Friday, 11 February 2011

Pauls Blog: The Isle of Sark running on Renewables?

Views from the beautiful Island of Sark where our R&D is based @ Clos Bourel.  Could this Island be entirely run on Renewable Energy?

I am in Sark at the moment and I’ve been working at our R&D site here and attending a Renewable Energy Talk. Everyone was very excited and excitable. However lots of talk but no real understanding.

I think the time is right to hit Sark with a grand proposal.

The Sark Electricity Company owner is basically saying oil is going up and will continue to do so and there is an urgency to move to Renewables. However there are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstanding. He has been using the University of Southampton to research a number of proposals he has which includes a tidal watermill. They have looked at PVs and wind but have been largely dismissive.

The way I see it Sark needs to:

  • Install a Sunny Island / Battery system.
  • Utilise their existing diesels sets as backup to the battery/island.
  • Encourage other ‘islands’ around the island at strategic points.
  • This would enable micro-scale grid connect by others
  • Change SEL policy to allow buy back (crucial). Electricity is about 40p a unit and islanders would love to be paid just something....however trials so far with Sunny Boys have not been very successful. I need to bring my laptop and measuring equipment over next time and have a serious go at monitoring the mains. So a duel issue: a) reliability of existing mains supply b) changing the way it all operates to allow others to add to the grid with PV and wind.
Up to that point that’s a good start. However Sark waters has some of the best tidal currents in the world, so it can’t be ruled out of the renewable energy mix. I have noted in the past the claim that the Proven wind turbines can be used as water turbines in rivers. It would follow through that they could be used as tidal turbines. My belief is that several small scale turbines would be very cost-effective, using tried and tested technology which could be serviced by local service industries:  there are experienced fisherman and divers used to working in deep waters and extreme weather conditions. 10 x 6kW Proven machines could generate 60kW peak. Combined with PVs, Micro-wind, batteries and Sunny Islands this would be hugely beneficial.
Because Sark has steep high cliffs the island is also suitable for pumped storage systems.
There are streams and so we cannot rule out ‘mill ponds’ and Pelton wheels.
If Sark gradually moved to low carbon, lower cost electricity and get off oil there would be a move to do three things: a) electrify the heating systems (using heat pumps) b) use more electricity (it always happens), for appliances and comfort needs c) electrify the transport system.
Heat pumps are interesting. We have huge experience in this area and whilst Air Source is the likely choice, Water source form sea water is also a good choice. There is plenty scope for traditional ground source (particularly boreholes into granite), but also there is plenty of water available under the island for water source via boreholes, but most people are close to the sea!

Mitsubishi Air Source Heat Pump which could be the likely choice to electrify the heating systems and move away from fossil fuels.

I think that’s about it. That covers my thoughts about Sark in a penultimate plan that has spanned 12 years of experience of working in the island.

Meanwhile we have the aim to complete the Clos Bourel Energy Project in Sark to a fairly conclusive milestone which has taken years of work to get to. Essentially it has been our base for R&D where it has all gone full circle, having started from Clos Bourel, worked out to current clientele and working back into Clos Bourel.

Plant & Boiler room at the E-Si R&D site at Clos Bourel, Sark.

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