Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day

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Happy Earth Day

"The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens" - "Let your vision be world embracing".

"Only a comprehensive vision of a global society, supported by universal values and principles, can inspire individuals to take responsibility for the long-term care and protection of the natural environment."

Our planet is a fragile beautiful thing - we have raped it over and over through our greed and ignorance. If we are to preserve it, we need a new way of looking at our planet and at humanity. 

We need to see natures laws of co-operation and reciprocity fully functional in society. We need our institutions, our legal systems, our governments, our financial and business systems to function on principles of trustworthiness, equity, truthfulness, and cooperation, instead of the aggressive, adversarial, and greed driven present day systems.

Perhaps we first need to glimpse hell - in order to be properly motivated?




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Monday, April 21, 2014

Graphene Made Easy

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So Easy 
When You Know How

Graphene is nothing short of a magical material in terms of it's physical and electrical characteristics. 

It is the strongest material known - it is the best electrical conductor known etc. etc. It promises to totally change electronics design and manufacture, and the same for many other technologies.

Graphene was invented / discovered using ordinary sticky tape to separate out the layers of graphene in a piece of graphite - the same stuff in the middle of your pencil.

But there were difficulties in making it. Huge technical problems existed in trying to produce industrial quantities of Graphene - that is until NOW.

Graphene Recipe

Take some fine graphite powder, add some Fairy Liquid, and I presume some water, and stick it in your kitchen blender. Blend for one hour - and hope the blender doesn't burn out. You will have some graphene in your blender - WOW.

Sounds too easy to be true. It is true go and check the news items. The clever people who came on the method say it is fairly simple to scale it up to industrial size and produce large quantities of the magic material at very low cost.

Ireland the Leader in Graphene development

I am very proud that Ireland is taking a major role in this amazing material science. Good on you guys at Trinity. I hope the development phase is rapid and highly successful.

Roll on the graphene revolution.



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Thursday, April 10, 2014

SSE Airtricity a User Warning

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TWO 2 Reasons 
to WARN Customers


Reason ONE:

Some years ago I published a blog praising Airtricity for its efforts in moving towards wind energy, as the business name strongly suggests. I was a customer for some time and I then moved to Board Gais for a better deal.

I was with Bord Gais for approximately 15 months when an Airtricity representative called to my door offering 16% discount on that standard rate for domestic electricity. This sounded very good indeed. I was assured by the rep that it was the best deal available, even though there was a slightly higher standing charge, so I went for it.

What was not made completely clear to me at the time was - just how much an impact the higher standing charge could and would make on the unit cost of my electricity.

Let me explain that statement. I have seriously reduced my electricity usage over the last several years.

(1) I have installed LED and CFL lighting throughout my house.
(2) I have switched to solid fuel heating on a 24/7 basis, this means I no longer use an immersion heater for hot water, and also means less electricity running an oil boiler.
(3) I have increased the insulation level of the house.
(4) I have bought a low power TV set using the latest LED technology.
(5) I use gas cooking for the most part.

These factors mean I now have a very small electricity usage. This in turn means that the 16% Airtricity discount deal was seriously eroded by the added extra standing charge because the extra cost involved was divided over fewer units of electricity.

The end result is that the deal is no where as sweet as I was led to believe.

Prospective Airtricity customers should be wary of the pricing structure, and especially they not listen to their spin-doctors and sales people.

Reason TWO:


BEWARE of your Energy or Phone company, because in many cases, their ethics don't always match the image their spin-doctors and advertising agencies would have you believe.

When it comes to ethics, I have discovered a major BLACK HOLE. It is situated in the area of accumulated credits. At the end of a contract period when you leave to get, what you hope is, a better deal elsewhere, you will terminate with the current company and move over. What do you leave behind you ? ? ? ?

My Catholic background taught me there were basically two types of sin. (1) Sins of commission, i.e. actively lying etc. and (2) Sins of omission, not fulfilling your moral duty, not paying back a debs, not stepping up to the line to tell the full truth.

