Archive for May, 2010

Argument for offshore windfarms – UK

Offshore Windfarm

Just read compelling article by George Monbiot in the Guardian advocating the use of the UK’s offshore wind resources. Apparently the UK could become a net exporter of electricity by 2050 based on the potential for offshore wind generation and their expected energy consumption. Generation from offshore wind turbines has many benefits over onshore generation and avoids many of the pitfalls that stimy planned projects, most notably the NIMBY effect.

The points made in favour are:

  1. Taking into account constraints on offshore renewables such as water depths, shipping lanes and other obstacles there is practical potential for 2,130 terawatt hours per year – 6 times the UK’s current electricity demand.
  2. Utilising only 29% of this potential resource the UK could become a net electricity exporter.
  3. Utilising 76% of this potential resource the UK could become a net energy exporter (i.e. net of all electricity, oil and gas consumption).
  4. 145,000 people would be employed.
  5. Annual revenue of £62bn.
  6. The UK’s looming energy gap could be closed without resorting to any further use of fossil fuels.
  7. The public hostility to onshore windfarms would be avoided as the best offshore wind resource is far offshore where the turbines can’t be seen.
  8. Potential to create marine reserves around the turbines.
  9. Basically zero potential for habitat destruction unlike tidal barrages.

The major constraint at present is the capacity of the national grid to accommodate variable renewables. For the above benefits to apply the grid needs 34 gigawatts of backup capacity, energy storage, and interconnections with the continent via the proposed renewables supergrid. Given that this supergrid already has a measure of political approval and some very strong backers from the likes of Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark it is reasonably safe to assume that it will happen, so the UK should push ahead and become the leaders in offshore wind. This combined with the a renewables supergrid acting as a giant battery for Europe’s clean energy would make Eneropa a reality.

The construction effort required to make the UK a net energy exporter would be roughly equivalent to building the North Sea oil and gas infrastructure all over again, an enormous undertaking and no doubt a point that the sceptics will seize upon. But the fact is, if something so large was built before then it is completely plausible that it could be built again, only this time it would be clean, efficient, and future-proof. All that is needed is the political will to push it through and maybe even that is possible now with a fresh, inspired new government…

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2010/may/20/offshore-renewables-pirc-report

Additional source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/may/19/offshore-green-energy-uk

Zero emission houses available in Australia

One thing that Australia has in common with the USA is suburbia. The suburbs around Melbourne in particular stretch in all directions further than the eye can see. The city covers a staggering 8,806 square kilometres and most of the recent expansion has been on the fringes in the form of “estates” with names like Caroline Springs or Brookland Greens. These estates are generally filled with McMansions and surround manicured lakes and grounds and are billed as “the perfect family lifestyle”. All very nice, if you like that kind of thing…

However, all is not as idyllic as it seems. The environmental costs of these estates are huge partly due to the lack of public transport links and the sheer distance that people are forced to commute every day. But the main culprit is the amount of energy that these McMansions consume. Due to their large size (usually larger than 300 square metres), cheap, poorly insulated construction, and large arrays of electronic gadgetry, they consume electricity and gas like there’s no tomorrow (which there won’t be if this continues…).

However, I was happy to read today about a company taking the first step to changing this situation. Henley Properties Group in association with CSIRO, Delfin and Sustainability Victoria has built a zero emissions show home on the new Laurimar Estate outside Melbourne. Most homes in these estates are picked from a catalogue which is what creates the homogeneous look and the McMansion title but soon customers will be able to tick the ‘zero emissions’ option. This show home will be on display until September 2010 after which a family will live in it and their energy usage will be compared with other houses on the estate. Assuming it is successful (and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be), these features should then be made available as an option on all their standard house designs. Of course, if you are building a bespoke house there is nothing to stop you incorporating all these features yourself and many people do.

