Like to cycle to work?

May 13, 2010

But you need to wear a suit?

Check out this backpack suit carrier which means you arrive with an uncrumpled suit ready to wear.

Oh and an electric bike will mean you don’t sweat getting there….. well, that’s what our e-bike trial participants claimed….


Whipcar – rent out your own car

May 12, 2010

A novel UK wide car rental scheme was launched in April called “Whipcar” – if you don’t use your car a lot of the time, you can join the scheme and rent it out with someone looking after the administrative and insurance details for you.

According to an article in The Guardian ….”To take part, a car owner registers his or her details and decides how much to charge for an hour or a day. Cars must be no more than eight years old, have a valid MOT and road tax, existing insurance, and be clean and in good condition. WhipCar carries out checks to make sure the car is roadworthy and has not been stolen. It is then advertised on the site.

Rental charges are paid into the owner’s bank account each month after WhipCar has deducted a 15% commission.

Cars may not be rented by anyone under the age of 21 or over 70, or anyone with more than six penalty points on their licence, a drink-driving conviction within the last five years, or any convictions relating to driving without insurance. They must also have had no more than two accidents in the past three years.”

Browsing the Whipcar website suggests that they have succeeded in getting quite a few car owners to register across different parts of the UK  (although currently the nearest car to here is in Gloucester). It looks like users and usage is still very low but one would expect it to take time to grow.

I know some community car clubs use cars which belong to one or other member but I guess Whipcar is a different, commercially based and less-community centric model. But it could work even here in a rural area once people got to know about it.

Can you do the sums?

May 6, 2010

On election day, have a go at the Prime Ministers job with this very developed emissions calculator published in The Guardian. Your job is to cut the UK’s emissions by 80% – not easy is it….

Car project progress in April

May 5, 2010

It is now the end of our 3rd month of the car project (April) and the two cars (Bluebell and Mr Chips) have travelled a total of 6455 miles (38% of our target mileage) and saved 2.5 metric tonnes of fossil CO2 (58% of our carbon target for the year). That is roughly equivalent to switching off  all electricity in an average Powys household for a year. We are beginning to think we should have set ourselves a more ambitious target!

The big step forward in April was the long-awaited filling of our own private biodiesel tank with 500L of recycled vegetable oil. All project members can now fill Mr Chips whenever he needs it. It’s as good as having our own private filling station but without the chance to purchase newspapers and the odd pint of milk or mars bar. Maybe that will come!

Bluebell continues to pootle happily in and out of Brecon with the odd interlude as a taxi carrying visitors up to the Talybont turbine.  She currently has some spare capacity although one has to take into account the time she needs to re-charge at the end of a trip.

Mr Chips has broader horizons and continues to roam the length and breadth of the UK – Devon and Cornwall one week and Lancashire the next.  We’ve changed his fuel filter for a 2nd time and he should now have got all the ordinary diesel sludge out of his system. According to his dashboard guage, he achieved 73 MPG on a 400 mile round trip last week which is as efficient as the same model of car running on ordinary fuel.

For more details about the project, click here.

Presteigne Electric Bike Festival

May 4, 2010

The annual “Tour de Presteigne” Electric Bike Festival takes place this weekend (8/9th May). Talybont Energy is giving an invited talk at 3pm on Saturday about the community electric bike trial which we ran last year. Llanidloes community is talking at 2pm about “how to set up a community car share scheme” which might be interesting too.

The Presteigne festival is great fun and a chance to sample every kind of bike (electric, recumbent, funky) you can imagine. Full details of the 2 day event here.

Talybont Energy AGM 2010

April 29, 2010

The AGM Will be held on Thursday the 20th of May, 8pm in Henderson Hall. Everyone is welcome.

** The speaker on the night talking about PV and Solar panels and the new Feed in Tariffs **

Households can earn £900 a year by installing solar panels on their roofs as part of a new Government scheme to pay people to generate their own electricity. Under the deal, which started in April, households will be paid for electricity fed into the grid from renewable technologies.

Andy Bull, Head of The Severn Wye Energy Agency Cymru, will be providing the presentation and covering the basics of solar thermal – roughly how it works and the key constraints, the different options available (flat-plate and tubes), planning issues, costs and renewable heat incentive. For PV he will look at the different types of system, sizing, constraints, planning issues and the feed-in-tariff.

Come and learn more at the Talybont Energy AGM.