Dirty Tricks Departments employ Sins of Omission
 
To get the best deal with Airtricity several years ago I signed up for a budget-plan and for on-line billing. The budget plan took a fixed amount each month from my bank account which went to build up a credit against my next bill.

Because I was using less and less electricity due to my Energy Efficiency drives, I had a fairly major credit at the end of my contract. The amount was in excess of €99.00.

The money was only resting in my account - Dougal.

I was unaware of this sum of my money "resting in Airtricity's account" Not until I very recently went back to them did I discover - by accident - that they held my money.

  • They held almost €100 of my money for some 15 months. 
  • They made no attempt to return my money. 
  • They made no attempt to properly notify me the money was there in the first place.

Did Airtricity lie to me - no - they didn't actually lie - but they certainly were not moral or ethical in the way they acted.

Final Insult,

I got very angry with Airtricity for holding onto my money resting in their account and making interest for them. When I asked for my money back - Airtricity took weeks to get a cheque to me. They dragged their feet and held onto my money like a drowning man to a straw.

WARNING

If you have a similar situation to me with Airtricity or any other Power or Phone company double check and treble check to make sure they are not holding credit belonging to you. If you have any influence with law makers, please lobby to have the law change so mean and nasty companies cannot get away with holding onto peoples money.


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Friday, March 21, 2014

One Big Switch or Two Big Switches




Big Switch
One Big Switch
or
Two Big Switches?


"One Big Switch", a group energy purchasing business, opened it's doors on 16th February last. It is a private enterprise AFAIK and its aim is to gather "members" with a view to taking advantage of group or bulk discounts for electricity, gas etc. It sounds a great idea on the surface of it, and it is one I have previously exercised the old brain over.

The general idea in this case seems to be for the business to gather "members" and use the numbers game to barter for discounts. It would use a similar system pioneered by "One Big Switch" with some success in other countries, Australia in particular. It would seem that it was quite successful in Australia with a quoted 500,000 members - I must check that quoted fact out with my contacts in Auz. It is also said that One Big Switch is now one of the largest consumer organisations in the world?

The business is co-founded by Oliver Tattan, who also co-founded health insurer GloHealth, and has several other additional business interests.

So what will One Big Switch actually do? My understanding is that it will try to gather numbers / members and use bargaining power to obtain discounts. It will then pass on part of the discount to the customers while keeping part as it's means of income. It appears to be a privately owned business, and to operate as any other private business. How will the company develop and evolve? I would think much as any other private business, it's success will depend on how many customers it can get and on how much discount it can offers those customers.

There is no charge to sign up as a "member", and the advertising states that there is no obligation on the consumer to accept the negotiated deal. Whether or not there are any other obligation or liabilities to "members" is one of the questions I posed in writing to the company, without a response to date. I also rang and asked to talk to someone but I am still waiting a reply.



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Saturday, December 07, 2013

Cheaper Coal




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Towards Cheaper Heat
this Winter




Each winter I am sharply aware of the immorally high level of fuel poverty affecting so many of the people of Ireland. I started this blog in order to promote Sustainable Energy, but I have now arrived at the conclusion that the most important energy to sustain is winter heat for the disadvantaged and vulnerable.

Consequently, I have turned my focus to achieving the cheapest form of home heating. This I have found to be solid fuel burned in an enclosed stove.

For several years now, I have tried to find the best value suppliers for smokeless coal, eco logs etc. and to announce my finding for what thats worth.

The details hereunder will be of great interest to smokeless coal users. An old family based supplier in Cookstown Northern Ireland will supply – in ton lots and half ton lots to anywhere in the Irish republic. The ton lots are much better value because the shipping cost is the same for a ton and a half ton.

So here are the details:

Strata Ireland offer 50 x 20Kg bags = 1000Kgs or a metric Ton of a mix of Perto-coke / Calco and Lignite. This will be delivered by a courier on a pallet to the front of your house for only Sterling £310 about €375. I know that some fuel merchants are charging between €18 and €21 for a 40Kg bag of this stuff. So this offer which works out at €15 per 40Kg bag is a good deal.

