Thursday, March 29, 2012

Household Charge v/s Household Income


Household Charge 
Anything but Fair and Just

What you are looking at above is an ESRI chart of household disposable income, charted over 2009 to 2010. The poorest families are the ones on the left - and richest families are to the right.

What Can you SEE?

What do you see???  The RICHEST are almost 10% better off during the recession despite all the cuts etc. - while the poorest are more than 25% worse off.

What does this mean??  It means - Hard Times - THE RICH GET RICHER and the poor get much - much - much poorer. Am I ranting - you betcha I'm ranting!! My blood pressure goes up every time I think about this.

Household Charge

Now consider the hated, the ill conceived, the ham-fisted Household Charge and why it is so massively inequitable, so unjust and so imbalanced. The ESRI Research Institute chart above says it loud and clear - the situation is VERY bad.

"Ah - so it's a bit bad alright there lads - so why don't we make it worse by placing an indiscriminate, across the board household tax or poll tax on everyone - same for those with millions as for those with nothing but debts. The rich will hardly notice it happened, while the poorest  - well, it will take food from their mouths, heat from their homes, and send them further into despair. But - sure - you would never know - the people might not notice, or they might even fall for it!!"

IMHO The Household Charge or Poll Tax has been one of the poorest and most ill considered pieces of legislation ever made in Ireland, it could even bring down the government.

Balance in the Household Charge

If there was fairness and balance in the household charge, the top of the rich household pile would pay perhaps €50,000 each while the poorest would not be asked to contribute at all.

Fairness - Balance - Equity - no sign of it in Ireland, where members of parliament and of the judiciary can get away with claiming €50,000 a year in expenses on top of their over-generous salaries.

Should the Irish Government be Listening?

Q: Why do revolutions happen?

Inequity - yes - but also a deafness of rulers to the voices of the people. Good examples currently playing out in the Arab world right now.

The figures are screaming out INEQUITY. Ireland 5% of the population own 40% of everything. Maybe not as bad as Russia before the revolution - but BAD enough.

What is really worthy of careful attention is how the perception of the Irish population has changed significantly as the recession deepens. In 2008 - 26% of Irish people felt that wealth distribution was QUITE FAIR - That figure had fallen to just 11% in 2010, and I am prepared to bet that it will fall even further in the next couple of years. I hope for stability sake that the Irish Government is listening carefully to the groaning of the people!!!


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Another Super Battery - Liquid Metal or just Hot Air?


Liquid Metal 
Hot Air?

Although I am jaded by, and highly sceptical about, all reports of new super-duper batteries and mega ultra capacitors that all will "revolutionise our lives and save the world",  I was nevertheless taken by the following report and my dim embers of interest were blown into life yet again. Call me a sucker, or a damn fool if you like!

This one is about Prof. Donald Sadoway of MIT who had a Eureka moment in his work on a high capacity battery.  Looking at aluminium electrolysis smelting, where typically 350,000 Amps are passed through the material in a process identical to that which takes place in every electro-chemical battery, he came up with the idea of a Liquid Metal Battery.

Essentally a battery that could handle massive current and operate at very high temperatures, have a very high storage capacity, be made from generally available and inexpensive materials, and not be a danger to the environment. Bit of a tall order?

Prof. Sadoway has been promoting his idea by doing a lot of lecturing and has a very good presentation on TED:

Liquid Metal Battery Inc., the development company formed to take the project to a market level, has accepted investment funding from Bill Gates' venture capital company and from another corporation involved in oil.

Mr. Microsoft Invests

Bill Gates has previously demonstrated concern and interest in clean energy and climate. Last year alone, he put money into five battery-related ventures. The US government agencies have also put quite a few millions into battery research. Slow old business - and no guarantees at the end of it. Not a place to gamble on. On the other hand, if one battery design makes it all the way, it would be Microsoft etc. all over again for the investors.

The photo above shows a cut-away mock-up of a prototype to demonstrate the general layout of a liquid-metal battery cell.

The red layer is the heavy liquid metal cathode at the bottom Antimony in the proto-types. I imagine that gravity must be a factor in these cells, and therefore they need to be in fixed locations.

Yellow is the molten salt electrolyte layer, and the green is the less dense Magnesium anode. The container is surrounded by an insulator material.