The show home has been designed to produce enough renewable power onsite to supply all it’s energy needs over the course of a year. It achieves this in a couple of ways, firstly by reducing the amount of energy used (70% less than a comparable standard home), and secondly by actively generating electricity. It also monitors energy use in real time which helps the occupants to manage and reduce the amount of energy they consume. The house reduces energy consumption through superior insulation, correct orientation to the sun, advanced sealing systems and energy efficient lighting and appliances. It has solar panels to generate electricity and a solar water-heating system and collects both rainwater and grey water for reuse. With all these factors combined it achieves an 8 star energy rating compared to the required 5 star rating for new houses in Australia.

The most innovative part of the whole equation is the energy management system, controlled via a touchscreen in the house or via the internet or smart phone. These systems can be retrofitted to most houses and are so effective because they make it clear exactly when the most electricity is being used and by what appliance giving the occupants much more information and incentive to change their behaviour. The system can also automatically switch appliances off at certain times of the day such as tv’s on stand-by when everyone is at work or school. It also (importantly for Australia) monitors and manages water use.

And, surprisingly, the price premium for all this energy efficiency isn’t as much as I expected. Around AU$20k on top of the standard price of AU$254k for the energy efficiency features and another AU$20k to add the solar panels. Sure, AU$40k isn’t a small amount of money but it still represents less than 14% of the total price of the house. And who wouldn’t want to be able to turn on the heating or lower their blinds from their iPhone? It’s the way of the future!

Source Article: http://news.domain.com.au/domain/design-and-living/clean-living-now-an-option-20100515-v50l.html

Classic Mercedes… be still my heart…

1957 300SL Roadster

Repost from Jalopnik. God I love classic Mercedes. Just the right amount of bling and gorgeous paint colours.

See article here: http://jalopnik.com/5541095/

Citroën DS – the saga – moving on

Since I’ve been told via the Citroën forum and various other channels that the amount quoted to repair my driveshaft/axle was outrageous I’ve decided to reject it and pick up my car. I’ve requested that André simply get the engine started so that the car can be raised and I will collect it with a trailer. Given that he charged my 520€ for collecting it there is no way I’m making that mistake again!

So the question is now whether I should continue with another repairer or just put it up for sale and cut my losses. The masochist in me wants to continue but I’ve been burnt so many times…

Citroën DS – the saga – costs and more costs

Just got back from Zeeland where I went to check on the DS and find out how much it’s all going to cost to repair. As I expected, a lot. I’d braced myself to accept 5k€ but it seems it is likely it will be closer to 10k€. The broken axle alone is going to cost nearly 4k€ to repair because of the amount of time required. The most annoying thing is that this could have been prevented if whoever previously did repairs on that had bothered to put all the bolts back in but they didn’t and now I have remaining bolts sheared off which need to be drilled out. All the parts are relatively cheap but it’s the 32 hours labour that kills it.

So anyway, I’ve spent about 10k€ so far on buying the car and various aborted attempts to repair it. Now I’m going to have to spend 4k€ to fix the axle and once that is done and the car is running, André will be able to give a more accurate assessment of what else needs doing. I’m seriously considering cutting my losses because I’m scared that even after the axle is fixed he is then going to find multiple other problems and it’s going to cost even more. My current assessment of 10k€ to fix it would mean I have spent 20k€ on it. It is definitely not worth that much. And I’m not sure I want to keep it after all the trouble it has caused. I’m never going to enjoy driving it as I will always be waiting for it to break down.

So should I sell it as is and cut my losses? In it’s current state I might be able to get 4-5k€ for it I guess… Need to decide asap.

Citroën DS – the saga – VIN & transportation

Today is a holiday in Belgium so I am at home browsing through my Citroën bible, “Original Citroën DS – The Restorer’s Guide to all DS & ID models 1955-75 including saloons, estates and convertibles”. Exciting I know. But trust me, this is the ultimate DS book and it is very hard to find now as it is out of print. I managed to find a copy on eBay in Australia of all places.

It has a handy data section at the back of the book where it lists chassis sequence numbers, paint colours, trim colours, production figures, dimensions and weights by year for each country of production. Based on the chassis number that I have on the sales documentation I have been able to confirm that Brigitte was indeed built in France in 1965 and that her body, roof, and interior colours are all legitimate for that production year. Even better, her unusual hubcaps are correct for a Pallas version from 1965, the first year a Pallas model was produced and the only year those hubcaps were used. So I am feeling more and more confident that it is genuine and original at least.