I know a ton of coal is a lot to pay for in one go, and a lot to hump into a shed etc. but there is a substantial saving to be had for some people. Would be worth getting a loan from the Credit Union in order to finance the purchase. A group purchase with neighbours in another way of splitting the cost.

A little care is needed when burning Calco blend, as it can burn too hot and damage a stove. That said, it offers excellent value in terms of heat output v/s cost. It also is very low ash making cleaning a grate or stove a bit easier.

Strata also offer 50 x 20Kg bags 1000Kgs a metric ton of Smokeless Glow Ovoids delivered price is only Sterling £323. These are great for long burning overnight etc. They are also fairly fool proof in stoves.

You can order on-line and Pay with Credit Card or with Paypal here is the link: http://www.strataireland.com/pages/view/coal---online-store


Strata Ireland
153a Morgans Hill Road
Cookstown
County Tyrone
Northern Ireland
BT80 8BW
Tel: 048 8676 2103
info@strataireland.com

In North Kerry, Econ Fuels (Now called National Fuels) Monvalley Industrial Estate Tralee, offer good prices on solid fuels, especially if you can only afford to buy in smaller lots. Calco smokeless mix for a 3 bag purchase sells at €16.20 per 40Kg bag.



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Friday, September 13, 2013

Oxfam Report on Austerity, Poverty, Inequality

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Hard Talk from Oxfam

Oxfam have issued a report on austerity in Ireland which states that the country will most probably experience a rise in inequality, poverty, and emigration.

The report stated that the austerity programmes; “bear a striking resemblance to the ruinous structural adjustment policies imposed on Latin America, South-East Asia, and sub-Sahara Africa in the 1980s and 1990s”.

It states in a dire warning that “left unchecked, these measures will undermine Europe’s social gains, creating divided countries and a divided continent, and entrenching poverty for a generation”.

Some Stated Statistics

  • The report states that in 2011 there were some 120 million people in the EU were in the poverty trap and the figure could rise by a further 25 million.
  • Women will be the hardest hit by austerity.
  • The report projects an erosion of Trades Unions, collective bargaining, and workplace rights. This will further add to the already established trend in poverty among working people.
  • Cuts to public services will result in people losing their jobs,
  • At the same time voluntary institutions that support people in times of hardship will be weakened or even shut down through declining funding.
  • It could take between 10 – 25 years for poverty to return to pre-2008 levels.

Some alternative strategies suggested by Oxfam;

  • Invest in people and economic growth.
  • Invest in public services.
  • Strengthen institutional democracy.
  • Tax fairly

The Oxfam report also suggested:

  • That the EU needs to tackle unsustainable European public debt
  • Address major flaws in the EU financial system
  • That citizens of Europe ... need to increase their political engagement in order to influence government policy.
  • We need to change course to avoid a lost European decade.

Regarding Ireland

Oxfam’s report on Ireland says that although the programme for recovery is ahead of target, the austerity measures “have had a devastating impact on people already struggling with rising unemployment and levels of indebtedness”.

The report said that the poorest are hit hardest by the recession, with a “shocking array of welfare cuts and tax increases” being introduced since 2008 “that have driven more and more people into debt and poverty”.




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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Solid Fuel Stoves

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Solid Fuel Stoves
What's up
This Winter?



I had a brief check on what is moving in the world of multi-fuel stoves for this coming winter. One new comer is the County Kerry made Firebird brand range of high output inset stoves.

While not in the running to win a stove beauty competition, at least on the outside, Firebird have managed to squeeze up to 81% efficiency and a very impressive output from stoves designed to fit into most fireplace openings. 

The Firebird stoves come in two sizes: 16” and 18” with nominal outputs of 12Kw and 16Kw.

The 18” stove has a rated output to water and radiators of up to 12.1 Kw with up to 3.6 Kw of the heat output going directly by convection into the room.

