These days, renewable technologies not only generate 25 per cent of the UK’s electricity, they also generate plenty of data, giving us the chance to get a clear picture of what’s really going on.
We’ve pulled together our top ten resources as a quick reference guide, including stats, interactive tools and inspiration from the miscellany of initiatives that have taken root across the country.
1. Top of our list is Sustainable energy without hot air, the online version of the late, widely respected Professor David MacKay’s eponymous book. Sometimes snarky (“I’m concerned about cutting UK emissions of twaddle – twaddle about sustainable energy”) but always clear and informative, it guides you through the numbers and formulae so you can figure things out for yourself. MacKay was appointed chief scientific adviser at the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) shortly after the book was published and it’s a rallying cry for evidence based decision making. Not a quick read, but rewarding.
2. Forgive the unashamed plug, but our own Renewable Energy Locator is a recently launched interactive site providing those who live in England and Wales with an easily accessible picture of how renewable energy is doing in their area compared to others. It includes maps, graphs, and a postcode search. We couldn’t include Scotland and Northern Ireland due to the lack of easily comparable data, but there are other great websites along similar lines.
3. If you’re interested in potential, the national heat map estimates heat demand right down to the scale of individual buildings, so you can spot the most likely locations where heat distribution infrastructure could be beneficial or economic. It also maps the heat capacity of water sources – rivers, estuaries, canals and coastal sites – indicating where heat pumps could best be sited. Continuing the water theme, this atlas of marine energy resources visualises the amount of tidal, wave and wind energy across the UK continental shelf.
4. Specifically on wind, the Crown Estate’s offshore wind electricity map estimates the total electricity being generated by offshore wind, right down to how much is coming from each wind farm. This website is rich in fascinating factoids. Did you know the blades of the tallest commercially operational turbine in the UK sweep an area the size of two and a half football pitches? You could also check out Winderful, which uses real time data too, but from both onshore and offshore wind turbines.
5. More detailed information can be found on the UK wind energy database, which allows you to search every UK wind project, whether operational, under construction or a twinkle in a constructor’s eye having just made it through the planning process. Information for different regions and counties can be viewed on a map or a list rich in specifics, giving precise location, number of turbines, capacity and who the project developer is.
(Incidentally, there’s a gap in the market here, for sites giving information about technologies other than wind. Perhaps Google should be nudged into producing a UK version of Project Sunroof?)
6. One great thing about this sector is that it’s not only for big companies; communities across the UK have also been rolling up their sleeves and entering the fray. For real world know how, check out CSE’s Plan LoCaL. This explains the technologies and practical considerations, with information videos about setting up a renewable energy project, from project management and community engagement through to planning permission and financing.
7. Have fun playing at being the government with DECC’s 2050 calculator. It lets you “take control and create your own energy pathway for the country” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050. Covering all parts of the economy and all the greenhouse gas emissions released in the UK, it makes you realise the trade-offs involved. You can download all the assumptions and calculations, and it’s available as a classic (more discoverable) version or a simplified simulation. For those with worldwide clean energy ambitions, there’s also a global calculator.
8. For stats whenever you need them, the canny data-crunchers at Sandbag have built a smartphone app, with live feeds of three numbers they say “everyone should be watching”: CO2 intensity of the UK’s electricity, the EU carbon price and the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. It also shows which technologies are providing the UK’s electricity at any given moment and for the next 24 hours.
9. We like reminding ourselves that support for renewables amongst the British public has remained stubbornly above 75 per cent, despite the negative media coverage. In the most recent poll, only four per cent were opposed. You can follow what the public thinks about renewables via DECC’s public attitudes tracking survey.
10. Finally, ending on a high, It’s Happening is a cheerful compilation of positive and quirky stories of “things going right” from the creative team at 10:10. Go here for an uplifting vision of the future, including lovely images and fun turns of phrase like “volcano power” and “milk fridges powered by cow poo”.
That’s our top ten, but please share any useful resources you think we’ve missed via the comments below.
Image: Bristol’s solar energy tree, Demand Energy Equality