You’ll remember from the backstory edition that my car was rejected from the DMV when I tried to register it. The reason was that they couldn’t find the VIN or chassis number which they said had to be stamped on the chassis. I’ve just read in my bible that, and I quote, “The numéro de série, or chassis number, is found in the engine bay, riveted to the top left of the bulkhead.”

chassis number

They even provide a picture. I have one of these attached to my car! And I pointed it out to the guys at the DMV but they insisted it had to be stamped on the chassis. Yes well maybe it does today but a French car built 45 years ago could well have been subject to different rules! Idiots. I was very stressed out about that imagining that the VIN had been filed off and I’d bought a stolen car… I’ll take my bible with me next time I go to register it. So I can beat them with it.

So I was feeling good after reading that. Then I got an email from André with the bill for the transportation. 520€! Not feeling so good now. Safe to say if I’d known it was going to be that much I would have taken it myself, however much trouble it was going to be. Note to self, ask how much everything is in future. I guess now I’m committed (or should be…).

Anyway, we have a date tomorrow at 14:00 to go over his plan of what needs doing to rectify everything. Feeling a bit scared. Will report back.

VW Golf R

My parents in New Zealand were driving a manual 2007 Subaru Legacy 3.0R B-Spec which they bought new about 4 years ago. It was a really nice car to drive and they enjoyed it a lot, as did I whenever I visited New Zealand. However, it had had a few problems (all fixed under warranty) including failed shock absorbers and dashboard gremlins and the front suspension would clunk a lot at low speed which indicated suspension bush problems to me. That combined with the fact that it is now out of warranty prompted me to tell my parents it might be a good idea to replace it.

So then we had to think about what to replace it with. Given that they had really enjoyed the Legacy despite its issues, you’d expect the new model to be on the shopping list. Ah… no. I’m sure it still drives wonderfully but no-one will ever know because they will have gone blind when they set eyes on it. It is a truly ugly car and the proportions are all wrong. Moving on.

I have a BMW and I love BMW’s so naturally I recommended a BMW. Parents thought that would be good too and the 325d sedan seemed to suit best. We test drove a demonstrator and it drove beautifully and was very well equipped. A new one was over the budget but happily there was a very low mileage example that had been traded in up in Hamilton which seemed perfect. But first they needed to sell the Subaru.

Mum put it online for sale on New Zealand’s equivalent of eBay, TradeMe, where it sat for a couple of weeks without any enquiries. They were in no particular rush so it wasn’t a problem but then, the day before they went away for 3 weeks holiday, someone came to view it and bought it on the spot. Because they were going away the next day there was no time to do anything about the BMW but they assumed that it would still be there on their return. It wasn’t. And because NZ is a very small market for BMW there wasn’t a single other low mileage 325d for sale in the whole country. Oops. Dad may have been slightly annoyed that his car was sold with no replacement forthcoming…

Plan B. I started scouring the internet looking for something else to tempt them. Audi A4’s seemed like a possibility although you need to get the expensive 3.0 litre diesel to get a proper automatic, otherwise it has a CVT which isn’t very sporty. VW Passat CC was mentioned and dismissed by them on basis that it is ugly. Mercedes C-class? No. Lexus? Maybe. Golf? Perhaps. Mum thought a Golf GTi would be fun but Dad wasn’t so sure that he wanted a hatchback. I was more ambitious and upsold them to the brand new Golf R thinking that if I could just get them to drive it, that would be it. And, apparently, it was.

So they have now bought a black 5 door VW Golf R with the DSG gearbox, DCC suspension option and pretty much everything else you’d ever need. Luckily in NZ this model comes with just about everything standard so there are very few options. And they were lucky to find one already in the country with the options they wanted so it should be delivered on Friday. Naturally I am very jealous and want to try it out. Is it too extravagant to fly all the way from Belgium just to go for a drive?

New toy

I still can’t quite believe they bought a 270hp 4wd monster Golf. But who am I to complain?