These are very impressive figures indeed for such modest size stoves. I had a very brief look at construction. The boiler is standard steel construction. What impressed me was the door construction and the baffling. The quality of build looks very high with the use of stainless steel in the door.

These impressive performance figures however do not come without a price tag they are priced at approximately €1,350 and €1,650 respectively.

If your budget can stretch, these Firebird inset stoves are worth looking at. Not cheap, and they will require some fittings and a fair bit of work to install properly.



The Blacksmith Anvil 6Kw free standing stove is still on the go, and a favourite. It has stood the test of time. I have owned a Blacksmith Anvil for 3 years and it is as good as the day I bought it. It can pump out the heat effortlessly.

Three years ago I paid €400 for it, today it is just a little more expensive at €455. In the meantime it has had an improved firebox liner fitted which justifies some of the price increase, and since I bought it there has also been a bump up in the VAT further adding to the price.


The Olymberyl Gabriel sold by the same company as Horse Flame offers a quite similar stove to the Blacksmith Anvil at the slight cheaper price of €399. Horse Flame have turned out some nice quality cast stoves.



An inset stove by the same makers rated at 5Kw and nicely cast is the Olymberyl Gabriel Inset costing quite a reasonable €595.

I was looking at these stoves at McElligotts Castleisland Co. Kerry, and the prices I have indicated are as marked in the store on the day I visited - these may have changed in the meantime.

The trend in Ireland is that more and more people are turning to solid fuel stoves as a primary heat source.


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Thursday, September 05, 2013

Ireland Debt Time Bomb

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Ireland's Debt 
Time-Bomb


The Irish Government is poised to introduce further financial hardship in another coming budget, while at the same time a massive debt time-bomb is ticking. When it goes off it will, no doubt, inflict massive social as well as financial damage.

The time bomb?  Some 20% of mortgages are in serious arrears. Additionally some 20% of personal loans at Credit Unions throughout the country are also in arrears.

I worry for the immediate future.



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Friday, August 02, 2013

The Graphene Battery Race - is ON

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The Graphene Race
is
Hotting Up


Monash University in Melbourne have published research on what they describe as a viable graphene super capacitor battery. It has a power holding capability equal to lead-acid batteries. That means size for size, it will hold the same amount of electricity. It will be very much lighter, be able to charge up in minutes, last 10's of years, not go on fire, and cost less to manufacture.

While this super capacitor battery is much less than the storage capacity of lithium-ion based batteries, it represents a really encouraging kick start to development of real-life, as distinct from vapour-ware, viable chemical-based battery replacement.


The MonashDepartment of Materials Engineering say they have developed a completely new approach to making graphene-based super capacitors. The team have created a super capacitor battery with an energy density of 60 Watt-hours per litre, which is about the same as lead-acid batteries.

The team used a graphene gel film sheets and a liquid electrolyte. The graphene gel sheets were made using a method similar to that used in paper making. This makes the process very easy to scale up for industrial production.

The research is funded by the Australian Research Council. Good luck with the development – and good on ya Auz.




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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Electric Cars with Balls

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New form of Graphene
Developed in Korea
Holds promise for Super-Capacitors



Essentially the research team have found a way of making 3D Buckyballs from two dimensional graphene. The graphene balls can be made more easily and far less expensively than graphene sheets. It can relatively easily be formed into various shaped more easily than trying to deal with graphene sheets.



Above one of the tiny graphene 3D Buckyballs which we hope can be a building block for a range of exciting new materials but especially the development of Super Capacitors.

Super Capacitors, when realised, will fundamentally change the concept of the electric car, They will allow long journeys to be made before re-charging, and recharging with take minutes instead of hours. Also, very importantly, super capacitors will have a lifespan as long or longer than that of the cars in which they are fitted. Also, they are not prone to overheating and going on fire, and they will come in at less that half the cost of current lithium-ion batteries making electric cars much cheaper.

This age, we are now moving into, might yet be termed the Graphene age.

Good luck guys with the development work.



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