DATELINE 1 APRIL, 2023: At our last transport energy course the closing discussion took an interesting turn when a delegate raised the question of energy conservation in fishing fleets. After the course I dived in and did a bit of research on the net. I was soon hooked. One company, Dover Solar, proposes electric trawlers towing PV arrays. Another outfit, Energy Fish-in-Sea, has floated the idea of towing sonic emitters to drive the fish forwards. They have yet to demonstrate it at scale and I wonder whether there would be a catch; it could flounder. Could the UK make its fishing fleet net zero? I’ll leave you to mullet over.
Category Archives: April fools
Hybrid alternating-direct electricity supplies
DATELINE 1 APRIL, 2022: Thanks to reader John S., who alerted me to a company which has been trying to raise finance to develop an alternating-current (AC) rechargeable battery technology based on its concept of a ‘biode’, a battery electrode that switches continually between being an anode and cathode. While an AC battery is an intriguing concept in its own right, it is the application to mains supplies that interests me more.
Because the electrons in an AC supply continually flow into and out of the load, rather than continuously in the same direction as with DC, the cumulative net current flow over a given time interval is actually zero. The only reason that energy is consumed is that the voltage also alternates: power is voltage times current, and negative voltages multiplied by negative currents give positive power. But what if one adapted the biode principle for mains power? If you were to blend DC voltage with alternating current you would get alternating power, with the customer feeding back as much energy to the grid as they absorbed, 50 times a second (when negative current is multiplied by positive voltage).
At the power station this blended alternating/direct (BAD) supply could cause problems because obviously the returning energy is never going to recombine CO2 from the atmosphere into fuel (that’s entropy for you). Admittedly a wind turbine for example might be more reversible, and here the returning power could perhaps be absorbed with the blades working half the time as a fan. However, there is another possibility. If we think about existing three-phase AC distribution networks they already work with a net current flow of zero, which is why a star-connected load does not need a neutral wire. That gives us the germ of an idea. If BAD distribution systems were two-phase rather than three-phase, half the loads could be on one phase and half on the other, and they would take turns to feed each other. Alternatively, by dropping the AC frequency to 0.00001157 Hz (one cycle per day) and adopting seven-phase distribution, you could spread the load between customers over the course of a week.
These ideas are going to need massive investment, and eliminating power stations would occasion huge disinvestment, but this dichotomy is entirely in line with the “net zero power” philosophy I have described. Alongside the technical breakthrough we can expect major innovations in financing, also based loosely on the biode principle: novel bank deposits that fluctuate between credit and debit but average at nil (so-called alternating current accounts). I shared these thoughts with Extinction Rebellion (motto: “stick the man to it”) and they confirmed it makes net zero sense.
Make appliances rate again
DATELINE 1 APRIL, 2021: The Government is keen to nudge people to choose more energy-efficient household appliances and for many years has helped consumers by getting manufacturers to put energy labels on products, typically rating them A to G to signify that they are more or less energy efficient (a concept too complex for most people to grasp). And for people who find the concept of A, B, C etc too complex to grasp they add coloured arrows of different lengths. The shorter the arrow, the higher the efficiency.
The march of progress has caused problems because many products are now more energy efficient than the bureaucrats foresaw. They are crowded into the ‘A’ rating band, and unfortunately there are no letters before A in the alphabet so ‘A’ is now sometimes subdivided into A+, A++ and A+++. However, most people find this concept too difficult to grasp, so the efficiency scales for affected appliances will be regraded A to G so that for example what was A++ will now become B, A will become D, and so on (they will take F off).
Meanwhile a rival scheme for washer-dryers caught my attention. This gives a three-letter rating signifying the efficiencies of washing, spinning, and tumble-drying parts of the cycle. Thus a machine that is in the most efficient category in every respect gets an ‘AAA’ rating. With a bit of forethought they could have started later in the alphabet to allow room for future improvement. They could even have helped people by using the sequences W to Z for Washing, S to V for Spinning, and D to G for Drying. Then a machine currently labelled ‘ABC’ would become ‘WTF’.