Above photo shows one of the lab prototypes, a 16" diameter pizza sized unit packing a capacity of 1Kw hour - not bad!!

Research on the all-liquid battery approach has been going on for about five or six years and Prof. Sadoway said the group has so far met the technical and cost milestones set out by investors.

Prof. Sadoway has also said that the real task in hand is to get (total installed costs) down below $250 a kilowatt-hour, and added that they will have their work cut out for them to reach that goal, but that he was "guardedly optimistic".

Time Scale

This sounds as if the time scale will be years rather than months. Thing is, that long development time-scales, on average, tend to equal little or no end result - we have way too many examples of this fact.  I really do hope that this one is different, and that it gets industrial scale working examples up and running in short time. Good luck guys.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Irish Politics and Scientific Principles (republished)


Scientific Principles

James Watt Scottish Inventor

I find myself falling deeper into despair about the immediate future of our society particularly on political and social levels. I was brewing a rant on the theme when I came on one that I had written some two years ago. I decided it was still appropriate to my need to vent my feelings, and so I have re-published it here.

The Principle of Reciprocation

James Watt (1736 – 1819) yet another Scottish inventor, I previously wrote about the Rev. Robert Stirling, invented his famous reciprocating steam engine in or about 1775.

Understanding the principles of reciprocating action was IMHO one of the factors that gave birth to the industrial revolution and perhaps to nearly all of modern technology.

Watt's Engine

We use the principles of co-operation and reciprocity in almost every electronic and mechanical device in our modern world. These devices, cars, computers, jet planes, satellites, etc. simply would not function if these principles were not active. Physicists have come to understand that the same principles apply from the sub-atomic to the astro-physical levels of creation.

Yet we humans, while understanding principles of energy when applied to technology and physics, have failed almost completely to appreciate the need for these principles in human dynamics.

The Principle of Unified Action

“The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.” A man called Bahá’u’lláh wrote this truism one hundred and fifty years ago. Its essential truth is easily understood and accepted by most scientists, especially physicists and mathematicians, and not just psychologists as you might be inclined to think. However, when it comes to the science of human affairs as applied to everyday life situations such as government, business, even education, the principle is completely forgotten and ignored.

Let me explain my last sentence. While every type of technology relies on balance, reciprocity and unity of function, we humans mostly use quite the opposite principles of (1) Competitiveness, (2) Adversarialism, (3) Cronyism, (4) Exclusivity. All driven by the engines of (a) Greed, (b) Dishonesty, (c) Ego and false pride.

Take the principle of competitiveness, you might say that it is needed in business and sport. However, consider what it does in our education system? It acts as a filter – like grading stones in a quarry – once the stones are graded there is no going back. The useless stones are discarded as junk – right? The saying; "there can be only one winner" should put you on alert immediately. The recent world-wide financial collapse has been a major winning for some and misery for most.

Adversarialism (them and us, and we are going to win) ; a most obvious quantity in our legal system and in our governing bodies. Here is one definition of our political system: Party Politics, one good on-line definition expresses it thus, “political acts and principles directed toward the interests of one political party or its members without reference to the common good”

And who would argue that our legal and court systems are truly honest, efficient, and produce equity and justice in the true sense??

What provoked this Rant?

Well it is an opinion poll just published in the Independent newspaper that has “stoked the fire of my ire” (see the link below)

Two of the statistics produced in the poll jumped out at me:

* That 62% of Irish people want a national government. (government free of party lines)

* And that 91% of Irish people want criminal prosecutions taken against the bankers who’s greed and dishonest caused the financial meltdown.

It would seem that “demos” (the people – as in democracy) have spoken loudly and clearly on some of the principles of government. I wonder however if the politicians are capable of listening??


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wood Briquettes and Eco Logs Lesson 2


Eco-Logs and Wood Briquettes 
Lesson 2
Courtesy of
Virginia Hermanson

Rock-hard bonded Eco-Logs that do NOT expand and disintegrate

To this point I have given a basic introduction to the main types of wood briquette / Eco-Log. (1) The hammered or pressed type, and (2) The heat treated extruded type with a hole in the middle. My preference is firmly with the latter, and (3) The super-hard fused wood briquette.

