Renewable energy and the future

I’ve been monitoring renewable energies for a few years now – initially having my interest sparked by the blogs and other on-line communications of Robert Llewellyn. I subsequently invested in a 4kwh solar panel installation on my house last year and genuinelly belive that renewable energy is going to have a profound effect on the uk population, its finances and economic efficiency.

Solar Panels

When I first encountered the Internet back in 1993 i immediately saw the huge potential for it to shake our lives up (i included it in my channels to market dissertation at the time) and i believe renewable energy will have an equally profound effect in years to come.

I have read some amusing commentary about how we are never going to run out of fossil fuels – something I find quite incredible as it is a finite resource.  Of course, as the price goes up (except for the most recent aberration which is something to do with geo-politics I suspect and forcing the US to stop its high cost shale production) we are able to drill for increasingly hard to reach oil and so the supply carries on.

However, I firmly believe that alternative energies of solar, wind and geothermal should and will be harnessed in substantially greater volume.  The technologies of solar for example have exponentially improved over the years (driven by Germany some would say) and is now a viable low cost source of electricity for domestic users.  At the top end, solar farms and wind farms can produce volume of electricity for a large slice of daily generated electricity.  This is an interesting web site which shows how much wind electricity is contributing to the energy mix of the UK – http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/ interestingly, this doesn’t show solar either industrial or domestic supply.

What I believe will be the real game changer for the alternative market is the ability to store the electricity.  At a national level, the consistent flow of electricity is key to the national grid to be able to supply according to known peaks and troughs of the day, but obviously solar and wind is not a technology that can deliver this.  At the bottom end of the generation market, domestic supply is either used at point of source during the day (when most people are out at work) or sent to the local sub station and back out to local users.  This I believe is a problem in itself as the grid was designed to only supply power one way and not both ways and will eventually if local micro generation continues to grow will require the grid to become a two way smart grid, local generating and locally re-routing to consumers.

As the price of producing a kWh via solar power comes down as it is rapidly at the moment, it is inevitable that the majority of people who have a roof will end up with solar power to supply their domestic electricity requirements and make money by selling excess kWh back to the grid.  The low cost storage batteries that should be on the market (by low cost I think sub £1,000 for 25-30kWh – the Nissan Leaf has a storage capacity of 24kWh) within a couple of years will revolutionise the whole market.  I believe that this isn’t fantasy as there is a demand at all levels of the consumer and generation market :

  • Generation / utility – domestic, community and solar farms
  • Battery usage – mobile phones, electric cars and industrial on demand battery storage

The reduction of reliance on fossil fuels will not only revolutionise the generation market, but will also improve the economics of the country.  The UK currently has a huge trade deficit in oil / fuels and domestic generation of renewables will help improve the economy – so not only good for the green lobby but good for our basic economics.

Whenever someone starts me on this subject, I can go on for ages about it, but I genuinely believe that power generation will profoundly affect many of the ways we live today almost as much as the Internet has done in the last 20 years.

Mushrooms October 2013

Autumnal Mushrooms

Living next to the countryside we are lucky with our wildlife and tranquility.  Throughout the year we have many mushrooms appearing in the lawn before disappearing.  Here’s are few photos of the October variety:

Mushrooms October 2013 Mushrooms October 2013 Mushrooms October 2013

Almost end of Summer Term

Wow, its almost a full school year since I last blogged.  Jamie today went to his graduation to Key Stage 2 and Rebecca will be moving up into year 5 and coming up to her 9th birthday.  Time is elapsing at such a scary pace.

Had a good weekend with a bar-b-q and some friends round and Martin’s 40th over at Ley Hill – the vodka ice was hilarious.  ‘Unfortunately’ I couldn’t drink as I was on anti-biotics for my head after having a lump removed earlier in the day.

Friday night was also very good, went out with the team at Cater For You to celebrate last year’s record and the last quarter’s record sales.  It is a great team of people there, I hardly ever pop in there any more and leave them to it, concentrating on my web site design business instead.

Walk in the Woods – Buzzard

Half term this week, and I was lucky enough to have today off to be with Rebecca and Jamie.  Whilst lying in bed, I was wondering what to do with them today, however, when I finally hauled myself out and downstairs, R & J had already decided – “Can we go on a wildlife walk Daddy”.  Blimey.

