better news.

Shale gas, like the oil extracted from tar sands in Alberta and elsewhere, or the deep drilling for oil in the Arctic, are all examples of our destructive addiction to fossil fuels. The easy to access fossil fuels have long since been used up. Now we are developing the difficult to get stuff, which tends to have several disadvantages. Huge amounts of energy are needed to extract the fuels from the ground, so the energy return on energy invested tends to get worse with each successive project. Because of ever increasing geological difficulties, diminishing supplies and rising demand, prices of energy tend to be ever upward. These difficult to get fossil fuels also are associated with a huge range of locally severe forms of air, water and soil pollution. They also are horrendous from a climate change point of view: we simply must accept that there is no alternative but to leave the vast majority of these known reserves of fossil fuels under the ground. Exploiting them is both ecological and economic madness.

Luckily at the same time as the energy return on energy invested gets ever worse for fossil fuels it gets ever better for a whole range of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. This is something I’ll write about more on this blog over the coming weeks and months. Meanwhile let’s celebrate one tiny but excellent example of the direction we should be going. Today Caplor energy is due to start putting up the solar panels onto the roof of the new school in Leominster. This will be the second community owned solar roof in Leominster, and just like the first one has been organised by Sharenergy, which I blogged about a couple of weeks ago. No doubt there’ll be a share offer coming up soon, so do check the Sharenergy website.

David Cameron on all-out drive to promote fracking

Suzanne Goldenberg on fracking hell

Caplor, the local renewable energy company doing our next community solar roof

Keep watching Sharenergy website for upcoming share offers



My Person of the Year, 2013

Jose Mujica

Jose Mujica

Who do you think should be ‘Person of the Year, 2013’? Nelson Mandela would probably be most people’s vote, but his great achievement was guiding South Africa out of Apartheid in the 1980s and 90’s. I want someone currently active and giving leadership now. Time magazine has chosen Pope Francis as their ‘Person of the Year, 2013’. The Catholic Church was long overdue a radical change of direction and in Pope Francis they do seem to have someone of exceptional quality, renouncing personal excess and becoming an effective and outspoken advocate for peace and for social justice. He would be in my top 20, but not the number one slot: that accolade goes to Jose Mujica.

Jose Mujica is president of Uruguay. His life story is pretty amazing: left wing revolutionary shot six times by police, imprisoned for 14 years, tortured, held in solitary confinement at the bottom of a well for 2 years. In 1985 as the military dictatorship was replaced by democracy he was freed and built the Broad Front political grouping, becoming a deputy, then senator, in Parliament during the 1990’s. In 2010 he became President of Uruguay. What he has achieved since is remarkable.

At a time when numerous politicians in the UK and around the world are revealed as corrupt and self-serving it’s refreshing to have one who clearly is quite the opposite. Mujica gives 90% of his salary to charity, lives on his ramshackle small farm rather than in the presidential palace and drives an old VW beetle. His voluntary frugality is liberating and he seems a genuinely happy person. The pursuit of human happiness and its connection to environmental sustainability was at the heart of his speech to the Rio+20 conference last year, which was such a refreshing and insightful act of political leadership.

Jose Mujica is providing leadership in so many areas it’s hard to pick just a few to put into this blog. His recent legalisation of production, sale and consumption of cannabis helps end the pointless war on drugs that has so enriched the drug cartels, corrupted politics and fuelled violence in countless countries around the world. Under his watch Uruguay is now leading the world with the speed with which it is decarbonising its electricity sector, with a goal of generating 90% of their electricity from renewables by 2015. They are rapidly developing onshore wind, and just starting a rapid roll-out of solar photovoltaics, which combined with existing hydro and biomass should see fossil fuel use plummet over the next few years. Yes, Jose Mujica is definitely my ‘Person of the Year, 2013.’

Wikipedia on Jose Mujica


Rio+20 speech:

Simon Jenkins, cannabis

90% renewables by 2015 wind and solar