In this post, courtesy of Virginia Hermanson of Homefire Prest logs Ferndale, Washington USA, I have received a further bit of education in the matter of Eco-Logs, their types and their production methods.

Virginia contacted me by e-mail and here is her letter:

Hello Tony,

Loved your information . I thought I would offer my experience with extrusion of sawdust/biomass. My husband invented the machines we use- continuous extrusion with a screw . We use softwood only as that is what is prevalent in the Pacific Northwest USA. We have been in business for over 30 years.  

The logs with the hole in the middle have a heating element ( the hole ) which actually bakes or cooks the wood as it is extruded . Like baking a cake until it is like a rock! It burns well but burns quickly because the hole acts like a chimney –increasing the burn. The other type of log  is made with a piston driven machine. A charge of sawdust is dropped into a die that is then driven into a very long cooling tube. The tube is usually 150 ft long. This “glazes” the outside of the log – holding it in shape. When it is burned each charge springs back into its original shape because it is not densified right through – causing the log to grow or expand into an accordion or bloom . Sometimes even putting the fire out!  

Making logs is difficult – we know . it took many years of sweat and tears to figure out how to do what we do. Our logs burn just like coal – they last well over 12 hours in a woodstove/airtight because they are so dense. We do not add heat – through pressure the log exits our machine at over 280 F . After our logs cool you cannot pound a nail into it. With this great product we have an enormous amount of wear and tear on our parts and must rebuild constantly.  We love what we do and our customers burn more every year.  

We are working on finding an agricultural alternative to wood and have been for the past 10 years. Wood is becoming too expensive and harder to find. I am hoping to be able to switch within the next 5 years.  

Here is a link to our You Tube video of our machines. Also – we have a video on our website telling how and what we do. If you wonder why we have the flat side on our log it’s so they don’t roll…. Thanks for your blog!

Virginia Hermanson  

A 3rd Type of EcoLog Machine developed by the Hermansons

The Hermansons have, over many years, been developing and testing methods of wood and biomass compaction.

Their machines turn scrap and waste wood into rock hard fire logs that burn like coal, last for ages in the fire, and do not swell and go flaky like so many of the Eco-Logs around.

They look pretty like the common EcoLog available here in Ireland - with a couple of major differences, (1) They do not have ridging or banding down the length where each dose of material had been hammered on, and (2) The are very much smoother and denser.

Many of the common types of machine in current use employ pistons or big hammers that ram and squeeze the wood waste into solid logs. These types of briquettes or ecologs however do not have the material properly bound together, and when heated etc. they literally come apart.

The other type of machine in common use employs a large screw that compresses and extrudes the material under massive pressure and additionally employs electric heaters to bake and bond the material.

The difference between the piston ram type of machine and the Hermanson extruder machine is that the latter places such pressure on the wood that the pressure alone causes it to heat to nearly 400F or 204C without using extra heaters. These sorts of temperatures along with the pressure virtually melts or bakes the lignin in the wood which acts like a glue and bonds the material. In the Hermanson's machine, this is done also using a screw to achieve continuous one piece compaction..

The Hermanson process looks great as it uses less energy to produce the goods. My only observation is that the logs look a bit big, maybe a bit of a problem in the small stoves we use in that part of the world. However, I am sure that the diameter of the log is only a matter of fitting different size tools to the machine.

Thank you Virginia for that very interesting lesson in compressed Eco Logs.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wood Briquettes from Scrap Wood


Extruded Type Briquette
Different Woods

I had a letter from Monty at Kerry BioFuels Tralee regarding my posting on how  Wood Briquettes of different types are made:

Monty Kerry Biofuels writes:

There are 2 main differences in your ecologs. Those made from softwood and those made from hardwood.The ones you like, those 'with the hole' are made from hardwood trees in forests in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

Both work well, but it all depends on how 'eco' you want to be.We are Kerry Biofuels sell both. Softwood logs made in Co Limerick and Bord na Mona logs imported from Malaysia.

Kerry BioFuels stock a nice range of bio-friendly heaters, multi-fuel stoves and central heating boilers, and additionally offer a selection of wood based fuels. They are in the Monavalley Industrial Estate, just off the "Fat Mile" in Tralee.