Electric bikes to Cwmdu Energy Group

April 20, 2010

One of our fellow Green Valleys communities, Cwmdu, has borrowed our two Talybont Energy Electric Bikes for the season to see if they can find a way to operate an effective community bike share scheme.

As we are discovering with our own community car project, the trick is how to organise these schemes in a way which requires no central control and involves minimal manpower. It’s not easy.

We will watch their trial with interest!

Biodiesel tank is up and running

April 14, 2010

Yesterday, Sundance Renewables came and filled our Talybont Energy biodiesel tank with recycled vegetable oil.

No longer do a couple of “Grease Monkeys” have to fill Mr Chips (our biodiesel community car) using 25L canisters of oil and funnels – we now have a proper tank – just like a normal filling station but without being able to purchase milk, newspapers and mars bars at the same time. The good news is that there will never be a queue – well not until we purchase more community cars if the scheme is successful!

Car project progress in March

April 7, 2010

It’s the end of our 2nd month of the Talybont car project and the two cars have travelled a total of 3871 miles (23% of our target mileage) and saved 1.395 metric tonnes of fossil CO2 (30% of our carbon target for the year). That is roughly equivalent to switching off  all electricity in an average household for 7 months. So, things are going well.

Electric “Bluebell” continues to make everyone (drivers, passengers and onlookers) smile as she bumbles busily (but silently) along the back lanes in and out of Brecon and Crickhowell. For the lucky project members who live in the village, the online booking system enables them to book Bluebell on the spur of the moment as well as for planned trips. This ad hoc use removes some fears about a community car share scheme.  We are also  using Bluebell to transport visitors on trips to see the Talybont Turbine. This is about a 2 mile trip uphill but Bluebell relishes the challenge even with 4 aboard.

Mr Chips (Biodiesel) continues to swan around the UK – mainly on day long or overnight work trips although he’s booked out for several long weekends in April and May for short holidays or visiting distant relatives. Our biodiesel supplier has, unfortunately, still not been able to provide a bulk delivery to fill our 1400L tank so we are continuing to fill Mr Chips from 25L canisters which is a messy process. We hope this situation will change later this month.

Our shared Google Docs spreadsheet (for recording log book hours and mileages and calculating monthly invoice totals for project members) is working fine. If the log books in the cars didn’t have to be paper-based, we’d be totally streamlined.

Tanzanian Environmental Journalists Visit Talybont Turbine

April 1, 2010

Deodatus and Finnigan visiting the Talybont Energy Turbine

Talybont Energy was contacted by The Thomson Foundation , which is involved in training environmental journalists internationally. Under a UNESCO Wales funded project, they hosted a small group of Tanzanian environmental journalists who visited Welsh projects. They  came to visit the Talybont Turbine and to learn more about Talybont Energy’s work earlier this week.

The journalists,  Deodatus and Finnigan, used the trip as a fact finding and training opportunity, and are planning to write stories of interest in their respective newspapers in Dar es Salaam.

The  visit was interesting, for us as well as them,  in learning about the current situation in Tanzania and the direct effects of drought and floods on their lives, all due to climate change. Countries like Tanzania are in line to pay the highest price for Global warming whilst our country is a major contributer . This makes for interesting dialogue which we only began to touch on in such a short visit with Deodatus and Finnigan. It would have been good to have explored this issue further.

Deo and Finnigan were keen to see examples of community funded and run projects. In Tanzania, they are currently struggling to escape from state controlled projects, which involve many middlemen and companies. It was embarrassing to have to admit that most UK projects (like ours for example) were not funded by the community but by the government grants although the community now run it and have an income stream to fund further efforts.

The UK projects were all effective, albeit on a small scale, whereas most Tanzanian projects appeared anecdotally to be relatively unsuccessful at producing the ‘end product’.

Based on these observations it made me wonder how Deo and Finnigan felt about the various projects they visited here. It strikes me that, with none of the difficulties that the Tanzanian’s face, we (the UK, but also very much myself included in this) should be doing so very much more. No-matter how well meaning our intentions, what we do is not nearly enough as what we can and should do. The Tanzanians, along with so many other countries and peoples  feel the direct effects of our historic and current way of life.

I wish Deo and Finnigan well and hope that their visit of the UK gave them something that they can use in the future. We would welcome further dialogue with visitors like them. It certainly challenges any sense of smugness we might have of our own limited achievements.

The Tanzanian Journalist Visit to Talybont Energy