So we trundled off down Chesham Lane and to one of the footpaths that go towards Rowands Nursery.  As soon as we came off the main road (which was pleasant but I was surprised how much litter there is at the side of the road) and into a field, Rebecca spotted flocks of Pigeons flying off and thinking it was us Rebecca then pointed out a much larger pigeon – or on closer inspection, a Common Buzzard – what a majestic bird.  Fortunately it came to rest and I was able to take a photo of it with my camera on full zoom and sat still for a few minutes for us to appreciate it.

Common Buzzard

Common Buzzard

Off to watch the hockey

Off with the usual suspects to watch some semi final hockey at the olympics today … Sadly not the GB team. I’ve arrived at chalfont and latimer station rather early so thought i’d write another blog on my phone…

Yesterday was another great day with r and j, we spent most of the day doing some gardening tidying up and planting lots of grass seed. They then went for a swimming lesson at amersham then the family hockey at newlands.

Jamie is really taking to hockey still he surprised me last night by doing a double spin with the ball last night – i cant even get that low to do it. I’m still feeling my hamstring too its gone about four of the last three seasons … Despite lots of physio visits. Also played with a few of the other youngsters who are moving through the club and they look very competent indeed.

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Denham Country Park

Checked the weather forecast today and it said fine until 2pm this afternoon, so decided to explore Denham Country Park.  I’d never been there before and knew very little about it except for what is available on the web site.  It is a sister park to Black Park which we went to last week for a rather nice afternoon out (though it was packed).

First of all was finding it – Google thinks it is on the A412 (which it isn’t at all) but it is on the mini roundabout just before you get on the A40 to London and the turn off for the Buckinghamshire Golf Club.

Tree Climbing

Tree Climbing

An empty car park awaited at 10am (though still cost £2.50 – thanks Bucks CC) and we went out and explored.  After a brief distraction with some excellent climbing trees, we went across a field / meadow which R & J renamed as slug field and was very boggy and marshy.  We soon ended up at the Grand Union Canal which we wandered along for a short while again, past Denham Deep Lock and then over a bridge to a couple of beautiful lakes with superb scenery…. the perfect location to test out my marginally upgraded camera (out with the Tamron lens in with the Canon).

The Swans and Cygnets

The Swans and Cygnets

I remembered to take some bread along and at the River Colne we fed a Moor Hen and  Coot and then at the lake we fed some swans / cygnets.  The most popular part of the day though was playing pooh sticks – great fun.

Pooh Sticks Denham

Pooh Sticks – Good job their heads didn’t get stuck

I also discovered that there is a quick way from our house to the Canal down Denham Lane, a quick right then left into Denham Village Road you can quickly tie up with a bridlepath and cycle down to the Canal safely.  So I’m now looking at my next little excursion on the bike as down to there then see how far into London you can get on the canal tow path.

Heron and Cormorant

Heron and Cormorant

The Heron the other side of the lake

The Heron the other side of the lake

Red Kites in the Garden

Whilst working from home last week, I suddenly noticed that there were three Red Kites swooping in and out of the garden and the woods.  They were only a few metres away and just glorious to watch.  I quickly swapped lenses on the camera and popped outside for a better view and a couple of photos.  Below are a small selection of the photos I took:

Red Kite 4

Red Kite 6

Red Kite 1

Red Kite 5

Red Kite 2

Red Kite 3

The Good Life!

It’s been a pretty good week topped off by some sunshine today and doing a spot of gardening. My small veg patch is well behind due to the wet weather / lack of sunshine and for the first time in 15 years no greenhouse to set things off.

As I sit here in front of the patch blogging by phone i can tell / bore you with the contents :

  • leeks
  • sweetcorn
  • lettuce
  • broad beans
  • runner beans
  • caugettes
  • sunflowers
  • potatoes (self sown)

A very pleasant evening last night with the family around, though slightly tempered by the fact i was knackered with a heavy cold.

Looking forward to the next week, including a golf day on friday in wycombe – first one i’ve helped to organise. Hopefully feel ok in the next day or two too.

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Clicks and Mortar the future?

I undertook a presentation giving my thoughts to a customer’s board of Directors the other day.  It was a thought provoking process and allowed me to bring various thoughts together on business in particular business on the Internet.