Briquettes and Wood Types

Monty's letter could be taken to suggest that the extruded type of briquette can, (1) only be made from hardwood, and that (2) it is an imported only product.

The photo at the top of this article shows extruded briquettes of different types of wood. Softwoods in fact produce an excellent extruded briquette. There is no earthly reason why they cannot be produced in Ireland from locally grown woods or from waste woods.

Currently most if not all of the production of briquettes in Ireland fall into the compression type of product, the type that swell up in the fire.

The UK has several producers that use the "extrusion" method.  Bio Green Tech is a small business that makes extrusion briquettes from old softwood pallets.

I have recently contacted SEAI and asked if they are aware of anyone that is producing or planning to produce extrusion type briquettes (the ones with the hole) in Ireland, I await their answer.

Here is a link to a video of the UK factory Bio Green Tech where they turn old pallets into extruded wood briquettes.

My Preferred type of Wood Briquette

I have no hesitation in saying I strongly favour the Extruded type of wood briquette (the one with the hole) for the following reasons:

(1) They are very resistant to moisture in storage. I have some uncovered in a semi-open shed for over a year and they are in great condition.
(2) Extruded briquettes hold their original size and shape in the fire. The do not expand and swell up like the eco logs when put in a stove or fire. If you were to put several Eco Logs in an open fire, they might well spew out onto the floor as they expand to twice their initial length. In a stove they can swell up and touch the glass - not a great idea.
(3) Extruded briquettes burn for much much longer and can be mixed with other fuels. They behave like charcoal or coal and could be nursed into long burning and overnight burning.


Got a reply from the Sustainable Energy Authority if Ireland regarding any possible Irish manufacturer of extruded wood briquettes, it would seem they don't know what is happening. Here it is:

We do not have specific information on how the wood briquettes are produced.  The table on our website (  identifies suppliers to the Irish market, without distinguishing domestic production from imported.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Household Charge - Community Charge - Poll Tax


Irish Government Communicates
New Law via the media
Gossip and Second-Hand Reports

The thought just struck me - do you believe all you read in the papers or that bit of gossip in the pub? If your only contact with the government is through these media, how are you to know what exactly the Household Charge is? It simply could be just a bit of idle gossip, and sure that would be best ignored.

Surely that is all it really is - gossip and hype, because no government - in it's right mind would utilise and depend on the gossip grapevine or the rumour mill to communicate with it's citizens, especially about something as potentially fraught and as important as a new and inequitable tax, a tax with a nasty sounding sting attached to it? One might say that that sort of thing is only practiced by dictators and totalitarian states - right?

How then is the recluse, who never listens to a radio or buys a paper, to know about this unfortunate and ill considered tax? Yet he or she will be penalised for not complying to a bit of gossip they might have accidentally picked up in a shop??

I have not had any government official call to my door nor a letter explaining this tax, nor a bill for the tax.

What I have heard discussed has impressed itself on me as being bully-boy and thuggish with suggestions as to how this new tax will seek out it's victims and will punish them if they do not immediately comply.

It is not the tax and the need to pay my fair share that annoys and sickens me, rather it is the inequity of a tax lacking any modifiers, and the ill considered and most unfortunate bully-boy approach that seems to have been adopted in a knee-jerk fashion by the government. I am not a naysayer, a knocker, a tax dodging opportunist, nor have I any political affiliation whatsoever. This is an inequitable tax which has been introduced in a most ham-fisted way.

I have never taken kindly to being bullied or threatened, either directly or by innuendo and gossip, my reaction is to dig the heels right in and fight back.  I suspect my reaction is a general Irish characteristic, one of a rebel people who have fought long and hard throughout history for their integrity.


Friday, March 09, 2012

Household Charge Poll Tax almost 90% have NOT paid


Hanging and Public Flogging
for those who don't pay
The Household Charge
By Order of the Irish Government 

My readers will well know my extreme disdain for the Irish Poll Tax. My hatred of it can be boiled down to two aspects:. (1) It is inequitable as it treats the millionaire and the pauper in the same way. (2) The Government approach is thuggish - pay up or else is the tone.

It is interesting to note that some 3 weeks from the deadline almost 90% of people have not paid.