DATELINE 1 APRIL, 2020: Some readers will remember the so-called ‘signature meter’ that was marketed ten or so years ago. This was a kWh meter which could reportedly discriminate between over 83 different connected electrical appliances being turned on and off. It did not take off at the time but thanks to the current transition from big data to immense data (ID) the concept has returned in the guise of ‘software-defined electricity’.
With software-defined electricity your power supply waveform would be sampled more than 37 times a microsecond, processed in the cloud and dynamically corrected to remove spikes, holes and resonant ramps so that connected equipment uses less energy, runs cooler, and enjoys extended life. Phase-shifting arrays (similar to those used in multi-antenna 5G beam-forming transmitters) will allow a parallel-wired power conditioner to target individual loads on a customer’s premises so that they operate as an internet-of-things (IoT), each at its own unique current and frequency, thereby running cooler and enjoying extended life.
With people increasingly working from home, it even allows their additional energy expenditure to be monitored and charged back to their employer. In effect, every connected device will act as its own microgrid with blockchain technology embedded in the optimisation algorithm to give near-real-time trading and market reconciliation up to the seventh harmonic, using less energy, running cooler and enjoying extended life. Exciting stuff and all thanks to the Immense-Data Internet of Things (IDIoT).
Energy after Brexit
DATELINE 1 APRIL, 2019: Thinking about the laws that are likely to change post-EU, the most significant from an energy standpoint are the laws of science, meaning it is likely that:
- fuels will become susceptible to magnetism, enabling even more complete combustion than can be obtained through proper maintenance;
- the internal metallic layers in multi-foil insulation will be able to reflect heat back through the adjoining insulant and out through the surface foil;
- heating-water additives will enable radiators to heat up quicker but release heat more slowly;
- boiler anti-cycling devices that cut fuel consumption during periods of low load will do the same under medium and high load conditions which account for the majority of annual fuel consumption;
- insulating paints will be as effective as conventional insulation materials that are 4,000 times thicker;
- temperature sensors in freezers will respond more accurately and rapidly when encased in a cube of gel;
- putting solar panels in refrigeration circuits will enable even more heat to be pumped out with the same electrical input;
- ‘kinetic’ pavements will generate enough energy to power a display showing how many steps passing people have taken; and
- voltage-reduction devices will enable electrical equipment to perform the same work with lower energy input, and will themselves no longer incur standing power losses.
These insights are provided courtesy of Laboratoires Farage.
Universal energy-saving product
DATELINE 1 APRIL 2018: we bring you news of the first ever universal energy-saving product. It is a multi-award-winning patented gel, discovered by an ex-NASA scientist, which boasts a unique combination of nano-magnetic and photo-piezo-electric properties.
Used as an additive in heating-system water it has a triple action. Firstly by reducing surface tension, it improves thermal contact between the water and internal heat transfer surfaces. As a result radiators heat up faster and cool down more slowly, saving energy. Secondly it removes air (improving thermal contact between the water and internal heat transfer surfaces). Removing air means less corrosion and scaling, while its nano-magnetic properties repel any residual magnetite. As a result radiators heat up faster and cool down more slowly, saving energy. Finally it fills in the gaps between water molecules, improving thermal contact between the water and internal heat transfer surfaces. As a result radiators heat up faster and cool down more slowly, saving energy.
The product can also be applied to radiators externally as a paint which promotes heat transfer through far infra-red radiation. As a result rooms heat up faster and cool down more slowly, saving energy.
Another way to use it is as a wall paint. Used externally, its embedded nano-scale vacuum bubbles allow it to act as a superinsulator: just 0.25mm thickness is the equivalent of 7cm thick conventional cavity fill or exterior wall insulation. As an internal paint applied to the wall behind a heating radiator it reflects wasted heat back into the room, which then heats up faster and cools down more slowly, saving energy. The gel changes to a solid at exactly your preferred room temperature, absorbing or releasing latent heat. As a result of this ‘phase change’ action, when applied as an undercoat for interior wall paint or as a wallpaper adhesive, the room will heat up faster and cool down more slowly while maintaining a steady temperature, saving energy.