The existing big businesses have been very slow to capitalise on the Internet, allowing the rise of new Internet giants such as ASOS, ebuyer et al, all taking the place of existing retail giants such as PC World and High Street Fashion retailers.

Internet businesses / sites have been able to take advantage of the fact that they are able to rent much lower cost warehouses (rent and business rates), have less shoplifting (though on-line fraud is a headache) and lower overheads delivering the goods to customers.  On the flip side there is the distance selling regulations to take heed of though fortunately these are not currently abused by consumers.

The thing about the Internet is, that it is primarily about price whilst also ensuring good service (handling of communications and delivery to the customer – though delivery you are in the hands of the third party couriers).

Ebay is also another interesting channel as it allows very small sole traders to specialise in one specific product and sell relatively cost effectively.  This is particularly interesting as it is sole traders who cannot buy particularly competitively but have no overheads compared with the established ebusinesses and retail outlets who have much higher overheads but can purchase more competitively.  The trick for a profitable Internet business is to sit in between these and have low overheads with purchasing power.

A new phenomena that could turn the whole thing full circle is the increasing reluctance of manufacturers / importers to supply pure e-commerce businesses.   I first noticed it at the Spring Fair trade show, where as soon as the reps spotted you were an e-commerce business you could see them walking away from you – they are increasingly only interested in dealing with businesses that have a retail presence.  I have also increasingly heard of some manufacturers not supplying product if there isn’t a display and pure e-businesses being charged a lot more unless they have a showroom / display etc.

I’ve previously posted on Google and its results are becoming increasingly erratic and I’m wondering whether everything is indeed going to go full circle – it wouldn’t surprise me at all.  A high profile example is Screwfix which I believe was a pure mail order / internet business, but has now opened a whole chain of outlets to compliment its direct channels.

This area particularly interests me, not least as my original degree dissertation was distribution / channels to market which I wrote in 1994 and quoting the Internet as a game changer back then.

Curry, Partying and Cycle Rides

Another packed weekend but all very enjoyable again.  The weekend kicked off with a curry in Malik’s in Gerrards Cross with some good friends, one of whom (Al Spicer) challenged me to enter the Chalfont St Giles 10k and try and win the 40+ age category – unlikely in the cold light of day (sans Cobra) as I should think I would struggle to get under 1 hour.  Not been for a run for a while (as achilles hurting again) but my pace was about 9 mins / mile.  The curry was pretty good, though very slow service as they were so busy so ended up drinking too much (whoops).

Rebecca's Birthday Pony Party

Rebecca’s Birthday Pony Party

Saturday was the day of Rebecca’s birthday party and she had chosen a pony party at the stables behind the house (which made things very simple).  The two ladies who came and organised it all with helpers and horses were absolutely brilliant and all the children had a great time (I think!).  Sarah then did a very good party tea for afters.  The next thing is odd, Rebecca had what is called a sleep over – yet, from what I could tell, there was very little sleeping involved!  Rebecca had a serious ‘hangover’ next day and fell asleep on Mum’s lap in the pub.

On the Sunday, I had arranged with John to go and see Martin over in Ley Hill on bike.  I also wished to check out how safe it would be to cycle along the tow paths as I think it would be great for the family (with the attached bikes) to cycle along there.  On the way there we got pretty muddy but did 20 miles in just over 2 hours which isn’t too bad as we were catching the scenery whilst going along too – it was so quiet and plenty of wildlife to admire.  One beautiful flower endowed long boat had a Heron sitting very patiently on top of it as we cycled past.

Cycling the Grand Union canal at Denham

Cycling the Grand Union canal at Denham – superb scenery

As we were a bit late, we had lunch in The Crown and the family joined us too which was good.  On the way back we went a more direct route, but I wanted to see what Shire Lane was like for cycling.  I knew it started at the top of Chorleywood as I’d walked it with Cashman, and it ended at the back of Newlands but not the in between bit.  I assumed it was a quick path between the two villages (the original route from centuries ago).  Not a bit of it.  It went sharply downhill and then sharply up hill – and because of all the mud was pretty much a quagmire – not ideal for cycling shall we say!  Great fun though and John and I were in fits of laughter through it…  The maps can be seen here and here of our routes.