I was reading a piece written by Amy Wall on just now where she comments on the Poll Tax and gives a link to a cartoon which she says reminds her somewhat of the government attitude.

Here is that link - which I must say resonated, in a humorous but very black way, also with my perception of this sad saga:

The article by Amy Wall on can be read here:


Bargain Price Multi-Fuel Stoves


How about a 
6Kw Cast Iron Stove 
for €215?

A Dublin based business called offers Chinese made cast iron stoves at some very good prices indeed.

Their price list below is as published on DoneDeal: Prices are based on collection from Blanchardstown or Co. Clare.  Or alternatively you can pay for next day delivery to your door for just €25.

I am just going to concentrate on one model in this exercise. It is the 6Kw JA 013 stove, which would be a very popular size in Ireland for the average room. The big question when you see a price that low at €215 - while similar stoves average out at around €400+ in Ireland is, can it be any good, what kind of quality do you get?

What do you get for half the money?

I have made the effort to find the Chinese Foundry and ask them direct questions about the quality of casting and the suitability specifically of the 6Kw stove for general use in Ireland.

I contacted Kevin Lee the sales manager of the company in China, who came back immediately with straight and clear answers to my questions. The company who make the stove is:.

Xuzhou Sunrain Foundry Co Ltd
CHINA.  PC:221000

I asked (1) If the 6Kw stove was suitable for Multi-Fuel use, and (2) If the grates and baffles were in high chromium cast iron

The answers were clear, (1) Yes the stove is suitable for multi-fuel use, and (2) The grates are cast in Grey Iron 150. (which is a high quality cast iron but does NOT contain added high chromium levels).

So is this stove Good for the money?

The 013 model 6Kw stove

Only one Irish company have confirmed to me that they have independently tested high levels of chromium in their grate and baffle castings, that is Blacksmith. I own a Blacksmith Anvil and it is now 2 years in use and it is still like new. The current price of the Blacksmith Anvil is €450 over twice the price of the Stove Deals similar 6Kw stove.

The Stove Deals model  013 6Kw stove may not have high chromium castings but if you were to buy a spare grate and a spare baffle at the time of purchase, you could reasonably expect to get at least a similar life span to the Blacksmith.

So I contacted Stove Deals and asked about the guarantee and cost of spares, here is the reply:

"All our stoves come with a 12 month guarantee, furthermore if you buy a stove off us your rights as a consumer are the same as any other shop, that the goods need to be of proper quality etc.

We supply spare parts but really only to people who buy from us, we don't get asked for many spare parts.

Glass (across the range of stoves) would be about €25-€50, grates about €20-€40, and baffle plates about €20-€30. I hope this answers your questions.
Thanks" - Dave.

Thank you Dave. So take the basic price of  €215 and add in a spare set of castings, a grate at say €35 and a baffle at €25. Now you are set up for a good many years before you have to worry. The total cost €275!!

The rest of the stove looks to have basic but good design features, rotary air control, secondary air control, decent door hinges, a separate a door for ash removal - means you don't have to get a sun tan while removing the ash or leave smoke around the room by opening the main door.

For a stove and a spare set of castings - €275 seems really good. I think ordering a spare set of castings at the time of buying the stove is a very good idea.

 Is there anyone out there who has this stove?? If you own one like this I would really appreciate hearing your opinion on its quality and performance.

The Full Price list form Stove Deals

Their flue pipe and bends are a good price also, it would be worth checking these out if you were ordering.

6kW stove  Model 013 €215 580H, 440W, 320D
9kW Arch door stove 550W, 620H, 400D €285
12kW double door stove €319 615H, 640W, 355Deep
12kW double door with boiler €450
4kW stove €185 535H, 375W, 260Deep - Fits a standard 16" opening.
7kW baker stove €239
7kW with separate ash door €259
8kW boiler stove €400
3-4kW Pot Belly Stove €140
16kW boiler €650
16kW non boiler €530
Insert stove €279

90 Bend €30

Made in China

The Chinese Factory where the 013 6Kw stove and others are made:

Xuzhou Sunrain Foundry Co Ltd
CHINA.  PC:221000

Contact for StoveDeals:


Thursday, March 08, 2012

Sun Spots - Power Outages and Stoves


Hello there old sun - you look different today.! In fact he looks different every day -every hour.  He looks very red - but that is just the way NASA takes the photos that gives him a very ruddy complexion.