It can even be used for painting windows, where its photo-electric properties allow it to generate free energy from the sun without loss of light transmission into the room, and as a floor paint its piezo-electric properties mean it can capture energy from passing pedestrians, generating enough power.
It has benefits in plant rooms and substations, too. As a coating on gas or oil supply pipes, its nano-magnetic effect yields all the benefits of the different types of awkward and bulky bolt-on magnetic devices. For example by rearranging the ortho- and para-hydrogen molecules it promotes more complete and rapid combustion. It also aligns the fuel molecules and makes them more reactive, which promotes more complete and rapid combustion. In the case of oil fuels this calorific value enhancement (CVE) can be further increased by adding the product to the fuel itself, where it alters a previously-undiscovered property of the oil to make its molecules more reactive, which promotes more complete and rapid combustion.
The gel is non-Newtonian, so its action does not have any equal and opposite reaction, making it an ideal lubricant to reduce energy losses in gearboxes.
On electrical systems the product can be applied to the outer insulation of supply cables where its nano-magnetic properties will optimise the voltage without the need for transformers or other lossy electrical devices. Moreover, it has the effect of counteracting the random ‘Brownian motion’ of the free electrons in the conductors so that they move in a more orderly manner through your electrical equipment, improving its efficiency by up to several percent.
As a refrigerant additive, it modifies a previously-unknown property of the refrigerant fluid, causing it to absorb heat faster and release it more slowly, saving energy, and when applied to the thermostat sensor of a freezer it shields it from the effects of changing temperature, reducing the operation of the refrigeration compressor and saving energy.
Prove you’re green: buy Trumputine.
More choice for electricity users?
DATELINE 1 APRIL 2017: When the UK’s gas and electricity industries were opened up to competition it must have irked energy suppliers that there was nothing they could do to differentiate their product from their competitors. “The same gas through the same pipes” is about as far from a unique selling proposition as it’s possible to get; but all that is set to change in the electricity industry thanks to innovative smart-energy startup Brain Power Limited.
BPL’s marketing experts have taken inspiration from current trends such as voltage optimisation, variable frequency drives, and power quality monitors to create exciting new electricity supply options that they describe as “fit for the age of smart meters and artificial intelligence”. Out is the bland sine-wave alternating current (top) that has been the staple for public electricity supply in the UK for 70 years or more: “in” is a spectrum of waveforms ranging from the inexpensive square wave to the edgier sawtooth (bottom) and, for the connoisseur, designer waveforms like ‘ogive’ (second from top) which co-ordinates beautifully with Victorian architectural features. “The great thing about these non-sinusoidal waveforms is that they are really rich in higher harmonics”, said a BPL spokesman.
There will be voltage options for every taste as well. 261 volts could appeal to musicians who will appreciate a voltage that equals the frequency of middle C. Nerds may go for 256 volts (because it is a “power” of 2). Initially available in single and three-phase supply only, BPL is rumoured to be releasing five and even thirteen-phase supplies after Brexit is complete, when customers will also be able to cast off the shackles of 50 cycles per second mains frequency.
Asked whether their catalogue will contain DC as well as AC options, BPL said that would be possible but only with batteries, which would be “charged extra”
Fuel treatment products recalled
DATELINE 1 APRIL 2016: Endomagno Ltd has ordered a total product recall of its bolt-on fuel-treatment magnets after two serious incidents at customers’ premises.
Such magnets are commonly claimed to improve consumption by aligning the gas molecules, and the incidents appear to involve the alignment effect being so strong that the gas has actually crystallised in the burner. Why this has started to happen now is not clear (the product literature points out that the Romans used lode-stones to improve the heat output of hypocausts) but my theory is that it relates to the introduction of new microcrystalline neodymium magnets in what the company describes as “a certain configuration”. Chaos entanglement theory says that these may interact with quantum nanoparticles in the gas stream in unpredictable ways.
The product recall presents a significant logistical problem for Endomagno. Although the magnets are easy to attach using gaffer tape, they cannot be removed by the customer without invalidating the product’s Korean patent. This means sending a technician to every site and as a market leader in magnetic fuel treatment they have nearly seven users.