The Sun is Waking Up

Why am I writing about the sun? Well the Space Weathermen are telling us that the sun is waking up at the moment and when it does it can let off a few mighty farts. The next year or so we might have to deal with a lot of sun flares or CMEs.

Do you see the bright bit at the top right of the photo? That is called a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection). Think of it this way - it is the sun taking a fart.

Sun Farts hit the Earth Sometimes

Thing is,  when the sun farts, it ejects vast amounts of energy. The energy is in the form of Electro Magnetic energy - X-Rays etc. When that lot hits the Earth, among other things it produces the Aurora or Northern Lights, if the CME is really strong, it can also cause major damage to electrical power grids, and wipe out communications.

Coming to the Relevant Bit

If the sun has some really big CMEs we could easily see major wipe-outs of our electrical grids world wide. Sure they can be repaired - but in some cases it could take weeks or even months depending on the level of damage. If enough damage is done on a very wide scale, the spare parts, transformers etc. could run out, and leave places without power for many months.

Now, if you have a home with its cooking, heating system etc. dependent on electricity, you are in big trouble. Geo -thermal heating systems are off-line, oil-fired boilers are off-line, all and any complex heating or cooking system is off-line.

What will remain unaffected are the good old fashioned stoves and solid fuel cookers. if you have enough fuel to hand, you can go for months at a time.

It is just another very good reason to have a stove fitted and build up a good fuel supply.


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Stoves, Flue Pipes and Cleaning


Stove with longish horizontal Flue run
photo reproduced with permission

As a wee bit of a follow up on the last posting, in which is outlined a most resourceful approach, from times gone bye, to getting increased heat from a stove, I have another interesting account.

While looking for some photo examples of horizontal flue runs, I came across an interesting blog from "tallpines" in the US talking about country life and having lots of very nice photos of the area. The blog also talks about many practical issues of insulation, fuel economy and sustainable living, and that is where the stove story comes in.

What I found interesting, apart from seeing a stove installed with a long bit of horizontal flue running over an access way, was what "tallpines" had to say about cleaning and the next photo showing the build-up in the flue pipe.

The flue pipe over half filled with soot and deposit

I have never seen such a collection of soot and creosote - and I can only guess that the long horizontal run of flue may have some impact on how badly clogged it had become. Possibly because of the slowing down of the hot gasses, and the resultant cooling effect acting like a sort of distilling process.

Here is what "tallpines" says about it:

"The weather was nice today so I decided to clean the ash from my wood stove's pipe.  It has been a couple of months since the wood stove burning season started. The section of pipe that is closer to horizontal collects ash more than the other sections or the chimney.

Here is how much ash collects in the horizontal section of the pipe. The loose stuff shakes out. I have to use a wire brush to get it all out. This job is one that is done before a person takes a shower that day. "

My worry about a build-up like that is the danger of the soot and creosote catching fire. That stuff can burn like a rocket if it gets going, and could redden or burn right through a flue pipe with the consequent danger of fire.

Thank you "Tallpines" for letting me use your photos and material - do please clean your flue a bit more often!!


Sunday, March 04, 2012

Stoves, Chimneys, and Efficiency


A Nice Story
About an Old Chap's
Old Stove

I've had a nice informative letter from Noel Hogan telling me about his granddad's unusual stove. Here is the letter:

Hi Tony,

I've been looking at your blog for the past year or so and have to say I disagree with very little if anything that you've been saying on it.

I just noticed that you've been talking about stoves recently and it reminded me about something my Grandfather had in his old house.

His stove had the flue coming straight up off the stove but instead of going up a chimney, he had routed it up through the ceiling of his kitchen. Once it was upstairs the flue took a 90 degree turn and ran the length of the house through a few upstairs bedrooms before finally exiting. A bit mad, but it meant that the flue was a radiator to the upstairs rooms and kept them warm. Cheaper than back boilers and rads I guess. I was wondering if you had any idea what having an exposed flue like this would mean for the stoves efficiency?