Endomagno’s marketing director, Frank Lee Beaugusse, told me that the company is urgently investigating two alternative technologies. The most promising is a unipolar magnet, which only has a north pole, but they are also testing more conventional magnets with east and west (rather than north and south) poles. Comparative evaluation and testing will be carried out by Laboratoires Garnier.
A little light reading
DATELINE 1 APRIL 2015: Got your shopping basket and cheque-book ready? Let’s build that library of energy-management systems standards!
We’ll start with ISO 50001 “Energy management systems. Requirements with guidance for use” at £174 (or bizzarely, £12 less for the laminated version), and to make sure we implement it correctly, fork out £212 for ISO 50004 “Energy management systems. Guidance for the implementation, maintenance and improvement of an energy management system”. To help us understand it all we might add PD CEN/CLC TR 16103 “Energy management and energy efficiency. Glossary of terms”. That’s only an extra £152 but we can probably pass up on ISO 9229 “Thermal insulation. Vocabulary” (£200) especially as the subject seems also to be covered in the cheaper ISO 9251 “Thermal insulation. Heat transfer. Conditions and properties of materials. Vocabulary” at just £90.
Stay with me… Next, we will almost certainly want to do some energy audits. ISO 50002:2014 ED1 “Energy audits. Requirements with guidance for use” would seem to cover the ground, and at £103 it’s £5 less than the European Standard EN 16247-1 “Energy audits. General requirements”. But – decisions, decisions – EN 16247 also boasts other sub-standards: Part 2 for buildings at £192; Part 3, processes at £146; and Part 4, transport at £104 (the prices differ because they charge per page). If we want to use benchmarking we could pick up a copy of EN 16231 “Energy efficiency benchmarking methodology” for only £152, and thinking about the qualifications of the people doing the work we should add PAS 51215 “Energy efficiency assessment. Competence of a lead energy assessor. Specification”, which at £70 seems quite good value until you read it.
Swap your shopping basket for a trolley now, because we’re going to think about measuring and verifying our savings. To set the scene, let’s fork out £212 on EN 16212 “Energy Efficiency and Savings Calculation, Top-down and Bottom-up Methods”. Please suppress the thought that probably crept into your mind on seeing the words “up” and “bottom” in the title of one of these worthy publications, especially as we will see them again when we splash out £146 on CWA 15693 “Saving lifetimes of energy efficiency improvement measures in bottom-up calculations”. Then to be on the safe side let’s get ISO 50015 “Energy management systems. Measurement and verification of energy performance of organizations. General principles and guidance” at £152, plus ISO 50006 “Energy management systems. Measuring energy performance using energy baselines and energy performance indicators. General principles and guidance” (£174). Nearly done… To make sure that our efforts to comply with all this stuff are up to scratch, let’s round off with £146 for ISO 50003 “Energy management systems. Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of energy management systems”.
All in all, the bill could be over £2,000. There is no truth in the rumour that the International Standards Organisation, British Standards, and the Comité Européen de Normalisation are contemplating a joint venture to be called “ISO, BS and CEN Enterprises” or ISOBSCENE.
Case history of the month
DATELINE 1 APRIL 2014: “How green can you be?” is the message from major energy users Gulley Bull Ltd, who undertook a multi-faceted approach to saving fuel in their head office. They combined magnetic fuel conditioning, which offered a 20% saving, with two kinds of boiler water treatment. One, a simple cartridge containing special stones developed by a NASA scientist, changes a property of water to improve heat transfer by 25%. The other is a patented secret additive which prevents large steam bubbles forming in the boiler and also improves efficiency by 25%. Their building had solid walls, and was hard to insulate, but their energy manager’s researches uncovered a paint additive containing ceramic microspheres which, because they contain a vacuum, act as perfect insulators and promised a 30% saving on their heating costs just from redecorating the offices. Finally, they replaced their heating timeswitch with a control which claims to cuts fuel use by 16% by intermittently turning off the heating, saving fuel without sacrificing comfort: “an ingenious idea which took our total fuel savings to 116%” according to Gulley Bull spokeswoman April Fulstryk.