Anyhow I never saw the stove in action (although I did see the stove and flue running the length of the house) so I've no idea how effective it was but maybe there's a project there for someone to research. Maybe with today's timber framed houses and building regulations such a thing would be unworkable, but you never know. The stove and flue were removed when the house was renovated after he passed away so unfortunately I couldn't send you a picture - but I thought you would have appreciated the story anyhow. A simple idea done well!

Noel Hogan.

Thank you Noel for your interesting letter. Your grandad was a bright and inventive chap, as you rightly say, short of a back boiler and rads, he was doing the next best thing to get the heat around the house. I am not sure about a long horizontal run of flue being able to maintain a draught, especially when starting a fire, but the basic idea is essentially possible. Perhaps the flue was on a gentle upward slope.

The danger, apart from the heat, was of a leak in the flue causing noxious gasses to enter the rooms. Again, you are quite right about regulations, the fire department, and insurance companies would have something to say for starters.


Saturday, March 03, 2012

Energy-Storage Membrane Super Capacitors and Mega Batteries


Potato Chip
or Mega Battery Component?

Four months ago I outlined yet another story of a major "discovery" in the energy storage field, that according to the reports could store 200,000 times more energy than a regular capacitor at 0.20 Farads per cm2.

The team, in this instance, was from the National University of Singapore's Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Initiative (NUSNNI), and the head man was Dr Xie Xian Ning.

If this item in the photo had been some amazing new potato chip, it would be in every supermarket world-wide by now. But because it is a battery to beat all batteries and save the world, and set the electric car on a new trajectory into the sunset, it has gone ALL QUIET. Not a blessed peep - just like all the other mega batteries and super-duper capacitors..

Gee - doesn't it all have a very familiar ring to it?? EEstor, Ecolocap etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. 

It sets me thinking - is there a business, and money to be made, in rumour manufacture? Could there be money in announcing some mega breakthrough in energy storage, something that is cheap and easy to produce and capable of holding 1000s of times more energy?  But sadly, in most, if not in all cases, years later not as much as a fart in the wind has materialised? 

I cannot see any other explanation for the recent flood of AMAZING discoveries that just never make it to the shops!! I really am losing interest in these energy stories that appear about three or four times a year


Friday, March 02, 2012

21st Kerry Environmental Conference


The Frustration of 
Sustainable Energy

I was very pleased to be invited to attend some of the 21st Kerry Environmental Conference in Tralee by Sean Quinlan who is the main organiser. I found Sean a very interesting man to talk with. He is a virtual encyclopedia on the geology and history of the region, and has researched, written, and produced a stunning series of 3 books on Kerry called "The Great Book of Kerry".

Wave Energy.

The Saturday morning session was very stimulating with three speakers. Brendan Barry manager of ESB Ocean Energy outlined some of the interesting ocean projects with which he is involved.

Pumped Storage. 

Padraig Howard representing a very much evolved "Spirit of Ireland" organisation, spoke with great passion and clarity on glacial valley pumped storage, Ireland's huge capacity for wind energy, and the need for storage to make it all viable. The shape of the "Spirit of Ireland" organisation seems to have changed quite a bit - but the central proposition of utilising glacial valleys as pumped storage reservoirs. which was initially put forward by Prof. Igor Shvets and Graham O'Donnell, seems still intact.

The Spiders Web of Planning Applications.

Gus McCarthy a planning consultant with experience in wind energy gave the final session. Gus's session gave me one major headache. Not because Gus was inadequate in his presentation, far from it, Gus knew his stuff really well, and gave a very competent presentation.

What gave me the headache were the countless regulations, rules, by-laws, stipulations, and endless red-tape associated with making an application to install any project. All but the very hardy would give up when faced with such a mountain of regulations.

I came across the following about the power of words and it had immediate resonance with the frustration of dealing with the army of bureaucrats and regulation the EU has thrust upon us.


Pythagoras' Theorem: ..............................24 words.
Lord's prayer: .................................... 66 words.
Archimedes' Principle: ............................67 words.
Ten Commandments: ................................179 words.
Gettysburg address: ..............................286 words.
US Declaration of Independence : ................1,300 words.
US Constitution with all 27 Amendments: .........7,818 words.
EU regulations on the sale of CABBAGES: ........26,911 words.

And remember that in the EU we the citizens pay for those tons of documents by the word!!